Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Angels of Death: The Doctors

Dr. Bierenbaum's Missing Wife - Part Two
by Marilyn Bardsley

It seemed like all of Gail's friends and relatives knew without a doubt that Bob had killed her. Eventually, the police became persuaded as well. However, there was absolutely no evidence to tie him to Gail's disappearance. And there was Mae Eisenhower who heard the door slam after the argument. Maybe Gail walked out to link up with one of her boyfriends or someone who supplied her with the pills she took.

Gail Katz Bierenbaum missing person's poster
Gail Katz-Bierenbaum missing person's poster

The police were happy to keep this drama as a missing person's case. Without a body, they were loathe to accuse a doctor from a good family with second-degree murder.

And so the case remained on a shelf for many years to come.

Bierenbaum with wife Jane
Bierenbaum with wife Janet

Bob had relocated to Las Vegas and became a very successful plastic surgeon. He was known for his acts of charity and his patients thought highly of him. After a number of brief relationships, he finally met another doctor, Janet Chollet, and they were married. In November of 1998, Janet bore him a daughter.

It looked as though things were finally going well in Dr. Bierenbaum's life. That is, until Andy Rosenzweig, an investigator in the Manhattan D.A.'s office was getting ready to retire. He wanted to close some old cases before he left the job.

New resources were put onto the case and people, especially Bob's old girlfriends and Gail's friends, were interviewed extensively. There were a few titillating discoveries but it was not clear that they were not the result of either bitter broken off relationships between Bob and former girlfriends and exaggerations by Gail in conversations with her friends and psychiatrists.

Still, there was no body and no real evidence to tie Bob to a crime. However, it did not stop a grand jury from indicting him and a jury from convicting him of second-degree murder. The woman judge, who was very hard on crimes against women, gave Bob 20 years to life.

It's not a pretty case: both Gail and Bob had serious personality flaws and never should have married. Bob's bad temper was reasonably well documented, but so was Gail's propensity to use drugs and alcohol to excess. She added a number of extramarital flings to her risky lifestyle. When she apparently stormed out of the apartment that morning in 1985, did she go looking for drugs or companionship with someone that was ultimately responsible for her disappearance? Also, it was well documented that Gail suffered from depression and suicidal tendencies which could have also led to her final disappearance.

It is not beyond reasonable doubt that someone other than Bob was responsible for Gail's disappearance. Furthermore, despite Bob's guilt or innocence, it is disturbing to see a man convicted on such circumstantial evidence. He was, after all, a man of accomplishment who was leading a perfectly respectable life as a member of his community, a charitable surgeon, a good husband and father.

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