June 12th, 2008
03:34 PM ET

Suicide is painless

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/12/art.samisrael.jpg caption="Samuel Israel arrives at the U.S. Courthouse in New York, April 14, 2008. He has been missing since Monday and is suspected of faking a suicide."]

Editor's Note: Watch Randi’s full report on this tonight at 10p.

Randi Kaye
CNN Correspondent

Today we are hot on the trail of a great mystery...and would love your help in trying to solve it.

I’m working on a story on Samuel Israel, the former hedge fund manager from New York convicted of defrauding investors of more than $400 million dollars and sentenced to 20 years.

He’s been out on bond for a couple of years and coopering with prosecutors, but instead of reporting to prison on Monday as planned, he disappeared.

Question now is, where is he?

Here’s what you need to know: his car was found on the Bear Mountain Bridge which spans the Hudson River in New York. On the hood, scrawled in dust, was a note that read “Suicide is Painless.”

If any of you are fans of the show “MASH” you probably know that is the name of the theme song. In the movie, that song played during a faked suicide.

Inside Israel’s GMC Envoy were keys, and some prescription medicine, but there are those who doubt Israel took his life and jumped the 150 feet or so into the Hudson.

Police have been searching the river for days. No body.

The U.S. Attorney, apparently unconvinced Israel committed suicide, has issued a warrant for his arrest.

Here’s what doesn’t sit right with a lot of folks. He apparently told his live-in girlfriend Monday morning when he left, “I’m driving to prison.”

First of all, why was he driving himself to prison? What was he going to do with his car when he got there?

Also, there are cameras on the bridge but state police say the video is inconclusive. It doesn’t indicate clearly if anyone jumped or not. The video system is reportedly long range and not sophisticated enough to even determine if something is a car or a truck.

Israel apparently had a bad back and tried to get a lesser sentence after alerting the judge to his nine previous back surgeries. It didn’t work. But friends say he was afraid of going to prison and saw it as a death sentence.

So maybe he did jump….

A lawyer who represents 20 clients, who lost a collective $25 million in the fraud scheme, told us, “there’s no way he jumped off that bridge, that he’s too much of a narcissist.”

What do you think?

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Randi Kaye
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate


    Without a body anything is possible but just how far could he have gotten with a bad back if someone didn't help him? I think he did commit suicide – its not uncommon with people who don't think they can deal with being in jail – the DC madam committed suicide just a few weeks ago. The police will figure this one out in time – either way doesn't help the ones he defrauded though.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 12, 2008 at 9:55 pm |
  2. Heather

    He smart ,he likes to be in control hes always a step ahead. I think he made arrangements to leave.Whether that be out of the country who knows. Im sure he has money and knows people.I think he figured he would help the feds and do what he had to do. He doesnt seem like the kind of person who would go to prison and give up control of his life.

    June 12, 2008 at 9:08 pm |
  3. Sharon from Indy

    Witness protection.

    June 12, 2008 at 8:13 pm |
  4. kent fitzsimmons,Kewanee, Illinois

    Boy, someone dropped the ball hard on this one. I guess his millions of dollars went into someone elses hands so he could even be allowed out. Of course he didn't jump. He's gone..........out of the country on a private jet. Would you drive yourself to prison to stay 20 years if you had millions of dollars? No you wouldn't. You'd hire someone to take you elsewhere. Throw the judge out of the courtroom who let this guy run........................

    June 12, 2008 at 6:40 pm |
  5. Alex

    Keep looking...he's out there somewhere. $25 mil or however much he got away with buys a whole bunch of cover amd new identities. Guys like that love themselves way too much to slit their own throats. Now all he has to do is adjust his lifestyle and stay low until nature takes it's course and he actually croaks. I like the prosecutor's approach on this one. Oh and about the suicide note, how would he know if it was painless? Thats like asking a guy whose been executed if he felt any discomfort. Do ya honestly think you'd get an answer?

    June 12, 2008 at 6:36 pm |
  6. Jamila

    I think he is returning to his country he must be able to collect on alot of favors.

    June 12, 2008 at 4:18 pm |
  7. Cindy

    Sounds like to me that Samuel Israel faked his own death to keep from going to prison. If he saw prison as a death sentence then he sure wasn't about to go in that easy. My guess is he high tailed it to another country.

    Looking forward to seeing your report on this case.


    June 12, 2008 at 4:06 pm |
  8. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    Suicide in itself is an extremely selfish and narcissistic behavior. No one who can rationally think beyond him or herself and care beyond him or herself would ever do that to his or her loved ones. When a person gets into a situation like this man was in, suicide can often seen as the only way out. Maybe he left the message because the lyric fit. Maybe he is pulling a joke like they did on MASH and is off drinking rum on an island somewhere. My guess is he had too much to lose, too much fear of prison, and took the way out he knew would end his problems permanently, jumping off the bridge. I hope I'm wrong.

    June 12, 2008 at 4:01 pm |
  9. seah ohio

    He could of jumped, been thrown over. Or got a ride off the bridge.

    Everything is possible without a body

    June 12, 2008 at 3:43 pm |