Bernie Madoff and Wife Ruth Attempted Suicide

Ponzi schemer's wife Ruth says the couple took pills after fraud collapsed.

ByABC News
October 26, 2011, 5:12 PM

Oct. 26, 2011 — -- The wife of convicted Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff says that she and Bernie were so upset after the collapse of his multi-billion-dollar fraud that they decided to commit suicide together on Christmas Eve.

"I don't know whose idea it was, but we decided to kill ourselves because it was so horrendous what was happening," Ruth Madoff told Morley Safer of CBS News. "We had terrible phone calls. Hate mail, just beyond anything and I said '...I just can't go on anymore.'"

Ruth Madoff says that she and her husband downed pills, Ambien and perhaps Klonopin, on Christmas Eve, 2008, just after their sons Mark and Andrew had turned Bernie into federal authorities. She says she didn't mix the pills with alcohol because she was afraid they would vomit the pills back up.

"I took what we had, he took more," said Ruth. "We took pills and woke up the next day....It was very impulsive and I am glad we woke up."

But her account of the Christmas Eve suicide is questioned by the head of the private security firm hired to guard them, who was at the apartment that night until about 7 p.m.

"Sitting there with them talking, I didn't seen anything unusual," said Nick Casale.

Ruth's son Mark committed suicide two years later, on December 11, 2010, the second anniversary of his father's arrest. Mark's wife Stephanie told Chris Cuomo of ABC News' "20/20" that Mark felt Ruth was wrong to stand by Bernie.

"He couldn't understand how she could continuously stand by this man who ruined so many lives, who ruined his life," said Stephanie.

Stephanie said she blamed both Ruth and Bernie for her husband Mark's death.

"Yes, I'm angry at her," said Stephanie.

"If you're angry at her," asked Cuomo, "how do you feel about Bernie?"

"I hate Bernie Madoff," answered Stephanie. "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."

Ruth went into hiding in Florida after Madoff went to prison, even dying her hair red in an effort to avoid being recognized when she returned to New York.

Bernie Madoff, now 73, is currently serving a 150-year sentence for fraud in a federal prison in North Carolina.

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