By Jeanne Sager
NARROWSBURG Nearly four years ago, police and fire investigators were puzzled at the scene of a fatal fire in Narrowsburg. Last week they were busy arresting the husband of the late Catherine Novak.
The body of Novak, a mom and former member of the Sullivan West School Board, was found in the basement of her home she shared with her two children in mid-December 2008, the caved in structure on top of her. Firefighters had arrived on the scene to find the house at 222 County Route 25 near Lava fully engulfed in flames, and they were unable to save it.
Novak was well-liked at Sullivan West where she had taken a job as its data specialist after leaving the school board. Her two children attended Sullivan West ES at the time, and her death was a blow to the community.
The only good news to come out of the tragedy was the fact that Novak's children weren't home. They'd gone to the home of their father, Paul Novak, the night before, before the fire broke out.
The Novaks were in the midst of a divorce, a fact that was mentioned often as rumors about the mysterious fire and Catherine Novak's death spread through the small town.
But in early 2009, fire investigators officially termed the fast-moving fire as "cause undetermined," and police had no answers for Catherine's family about the cause of her death aside from an autopsy finding that she'd died of “traumatic asphyxiation."
“We’re not satisfied,” State Police Senior Investigator Mike Orrego told the Democrat at the time. “It’s as frustrating to us as it is to the family."
Then came the news last week from the New York State Police and Sullivan County District Attorney's Office.
Paul Novak, now 45 and living in Palm Coast, Florida, has been arrested. Considered a "fugitive from justice" from New York, cops in Flagler County, Florida, made the arrest, charging him with two counts of murder in the second degree and one count arson in the third degree. He was remanded to the Flagler County Inmate Facility without bail.
Also arrested in connection with Novak's death was Scott Sherwood, 40, of Lindenhurst. Sherwood has been charged with one count of murder in the second degree and was remanded to Sullivan County Jail without bail.
Orrego, now an investigator with the DA’s office, declined comment, and DA Jim Farrell did not return phone calls.