October 25, 2012 —
Two men have been indicted in the death of Catherine Novak, a Narrowsburg woman who died in a fire that officials say was deliberately set on December 13, 2008.
Paul Novak, 45, of Palm Coast, Florida, and Scott Sherwood, 40, of Lindenhurst, New York, were indicted on October 25 by a Sullivan County Grand Jury on murder, burglary and arson charges.
According to District Attorney Jim Farrell, the indictment alleges that Novak intentionally killed his wife, Catherine, during the course of a burglary, thereby elevating the charge to first degree murder.
The indictment also alleges that Novak stole over $330,000 from State Farm Insurance on the homeowner’s policy that insured the residence, and committed insurance fraud in the total amount of $451,258.31, wrongfully taking this money from American General Insurance and New York Life Insurance.
Investigators discovered the body of Catherine, 41, in the charred remains. Her death was originally ruled an accident by the hospital pathologist, but the case was re-opened when new evidence was developed.
The New York State Police investigated this case and arrested both Novak and Sherwood on September 27, 2012. Novak was initially arraigned as a fugitive in Flagler County, Florida, and waived extradition and was brought back to New York on October 15, 2012.
Both men have been remanded to the Sullivan County Jail, without bail. Novak faces a maximum of life in prison, without the possibility of parole, if convicted of the first degree murder charge.
Catherine was in the process of getting a divorce from Paul when the fire erupted four years ago.
According to then-Sullivan County District Attorney Steve Lungen, at the time of the fire investigators had trouble determining the cause because of the severity of the destruction.
Reports indicated that one cause for suspicion was that the fire spread more quickly than most. Lungen would not confirm that, but he said that “the investigation of the fire and the medical examination have raised more questions than they’ve answered.”
Catherine, who had two children under the age of 10, sent the children the day before the fire to stay with their father who then lived in Glen Cove, Long Island. The family dog, which was initially thought to be missing, was ultimately found in the wreckage.
Catherine was a well-known member of the community, served on the Sullivan West school board from 2005 to 2007 and participated actively in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Narrowsburg. Pastor Phyllis Haynes said Novak served on the church council, was in charge of church coffee hours and had taught Sunday School.