August 21, 2013 —
The murder trial of Paul Novak has been unfolding over the past week or so with sometimes dramatic testimony. Novak is accused of murdering his estranged wife, Catherine Novak, then burning down the house in Lava in 2008.
On August 19, fire investigator Art Hawker testified that he had considered the death to be suspicious because the body was found lying on its back with arms and legs spread and extended. He said he would have expected the body to be curled up or in a defensive position. But when asked if he could be certain that Paul killed Catherine, Hawker said, “no.”
Earlier in the trial, however, there was stunning testimony when Paul’s ex-girlfriend Michelle La France took the stand. She testified that she was aware of Novak’s plan to kill his wife. She said she had watched him mix up a batch of what she believed to be chloroform, which he would use to render Catherine immobile after making the drive from his home on Long Island to Catherine’s home in Sullivan County. La France said that Novak told her that he killed Catherine and burned down the house.
Initially, however, La France provided an alibi for Novak and said that he was with her at the time of the killing, but she said last year she decided to come clean at the urging of her boyfriend, who was a law enforcement officer.
The prosecution played a seven-hour recorded interview with La France in which she detailed her knowledge of the crime.
When asked if she felt responsibility for the murder, she said she had planned it and bore responsibility.