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Family of Killed Millionaire Can't Escape Tragedy

By James Fanelli | December 19, 2013 7:23am
 Jonathan Schwartz (front) fatally stabbed his mother, Upper East Side philanthropist Barbara Fischler, in July 2011, according to prosecutors. Tragedy has continued to plague Fischler's clan.
Jonathan Schwartz (front) fatally stabbed his mother, Upper East Side philanthropist Barbara Fischler, in July 2011, according to prosecutors. Tragedy has continued to plague Fischler's clan.
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Vic Nicastro

UPPER EAST SIDE — It’s two generations of misery.

Tragedy continues to plague the family of a multimillionaire philanthropist whose deranged son allegedly stabbed her to death two years ago.

First Barbara Fischler was brutally murdered by her shut-in son in her Upper East Side apartment on July 2, 2011, according to Manhattan prosecutors. Then a Manhattan Surrogate's Court judge barred her second husband, Burton Fischler, from administering her colossal fortune after he lost $4.3 million in risky investments inside of six months.

Then, earlier this year, Barbara’s other son, Kenneth Schwartz, committed suicide after complaining in court papers that his stepdad’s dangerous daytrading jeopardized his inheritance and that losing his pill-popping mom left him without any emotional support.

The family's dysfunction continued late last month when Steven Schwartz — Fischler’s first husband and Kenneth’s biological father — demanded that a Manhattan Surrogate’s Court judge punish Burton Fischler for ignoring an order to provide a full accounting of how he managed the dead woman’s money.

Barbara, who ran the Weiden Schwartz Fischler Family Foundation, was 67 when her son Jonathan Schwartz allegedly stabbed her in the apartment they shared on East 85th Street. Jonathan, 44, was charged with murder and is awaiting trial in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Because Burton, 61, and Barbara had a pre-nuptial agreement, Kenneth became the main beneficiary of her fortune. But at the time the 37-year-old man lived alone and was unemployed, having survived on the largesse of his mother for the past decade.

He also had no financial experience, so he agreed to have Burton administer his mom’s money for him.

Less than a year after his mom’s death, Kenneth realized he had made a bad decision.

He filed a petition on April 13, 2012, in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court, demanding that a judge remove Burton as the administrator. The petition claimed that in July 2011 Burton started daytrading money from Barbara’s $5 million Charles Schwab account, but by January 2012, only $700,000 remained in the fund.

Kenneth claimed when he agreed to have Burton — who had little money of his own — manage his mom’s money, he didn’t realize there could be a conflict of interest.

“When my brother murdered my mother, I was shocked and despondent,” Jonathan wrote in an affidavit in 2012. “At that point in time, Burt was the closest thing I had to family, and appeared to be my sole source of financial and emotional support.”

The affidavit also describes a sad family life, where his brother Jonathan stayed in his room with his doors closed most days. Meanwhile, Barbara was largely bedridden with health problems and battling a painkiller addiction, according to the affidavit.

In a response affidavit, Burton said he had managed Barbara’s money while she was living and she had urged him “to make risky investments to see if she could grow [the] account into an amount that might provide for the financial future of her two sons.”

He claimed that after her death he couldn’t immediately untie her assets from the high-risk investment.

The judge didn't buy that excuse and booted him as the administrator in July 2012. He was replaced by Kenneth’s dad, Stephen, even though he and his son did not have a close relationship.

On Jan. 12, 2013, Kenneth committed suicide.

Late last month, Stephen Schwartz asked a judge to punish Burton for blowing a court-ordered deadline to provide an accounting of what he did with Barbara’s money. 

Burton did not respond to phone calls for comment.