Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Leona Helmsley: 'The Queen of Mean'

Madness Abounds

Leona's temperamental outbursts were not just designated for her employees but were also experienced by those who knew her personally. Leona's daughter-in-law and grandson would experience Leona's full wrath after the death of Leona's son, Jay. Their experience was and remains today one of the clearest cut examples of Leona's cruelty towards people.

Leona's son Jay worked for many years for a Helmsley subsidiary in California. Harry had initially hired him during the 1970s upon Leona's request; after all Jay was her son. By 1982, Jay had worked for the company for approximately ten years before tragedy struck.

That March, Jay, who suffered from heart disease for many years, died of a heart attack. Leona was grief stricken over his death and had difficulty comprehending how someone she loved so much could be taken away from her. The pain from the loss turned into rage and Leona looked for someone to blame.

Prior to Jay's funeral the family gathered in New York to mourn Jay's death. Mimi, Jay's third wife and their fourteen-year-old son, Craig, were among the mourners, as was Harry, Leona and three other of Jay's children from his previous marriages. Moss stated that during the gathering Leona suddenly launched towards Craig and accused the boy of "killing his father". Leona also blamed Mimi for her son's death vowing to "destroy" her. The two were badly shaken by the incident and immediately left the group of mourners.

Leona kept her vow and set about a series of legal actions that were directed at making life as uncomfortable for Mimi and her grandson as she possibly could. Approximately two months after the funeral, Leona had them evicted from their house, which was owned by a subsidiary of Helmsley Enterprises. Moreover, she tried to bill Mimi for the air transportation of Jay's casket, which later didn't go over in court. Leona even had Mimi's car legally confiscated, being that it was bought with company money. In total, Leona sued Mimi and the estate she and Jay's four children divided amongst themselves, at least six times. Mimi was left with practically nothing when Leona had spent her rage.

Those who were aware of Mimi and Craig's unfortunate situation had difficulty understanding how anyone could be so mean. Leona's actions were simply beyond many peoples' comprehension. Moreover, few could understand how Harry could allow such an injustice to occur. In fact, it was just as mind boggling when many learned that he even facilitated Leona's abusive behavior at times.


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