Gail Katz-Bierenbaum went missing July 7, 1985, and her body was never found. Investigators believe that her husband, Robert Bierenbaum, murdered her, dismembered her body and dumped her remains in the ocean from an airplane. She was 29.
Robert Bierenbaum was convicted of second-degree murder in 2000 and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. He is now eligible for parole and faces a parole hearing in November 2021. At a parole hearing in December 2020, he confessed to killing his wife and dumping her body from a plane, according to the New York Daily News.
ABC 20/20 is revealing new details in the case in its episode tonight. The two-hour special describes Bierenbaum, a multilinguistic surgeon, skier, chef and pilot, as a “Jekyl and Hyde” figure. The episode premieres Friday, October 22, 2021, at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
Here’s what you need to know:
A Body Believed to be Katz-Bierenbaum Was Recovered in 1989 & Buried
In 1989, while Bierenbaum relocated from Manhattan to Las Vegas, Nevada, to set up a new medical practice, a partial female body washed ashore in Staten Island, New York, near the area where authorities believed Bierenbaum dumped his wife’s remains, according to The Charley Project. Bierenbaum remarried and started a new life after his relocation. Although no DNA tests were available at the time to confirm whether the remains were that of the missing woman, “it was assumed that Gail had been located,” The Charley Project reported.
The remains were buried, the article said. Katz-Bierenbaum’s family requested that the remains be reexamined in 1997 when DNA testing became available, according to The Charley Project. DNA tests showed the body was not Katz-Bierenbaum, the missing person’s website reported.
Although her body was never found, Katz-Bierenbaum has a grave at Mount Zion Cemetery in Maspeth, Queens, New York, according to Find a Grave.
“Gail Beth, beloved daughter, granddaughter and sister,” her headstone says. “Forever in our hearts.”
Investigators Re-Enacted Bierenbaum Dumping His Wife’s Body in the Ocean During His Murder Trial
Investigators took steps for a jury to witness exactly how they believe Bierenbaum dumped his wife’s body during his 2000 murder trial, according to the New York Post. Investigators believe Bierenbaum strangled her in their Upper East Side apartment before disposing of the body, the article said.
During the trial, the jury saw a video of an NYPD pilot loading two 50-pound bags of sand and a 10-pound bag of rice into a black duffel bag, meant to serve as a simulation for the 110-body of Katz Bierenbaum. Sgt. Matthew Rowley hoisted the bag into the front passenger seat of the plane, a four-seat Cessna 172, similar to the plane investigators said Bierenbaum rented. Authorities could not use the actual plane they say Bierenbaum flew because another pilot later crashed the plane, the article said.
“Once over the ocean, Rowley slowed the plane, took both hands off the controls, opened the passenger door and easily shoved the duffel bag out,” the article said.
The Post, which was at the trial, said one person gasped as the footage was shown of the duffle bag being shoved from the plane and into the ocean.
Among those who saw the video in the courtroom was Katz Bierenbaum’s sister, Alayne Katz, the Post reported. She said the video was “disturbing.”
“I suspect that’s probably how my brother-in-law treated my sister that day – as an object to dispose of,” Katz told the Post.