Missing heiress declared dead after five years


DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - Furniture heiress Jacqueline Levitz, who disappeared from her Vicksburg, Miss., home in 1995 and is presumed killed, has been officially declared dead.

The widow of furniture magnate Ralph Levitz was 62 when her brother-in-law found the door to her Mississippi riverfront home ajar and her king-size bed soaked with blood Nov. 18, 1995. The mattress had been flipped to hide the blood, leaving family and friends to speculate that more than one person was involved. Police found tips of fake fingernails, indicating a struggle.

At the request of Levitz's sister, a Palm Beach County circuit judge declared Levitz dead as of Nov. 18, 2000.

"I wouldn't say there was complete lack of hope, but as each year passed by, realistically, the family recognized that she's probably not alive," the family's attorney, Robert Marschall, said yesterday.

Under Florida law, survivors may file for such a ruling five years after someone's disappearance, and the order means the family may now begin distributing Levitz's estate, which had been reported at $4 million.

When Levitz disappeared, she had recently moved to Vicksburg to be closer to her family a few months after her husband's death.

Helicopters and bloodhounds were used to search the riverbanks, but she was never found.

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