In December 2008, after Bernard Madoff finally informed his oblivious sons that the legendary family investment fund was nothing more than a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, all kinds of people were quick to call it a tragedy—even, grandly, “a tragedy of epic proportions.” Lots of people, including some old and feeble individuals and some important and well-known charities, were bankrupted, which was upsetting, and at least two high-profile investors took their own lives in the immediate aftermath. But, fundamentally it was really just a sad morality tale about people’s blind faith in the face of lots of cash.
That changed on Saturday, when Madoff’s elder son, 46-year-old Mark, was found hanging by a dog leash from a ceiling pipe in his SoHo loft, on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest and in the shadow of new lawsuits filed against the extended Madoff clan. The death, which the medical examiners quickly ruled a suicide, propelled the scandal into the realm of Greek tragedy—because it has now visited misfortune on one of the only members of the family to be definitively innocent in the mess: Mark Madoff’s two-year-old son, Nick, was peacefully asleep in the apartment where his father killed himself.
In the predawn hours, Mark sent emails to his wife—who was vacationing with their four-year-old at Disney World—telling her to “send someone to take care of Nick,” evidence that he knew exactly what he was risking: That his toddler, effectively left home alone, would wake up and come across the grisly scene himself.
Even if the boy, who reportedly slept through the whole thing, is too young to remember this weekend’s events, he’ll inevitably grow into a teenager and a young man left to struggle with a legacy not just of a grandfather but a father pathologically willing to make their own children their greatest victims.