A former Playboy centerfold in a heated custody dispute jumped with her 7-year-old son from a window of a 29-story midtown hotel Friday, and both died at the scene, a senior law enforcement official and other law enforcement sources with knowledge of the case tell News 4.
The senior official identified the mother as 46-year-old Stephanie Nicolai, who posed in Playboy in November 1992 under the name Stephanie Adams, claiming to be the magazine's first lesbian centerfold. The Orange, New Jersey, woman has been in the middle of a custody battle with her husband, according to law enforcement sources.
They say she jumped from a 25th-floor window of the boutique Gotham Hotel on 46th Street near Fifth Avenue around 8:30 a.m. Friday; both she and her son were found dead on a second-floor balcony. It's not clear how many stories they fell, nor was it known if she was holding her son or if he jumped on his own.
An attorney friend of 20 years, Raoul Felder, also said Nicolai had ongoing personal struggles because of the custody battle. He said she had just lost a court fight to take her son Vincent to Spain and England this summer. Though she had unrealistic expectations, she didn't seem depressed, said Felder.
"It's one of the things that happened that's inexplicable," he told News 4. "She was not morose."
Nicolai also has history with the NYPD; a jury awarded her a $1.2 million brutality lawsuit against the department in 2012. The lawsuit stemmed from a 2006 interaction with a cab driver in which the driver called cops and falsely reported she had a gun and had threatened to shoot him. Adams accused responding officers of throwing her to the ground, injuring her arm and back.
Lawyer Sanford Rubenstein, who represented Nicolai in the case, remembered that "she adored that child." He said she brought her baby son to court every day to breastfeed.
"The judge provided a separate room for her -- she was still breastfeeding -- to be with the little boy," said Rubenstein.
Felder said, "She submerged her life in that child's life. Everybody in my office was crying when they heard about it."
The investigation into the death plunge is ongoing.
SUICIDE PREVENTION HELP: The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.