Plastic surgeon admits he did kill wife and throw her out of plane in 1985

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A New York surgeon has sensationally admitted strangling his wife and throwing her body out of a plane after maintaining his innocence for nearly 40 years.

Robert Bierenbaum told a parole hearing he had killed his wife Gail Katz in 1985 because he was “immature” and couldn’t “deal with his anger”.

“I wanted her to stop yelling at me and I attacked her.”

Bierenbaum was convicted of Ms Katz’s murder in 2000 under circumstantial evidence, but had denied any involvement in her death prior to the shock confession.

Appearing before a parole hearing in December 2020, Bierenbaum, an experienced pilot, said he had murdered his wife by strangling her, placed her body in a small plane, and “then took her body out of the airplane over the ocean”, according to a transcript of the hearing obtained by ABC News.

Ms Katz’s body has never been found.

Robert Bierenbaum (ABC News 2020)
Robert Bierenbaum (ABC News 2020)

The former Manhattan district attorney who prosecuted Bierenbaum was stunned to learn of his admission as this was the exact theory they had presented to the jury.

“I was like, ‘Holy s*** are you kidding me?’” said Dan Bibb, one of the prosecutors who brought Bierenbaum to justice.

“I was stunned because I always thought that that day would never come, that he would own up, take responsibility for having killed his wife.”

Prosecutors filmed a person flying a plane while pushing a body-shaped item from the aircraft to convince them of Bierenbaum’s guilt (ABC 2020)
Prosecutors filmed a person flying a plane while pushing a body-shaped item from the aircraft to convince them of Bierenbaum’s guilt (ABC 2020)

Mr Bibb described the former plastic surgeon was a “psychopath”.

“The Bierenbaum story when you get right down to it is Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” Mr Bibb said.

“Disbelief switched to ‘Good God, this guy was a psychopath.”

Bierenbaum met his future wife in the early 1980s, and wooed her by taking her on a flight over Manhattan on one of their first dates.

However Gail’s sister, Alayne Katz, told ABC’s 2020 that Bierenbaum had been controlling and violent throughout their relationship.

Robert Bierenbaum has admitted murdering his wife Gail Katz (ABC 2020)
Robert Bierenbaum has admitted murdering his wife Gail Katz (ABC 2020)

Alayne Katz said she received a call from her sister her one day after Bierenbaum had tried to drown her cat in the toilet of their Upper East Side apartment.

“[She said], ‘No, no, no, Alayne … we’re gonna get rid of the cat and then everything’s gonna be fine because he’s gonna believe that I love him,’” Alayne Katz said.

“And I’m like, ‘No. Not really. You really have to get rid of Bob.’”

One night, Alayne Katz said Bierenbaum choked Gail after catching her smoking on their balcony.

Gail Katz reported the incident to police but he was never charged .

“If this had happened in 2021 … Robert Bierenbaum would have been in handcuffs immediately,” Mr Bibb said. “The fact that this was [1983] ... nothing was done about it.”

After her disappearance on 7 July 1985, Bierenbaum told her family that Ms Katz had stormed off after a fight.

He continued with his life, dating other women and attending parties in the Hamptons.

Her family reported their suspicions to police, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office picked up the case.

The DA’s chief investigator Detective Andy Rosenzweig began investigating and learned that Bierenbaum had taken a plane out from a New Jersey airport on the night that his wife vanished.

From that moment onwards, the police pursued a theory that Ms Katz had been disposed of somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.

But they didn’t have enough evidence to press criminal charges, and the plastic surgeon remained a free man.

He moved to Las Vegas and then North Dakota, where he married a gynecologist named Janet Challot. They had a child together, and Bierenbaum became a local hero after saving a local child who had been bitten by a tiger at a fair.

Back in New York City, Detective Rosenzweig was nearing retirement, and looking back over cold cases that he had been unable to shake.

He reopened the case and began interviewing Bierenbaum’s former girlfriends across the United States.

ABC News’s 2020 reported that one interview seemed particularly suspicious.

One of Bierenbaum’s former girlfriends told detectives she was with him when he received a phone call from Port Authority police in New York City, saying they thought someone had found his wife.

According to investigators, he told them: “I doubt it’s Gail”.

The prosecutors felt they had enough to indict Bierenbaum, and charged him with second degree murder.

At trial, one of the key hurdles the prosecution had to overcome was to convince a jury that Bierenbaum could fly a plane while pushing a body out out of it, so they filmed someone doing just that and presented it to the court.

He was found guilty, and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

“This is exactly the same man that I knew 35 years ago,” Alayne Katz said after hearing he had confessed.

“He hasn’t changed … he is incapable of a shred of remorse.”

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