A house as hostage?

First of all, let me make it clear that no one has been charged in this incident.

Dr. Nicholas Bartha, 66, and his wife have been in a bitter dispute over a divorce since the wife filed in 2001. Portions of that divorce have gone to the appelate court.

The couple were married in early 1977. Bartha was a Romainian who immigrated here with his future wife in 1974. He was said to very proud of their home, which they moved into in 1986. His attorney has stated

“He wanted to stay married,” said Ira E. Garr, Dr. Bartha’s lawyer until last year. “He wanted to maintain the status quo so he could continue to live in this house,” “He wanted nothing other than to remain in this house for the rest of his life.”

The wife described some of their homelife in the divorce papers. She was born in the Netherlands, during the Nazi occupation. She was also Jewish. And she reports the home was allegedly decorated with “swastika-adorned articles” and she further alleged that Bartha became enraged if she attempted to take them down. She reported feeling that he was  “intentionally traumatizing” her. The divorce papers also allege that Bartha ignored her while she battled breast cancer.

A judge granted the divorce, and ordered a payment of $1.23 million plus alimony in the amount of $2,000 per month for a period of 3 years. However, he refused to declare the home as marital property and ruled that the wife had no rights to the property which at that time was valued at $5 million dollars. But Dr. Bartha appealed that decision. Allegedly he wanted to stay married, and he would have had to sell the house to pay for the settlement. Bartha’s attorney says that “He didn’t love her,” Mr. Garr said. “He was emotionally and constitutionally opposed to divorce. He was a man who worked all the time and couldn’t stand being alone.”

Early in 2005, the appellate court ruled that the home was marital property. The attorney says that after that decision, he lost contact with Bartha who did not respond to letters and phone calls.

Allegedly Bartha attempted suicide more than once during that period. Reportedly he barricaded himself in his office and filled it with insecticide once. And allegedly he was found in the office basement once, passed out with the gas on.

In August of 2005, his wife was awarded a judgement of more than $4 million. She reportedly said “I have no doubt that respondent will ensconce himself in the marital residence and refuse to leave it after the auction is held,” she said. “He has said many times that he intends to ‘die in my house.’ ” The judge ordered the home to be sold at auction and that the sheriff serve him with eviction papers, no more than 10 days after the auction. A sheriff’s deputy showed up Friday with the eviction papers. Another doctor who shared the office reported that he did not appear to be visably upset.

On Monday, the townhouse exploded sending fireballs high in the sky and debris raining down on the neighborhood. Five passersby were reported to have been injured in the explosion or the aftermath. Ten fireman were injured fighting the fire.

Bartha was found buried in the rubble. He guided rescuers to him while talking with him on his cell phone.  Detectives want to talk with Bartha, but have been unable to because of his injuries. An investigation is ongoing as to whether Bartha deliberately caused the explosion, and possibly was attempting to commit suicide.

According to reports, there is evidence that a plastic tube was connected to a main gas line in the basement, with a radiator valve. When the valve was open, it would allow gas to escape throughout the home. It is believed this was an intentional act.

Reportedly on June 8 th, a routine check of the home by the gas company showed a gas leak. The gas was turned off, and Bartha was requested to fix the pipe. The gas was turned back on after the utility company ensured that the leak was repaired.

According to reports, Bartha’s wife got an email from him on Monday. He is reported to have said “When you read this … your life will change forever. You deserve it. You will be transformed from gold digger to ash and rubbish digger. You always wanted me to sell the house. I always told you I will leave the house only if I am dead. You ridiculed me. You should have taken it seriously.” “The legal system is corrupt, killed my brother, and now I [sic]. I am not going to evict me as the Communists did Romania in 1947.” Reportedly copies of the email were also sent to the governors of New York State and California, George Pataki and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and to the Fox News personalities Sean Hannity and Brit Hume, and others.



Normally, I don’t discuss the area the event occurred in. That is purposeful, as most could happen anywhere in the US. But this is different. Everyone remembers the World Trade Center and the traumatic events that occurred there. New York has been making a valiant attempt to both remember that tragedy and to recover from it. But never-the-less the news of explosion brings terrorism to mind, with many reliving the events of that horrendous day, week, month and year. So not only were the five civilians injured, ten more firefighters injured, and property damaged. But there was additional trauma to the whole city.

And that is all separate from the trauma to the wife, and to the two children the couple had. Was it the unfortunate side effect of a man committing suicide, or a man attempting to hold the house hostage in the ending of the relationship? I would say that only Dr. Bartha would know for sure at this point.


Edititorial commentary from James Daly. More details about the email.



Dr. Nicolas Bartha died of the injuries he received in the blast on July 10. A hospital spokesman stated he lingered in a medically induced coma until Sat., about 11 pm.


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