Exclusive: Madoff Widow Blames Bernie for Son's Suicide Attempts, Death

PHOTO: Stephanie Mack, the daughter-in-law of Bernie Madoff, speaks in an exclusive interview with ABCs Chris Cuomo.PlayABC News
WATCH Madoff Family Secrets: Stephanie's Story

While many lost their fortunes thanks to Bernie Madoff -- the man who orchestrated the largest financial fraud scam in U.S. history – Stephanie Madoff Mack lost her husband. Now, the widow of Mark Madoff, Bernie Madoff's oldest son, is the first inside member of the Madoff family to speak out, divulging the story of the death that she says can be traced directly to Bernie Madoff's unbelievable deception.

In a searing and emotional interview to be broadcast Friday on "20/20," Mack details how a privileged life in one of the richest families in America turned into a living nightmare after Madoff's Ponzi scheme was uncovered. Mack says the ordeal led Mark Madoff to commit suicide last December, on the two-year anniversary of his father's arrest. Mark had first attempted suicide in 2009, Stephanie reveals for the first time.

"He couldn't get out, he was so betrayed and so hurt by Bernie," she said.

"I hate Bernie Madoff," Stephanie said. "If I saw Bernie Madoff right now, I would tell him that I hold him fully responsible for killing my husband, and I'd spit in his face."

Mark and Stephanie Madoff
Mark and Stephanie in 2004.
/Courtesy Stephanie Mack

Mack has written a book on her life as a Madoff, "The End of Normal: A Wife's Anguish, A Widow's New Life," scheduled for release tomorrow by Blue Rider Press.

Stephanie, then 30, married Mark Madoff, the handsome and wealthy 40-year-old divorced father of two, in October, 2004. In attendance at their Nantucket Island wedding were many investors in Bernie Madoff's fraudulent hedge fund.

Mark and Stephanie Madoff
Mark and Stephanie with baby Audrey.
/Courtesy Stephanie Mack

"He stood there in the corner at my wedding watching everyone dance, and he knew that everyone in that room was going to get screwed," said Mack.

The couple went on to have two children -- a daughter, Audrey, and a son, Nick.

For Mack, marrying into the Madoff clan meant entry to the world of the super rich. Mark and his brother Andrew headed up a highly successful stock trading operation; just two floors up in the same office building, their father Bernie ran his now-notorious investment fund. He and his wife Ruth lived a high-flying lifestyle with homes in New York City, Montauk, Palm Beach and the south of France.

But in December of 2008, the good times came crashing down for the Madoff family. Mark and Andrew turned in their own father after he confessed to them that his $65 billion investment fund was actually a Ponzi scheme and that the double-digit returns clients had received year after year were bogus – in fact, Bernie hadn't made a single trade in decades.

Madoffs on yacht./Courtesy Stephanie Mack
Bernie Madoff, a huge boating fan, would often take
the Madoff clan on trips to tropical destinations.
/Courtesy Stephanie Mack

Mack said that decision came at a heavy cost to her husband, who had loved and admired his father.

"He was in pure shock, and you could see the betrayal on his face, and in his body," said Mack. "And he was enraged, as well. Furious that his father could've done this and, you know, destroyed so many lives, and destroyed his."

Even though he had blown the whistle on his father, Mark Madoff was targeted by angry investors and sued for $65 million he had received from Bernie over his lifetime. His assets were frozen and he and Stephanie were put on a monthly allowance by the bankruptcy court. Accusations were also leveled that Mark and other family members were in on Bernie Madoff's criminal enterprise.

"We were being treated as if we had done something wrong. And we had done nothing wrong," said Mack. "We felt as if our life had been taken away from us and we kept looking for the nightmare to end."

Mack said the unrelenting scrutiny from the public and media drove her emotionally sensitive husband into a deep depression. He took pills to combat anxiety and insomnia, and became obsessed with every detail of the Madoff scandal.

Mark Madoff Sought Help After First Suicide Attempt

"He was constantly on the Internet, reading every article, reading every blog, reading all the nasty comments that come with all of those articles on the Internet," said Mack. "He physically changed. He wasn't doing the things he liked to do anymore. He grew in a beard to try to disguise himself, he was physically hunched over. "

In June of 2009, Bernie Madoff pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 150 years in a minimum security federal prison. Determined to make Madoff suffer even more for what he had done to his son, Mack wrote a letter to him describing the life he would forever be missing with his two grandchildren.

Instead of showing remorse, Madoff wrote back bragging about his new life in prison, telling Stephanie that he was treated as a celebrity.

While Bernie Madoff was apparently basking in his famous status, his son continued to be consumed by the shadow of Bernie's shame. In her book, Mack reveals that in October of 2009 her husband failed in a previously unreported attempt to take his own life. Mark had walked out of the couple's Soho apartment, checked himself into a hotel and swallowed 60 sleeping and anti-anxiety pills. However, the suicide attempt failed and Mark returned to his apartment, groggy and incoherent. Mack said a suicide note was later found in the hotel room, that read: "Bernie, now you know how you have destroyed the lives of your sons by your life of deceit. F--- you."

Mark Madoff was admitted to a psychiatric ward, where he slowly recovered. By summer of 2010, Mack said she was confident that her husband had turned a corner, and that he was focused on their two children and excited about new opportunities, such as a real estate newsletter that he had created.

Stephanie, Nicholas, Mark and Audrey Madoff.
Stephanie and Mark pose with Nicholas and Audrey,
dressed up in Halloween costumes./Courtesy
Stephanie Madoff Mack

"He would come home from work every day happy," said Mack. "He wasn't being brought down by all this crap that had been thrown his way."

But in December of 2010, while Stephanie, her mother and her daughter Audrey were vacationing in Disneyworld, Mark again went into a downward spiral. He learned that his 4-year-old daughter was being sued for $11,000 gifted to her by Bernie and Ruth and there was a new article in the Wall Street Journal hinting that he could still face criminal charges.

On the morning of Dec. 11 -- two years to the day after his father's arrest -- Stephanie woke to an email from her husband. The subject line of the email was "HELP" while the body of the message said, "Please send someone to take care of Nick," the couple's 22-month-old son. The next email simply read: "I love you." Panicked, Stephanie immediately contacted her stepfather in New York, who found Mark Madoff's dead body hanging from a ceiling beam.

"I think he thought that we would be better off without him," a tearful Mack said. "Which makes me so sad, because that's not the case at all."

Even in death, the whispers and suspicions continue to follow Mark Madoff, with some press accounts suggesting that he killed himself because he was part of his father's crimes. Mack told ABC News that nothing could be further from the truth.

"My husband's death was only proof of his pain," she said. "My husband was in terrible, terrible pain. He was so deeply hurt by it all, that he just, he, he just couldn't move past it."

With Mark's blessing, Stephanie changed her last name to Mack to spare her family the stigma of that now reviled name. Today, her children are healthy and happy and Mack says she intends to keep them that way.

"I will never let it define my two children for the rest of our lives," she said. "The rest of my life is going to be a happy one, and not filled with deceit, and lies, and betrayal, and sorrow and I hold onto that hope."

Watch the full story on "20/20" Friday at 10 p.m. ET.