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Maher's closest neighbor in East Fishkill, N.Y., his most recent U.S. residence, describes him as "a miserable bastard" who turned a property-line dispute into an open feud. "Maher and his wife would stand outside my house and scream curses and give me the finger," says Leonard Levelle, 70, recalling that the police had to be called in to mediate several times. On one occasion, says Levelle, "Maher knocked me down, started hitting me with his forearm and told me he would get a gun and kill me." Maher's first wife Marla, who divorced him in 1991, alleging spousal abuse and drug use, told friends he had threatened to kill her and liked to play Russian roulette.
Safra's people offered Maher $600 a day to care for the ailing banker. Maher, who was reportedly making $60,000 a year at Columbia-Presbyterian, leaped at the chance. He took a leave of absence from the hospital, bade farewell to his second wife Heidi and three sons and joined Safra's staff five months ago. In that short time, he learned to love his boss and, in what Maher's lawyer calls "the sad gesture of a sick man," sent him to a smoky death.