Irene Silverman

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Above: Silverman, circa 1998

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: July 5, 1998 from Manhattan, New York
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Age: 82 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'0, 115 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Red hair, brown eyes. Silverman has pierced ears and she wears eyeglasses. She has previously fractured her left hand.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A nightgown.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Silverman was last seen at her townhouse on east 65th Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan on July 5, 1998. She was a wealthy former ballerina who often rented out apartments in her mansion to business people. Silverman has never been heard from again. Her disappearance brought to light a myriad of bizarre events that ultimately led to two convictions for her presumed murder.

    Kenneth Kimes was a tenant in Silverman's mansion at the time she vanished. He moved into one of her apartments in June 1998, one month before Silverman was last seen. Kenneth used the alias of Manny Guerrin while residing on East 65th Street. Authorities believed that Kenneth and his mother, Sante Kimes, were actually con artists who monitored Silverman's business activities for months before Kenneth moved into her home. Photos of Sante and Kenneth are posted below this case summary.

    Authorities arrested the mother and son on the day of Silverman's disappearance. They were standing outside of the Hilton Hotel near Silverman's townhouse at the time. The initial charges against Sante and Kenneth stemmed from a fradulent check written in Utah for $14,900 for the purchase of a Lincoln Town Car earlier in 1998; they were charged with Silverman's murder in December 1998. Authorities believed that Sante and Kenneth devised a scheme to steal Silverman's mansion, which was valued at between seven and ten million dollars. Investigators produced evidence indicating that the pair wiretapped Silverman's phone and taped her phone conversations to become familiar with her lifestyle. When he was arrested, Kenneth had Silverman's keys, cassettes of her tape-recorded calls, loaded firearms, wigs, masks, plastic handcuffs, $30,000 in cash, an empty stun gun box and a substance similar to a 'date rape' drug.

    Kenneth also held a forged deed in his possession at the time of his arrest. The deed approved the transfer of Silverman's townhouse to Atlantis Ltd. for $395,000. Atlantis Ltd. was a "shadow corporation" investigators said was created by Sante for illegal purposes. Sante was the widow of a wealthy individual who died in 1994; she and Kenneth often hired homeless people as servants. One of the former employees was a transient who found his name used as the "owner" of Atlantis Ltd. in 1998. Sante and Kenneth apparently stole the man's identity without his knowledge.

    Authorities believed that Kenneth and Sante smothered Silverman to death, somehow smuggled her body out of her house during the day, then drove her remains to an unknown burial location in their Lincoln Town Car. The Kimeses' trial brought out many colorful stories about other possible motives and suspects from their defense attorneys, including one claim that Silverman operated a bordello from her mansion. That story came from Sante and was quickly proven as a lie by Silverman's friends. In the end, the Kimeses' attorneys attempted to point out that there was not any blood or DNA evidence to connect their clients to Silverman's disappearance, nor did authorities locate the woman's remains. Silverman's home had no signs of blood or other signs of foul play. However, prosecutors produced Sante's notebooks during the trial and managed to sway the jury in their favor. Sante detailed plans to learn Silverman's Social Security number in the notes, among many other passages about the crimes. Prosecutors also produced evidence and witnesses that Sante disguised herself and posed as a notary in order to obtain Silverman's signature on the fradulent deed to her mansion.

    Sante and Kenneth were convicted of Silverman's murder in May 2000. She was sentenced to 120 years in prison; he was handed 125 years behind bars. Kenneth made headlines again in October 2000 when he held Maria Zone, a Court TV producer, hostage during a prison interview. Zone was released unharmed and Kenneth received eight years in solitary confinement as a result of the incident. He later claimed that he was attempting to stop his mother's extradiction to California, where they both faced another murder trial. Sante and Kenneth were charged with killing businessman David Kazdin in 1998 after he learned they used a forged signature to obtain a $200,000 loan. Kazdin's body was discovered inside a dumpster. He had been a longtime friend and business partner of Sante's husband. Both of the Kimeses were extradicted to California during the spring of 2001 in anticipation of court proceedings.

    Many people, including her other son, believe that Sante led Kenneth into a criminal life. She has a criminal history that dates back over 30 years; one of Sante's more notable convictions was for enslaving and beating maids. She has denied any wrongdoing, hinting at times that she acted as a 'federal agent' in some capacity. None of Sante's claims of innocence have ever been proven. Kenneth and Sante's relationship was heavily scrutinized when a judge requested they stop holding hands during one court appearance in the Silverman case.

    Authorities have always maintained that Sante planned Silverman's murder and Kenneth acted as the physical force. Kenneth confessed to killing Silverman in November 2000, a move that surprised his attorneys. He claimed he did not remember the exact location of her burial site. Kenneth said that he wrapped Silverman's body in black plastic garbage bags and dumped her remains in a ditch at a construction site in New Jersey, 35 to 40 minutes from the Holland Tunnel. Authorities were conducting searches with Kenneth's input until his extradiction to California; the search for Silverman has since been postponed. Kenneth continues to maintain that his mother was not involved in Silverman's murder. She died in prison in 2014.

    Sante and Kenneth were also considered possible suspects in the 1995 Mississippi disappearance of Mary Jacqueline Levitz, the heiress to a multi-million dollar estate. Levitz vanished from her home and is presumed murdered, but her body has never been recovered. While there are similarities between her case and Silverman's disappearance, no link between the two cases has been established.

    Sante Kimes Kenneth Kimes
    Left: Sante Kimes in 1998;
    Right: Kenneth Kimes in 1998

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    New York Police Department
    646-610-6914

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    Source Information
    New York City Police Department
    The New York Daily News
    Court TV
    ABC News
    The Las Vegas Review-Journal
    The New York Times
    NamUs
    The Washington Post

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    Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated May 28, 2014; details of disappearance updated.

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