Gail Katz Bierenbaum was murdered at age 29 in 1985, and the case went unsolved for years as her husband, Robert Bierenbaum, started a new life. He was convicted in her death in 2000, but her body was never found.
A jury found Bierenbaum guilty 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. 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:
Robert Bierenbaum Confessed to Killing His Wife During a Parole Hearing in 2020 & Revealed New Details in How She Died
Bierenbaum confessed to killing his wife during a parole hearing in December 2020, saying they were fighting and he wanted her to stop yelling, according to the New York Daily News. They were both 29 at the time of her killing, and he told the parole board he was “immature” and did not know how to contain his anger, the Daily News reported.
“I wanted her to stop yelling at me and I attacked her,” he said, according to the article.
He said he then disposed of her body, the Daily News reported. Her remains have never been found, although a body washed ashore in Staten Island that investigators initially believed to be Katz Bierenbaum.
“I went flying. I opened the door and then took her body out of the airplane over the ocean,” he said, according to the Daily News.
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. 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 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.