NEW YORK (AP) — Kiersten Cerveny led a quiet life in the suburbs of New York City with a dermatology practice, three lively and spirited children and a husband who shared her medical passion.
But New York City police are now questioning whether the Long Island doctor was leading a double life as detectives continue to search for what caused her to go on a cocaine-fueled binge that ended with her lifeless body being found in the lobby of another man’s apartment building.
Authorities believe the 38-year-old had been snorting cocaine all night Sunday as she shared drinks with a television and movie producer at a Lower East Side nightspot. Detectives said Cerveny eventually rode back to a Chelsea apartment building with the producer, a Facebook friend of Cerveny’s identified by police as Marc Henry Johnson.
The two pulled up at the modest five-story walk-up around 4:30 a.m. Monday. Four hours later, surveillance video showed Johnson and another man carrying Cerveny down the stairs to the building’s entryway.
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Johnson called 911 and stayed with Cerveny until EMTs arrived, then left. When police officers showed up, Cerveny was in the lobby, unconscious and unresponsive. She was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
Detectives questioned Johnson throughout the day Monday; he was released and was not charged with a crime, authorities said. Johnson is the producer of “The Deuce,” an HBO pilot starring James Franco that focuses on the rise of the porn industry in New York in the 1970s and ’80s. A spokesman for HBO said Tuesday Johnson is stepping away from production as police continue the probe. Neither Johnson nor his attorney responded to requests for comment.
An initial examination of Cerveny’s body Monday showed the presence of cocaine in her system. But a spokeswoman for the city’s medical examiner said Tuesday that the cause of Cerveny’s death was “still pending further studies.”
The New York Police Department said its investigators found no evidence of a robbery or assault and believe she died of a drug overdose. That left many of Cerveny’s friends mystified.
“It’s just mind-boggling,” said Thomas Nicotri, one of the victim’s professors during her residency in New Orleans and who had seen Cerveny and her husband at dinner two months ago. “They looked healthy and happy. It seemed like they were on top of the world. They had everything.”
Cerveny’s achievements included winning the 1995 America’s Junior Miss competition as a teenager from Blackwood, New Jersey. The prize was a $30,000 scholarship she used to attend Duke. After graduating, she earned her medical degree from Tulane. It was during her residency that she met her husband, Andrew Cerveny, also a dermatologist, Nicotri said.
“She was intelligent, caring and very professional,” Nicotri said. “I never had any concerns about her at all.”
Cerveny and her husband married in 2009 at the upscale Gramercy Park Hotel. According to a wedding announcement, her first marriage ended in divorce.
The couple had three small children whose beaming faces were captured in a portrait she used as the cover photo of her Facebook page, along with a profile photo from June of her husband kissing her on the cheek.
Associated Press writers Jake Pearson and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.