Inside tragic Playmate’s ‘toxic’ marriage, custody battle
A former Playboy Playmate killed herself and her 7-year-old son in a murder-suicide leap from a Midtown hotel penthouse Friday amid a bitter custody battle with her estranged husband, sources told The Post.
The bodies of Stephanie Adams and her son, Vincent, were found on a second-floor balcony area by a guest at the Gotham Hotel, police said.
Adams, 47, had been battling with her husband, Manhattan chiropractor Charles Nicolai, in court, and the dispute had heated up Tuesday when he filed a motion for sole custody of the boy, said his lawyer, William Beslow.
Then, on Wednesday, a judge denied Adams permission to take the boy away for the summer to Spain, where her boyfriend lives, a longtime friend said.
Adams, a former model who was Playboy magazine’s Miss November in 1992, had phoned The Post’s Richard Johnson at around 1 p.m. Thursday and railed against the ruling. She sounded distraught but gave no hint as to what she was about to do.
“All I want to do is take my son and get away from this nightmare for a few days,” she said in the two-minute phone call, “but they won’t let me.”
Adams had been ordered by the judge to hand over her son’s passport to ensure that she complied with the order.
Nicolai, 47, had joint custody of Vincent and was in a “total state of shock” over the deaths of Adams and their son, who was “the center” of his life, according to Beslow.
“He’s numb, as one would expect,” the lawyer said.
Police said Adams had her son with her when she checked in to the 25th-floor penthouse suite at the swank boutique hotel on East 46th Street at around 6 p.m. Thursday.
Sources said the pair never left the room until their fatal plunge at around 8:15 the next morning.
“I suspect the boy went first. The mother just tossed the child out first, then followed him. [Guests] said they heard a light sound first, then a heavier sound,’’ said a bell captain at the hotel, who gave his name only as Shaun L. “I’m still shook up about it.’’
It didn’t appear that Adams left a suicide note.
The former couple’s friends and lawyers said Vincent had been the apple of their eye.
“This boy was her whole life. This is terrible,” said a friend of Adams.
Adams had home-schooled her kid to keep him close, said the pal, who knew the ex-model for two decades.
“She was so close to that child. She wouldn’t even let [him] go to school,” the friend said. “People have these lives you don’t even know about. I didn’t see suicide.”
A close buddy of Nicolai’s called him “an amazing, caring father.”
“I can remember him talking about when his son first learned to read. He was a very excited father, very proud,” the pal said. “I do know that he was very distraught and very saddened by the breakup of [his] marriage.”
In 2017, Adams filed for divorce from Nicolai, who owns Wall Street Chiropractic and Wellness on Broadway in the Financial District. She was seeking child support.
Their marriage had apparently been toxic.
Sources said there were 10 domestic-incident reports between them, although not all of them were against each other. Some involved Adams and an unidentified woman.
Adams filed at least three complaints of child abuse against Nicolai — in May 2016, August 2017 and September 2017 — but all were deemed “unfounded” by child-welfare officials, according to court documents obtained by The Post.
Nicolai also was arrested Feb. 9 after Adams claimed he fed Vincent foods that the boy was allergic to — but the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute, court records show.
To avoid further conflicts, the parents would have to meet at the 1st Precinct station house in Tribeca to hand over Vincent to each other.
But Beslow insisted Nicolai was “as pure as they come.”
“He was very patient in the system. We never made a motion until the other day, when we had to,” he said, referring to the custody request.
“He’d never do anything to rile her up. He always had to pacify and placate her.”
Adams was beset by other personal problems in recent months, and her longtime pal encouraged her to seek help for emotional issues.
“She was happy; she wasn’t depressed. But she was unrealistic in her goals,” he explained.
Adams was on her fourth divorce lawyer in a year, and her legal bills were mounting, the friend added.
Her newest divorce lawyer, Daniel Kron, called the tragedy “a complete shock and unanticipated.’’
Adams — who claimed on her personal website that she was a direct descendent of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams — had told The Post in 2013 that she was more than just a pretty face.
She kept busy writing self-help books, running an online organic beauty products company and managing the financial side of Nicolai’s doctors office.
“The stereotypes are sexist and unfair,” Adams, who was once represented by the Elite and Wilhelmina modeling agencies, said at the time.
“Just because I look a certain way and have expensive tastes, it doesn’t mean I’m shallow. Style and looks don’t mean lack of brains, sweetheart!”
Adams successfully sued the NYPD in 2006, claiming she was roughed up by a cop who falsely claimed she had a gun. She used some of her $1.2 million jury award to help Nicolai’s chiropractic business get off the ground.
The couple was sued in 2013 by Dilek Edwards, a former massage therapist at Nicolai’s office who claimed she was fired after the doc admitted that Adams would get “jealous” because Edwards was “too cute.”
Edwards’ suit was tossed, but it was restored by an appeals court that ruled she could sue for gender discrimination.
The lawsuit is pending.
Additional reporting by Lia Eustachewich and Khristina Narizhnaya
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