As Murder Case Drags On, Friends Keep Susan Trott’s Legacy Alive with New Book, Memorial Bench

Susan Trott was killed in her UWS apartment in October of 2018.

By Joy Bergmann

Nearly three years after copywriter Susan Trott, 70, was stabbed to death in her 14th floor apartment at 710 West End Avenue, her friends are no closer to an answer to their most pressing question:  Why did this happen? 

Any possible motive for the crime has thus far gone missing from the official record. 

Anya Johnston, Trott’s 15th floor neighbor, remains in pre-trial custody at Rikers Island, having been indicted for second-degree murder. As her defense attorney Jeremy Schneider told WSR in 2019, Johnston, now aged 26 or 27, has “an extensive mental health history.” Schneider has filed a “Notice of Intent to Proffer Psychiatric Evidence,” but did not respond to WSR’s recent questions regarding a possible insanity defense or plea agreement in the matter. 

[For more on Johnston’s background and a look at what prosecutors say happened on the night of the murder, please read this WSR story.] 

The case has slowly been grinding along. Covid-19-related court closures haven’t helped. Few new, publicly available documents have been filed and Johnston’s next in-person status hearing has been delayed until September. “The case is still open and pending,” a spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office said. 

In the meantime, a few of Trott’s closest friends have come together to honor her life and work in true Sue fashion. 

Eric Boscia, Trott’s business partner, friend and estate executor, channeled some of his grief into producing “I Smell Heaven”, a book of her poems written to comfort people facing a pet’s death. 

“Sue absolutely loved animals,” Boscia told WSR in a recent interview from his London home. She’d think nothing of infiltrating an underground dog fighting ring to rescue the combatants. She fed the birds and squirrels in Riverside Park. And she doted on her own adopted pups, most recently Tulip and Pink, he said. 

“Sue was also the best advertising creative, especially writer, I’ve ever met in my career,” said Boscia. Prolific, too. For fun, she’d started churning out poems for all sorts of occasions, thinking of turning them into cards for underserved audiences. She’d send Boscia her work for safekeeping. “She always said, ‘If I get hit by a bus, you’ll have them.’” 

Some verses feature Trott’s touching humor while others light the longing rooted in any loss: 

Au Revoir. 

The French have an expression 

When loved ones have to part 

That adds a ray of hope to moments 

That might otherwise break your heart.

It implies that we will not say goodbye 

Because the bonds between us are so strong 

No matter how far you go, I’ll find you 

Though the intervening years are long.

Someday we’ll see each other in the distance 

And with heavenly wings upon our feet 

And arms outstretched, race towards each other 

Until at last, again we meet. 

According to Boscia, Trott had been planning to say goodbye to 710 West End shortly before her death. “She’d already found the real estate agents.” He employed the same team to sell her unit in June of 2020. “Her thought was to get either a place in the country or a pied-à-terre in the city and just travel…just enjoy her 70s.” 

She’d lived in the co-op for decades, but it had not always been a pleasant stay. Over the years there were intra-building squabbles over Sue’s pets, her bird feeding and plans for a neighboring apartment she owned at one time, Boscia said. 

But were there warning signs of an impending murder? 

About a month before her death, Boscia visited Trott and she mentioned feeling uneasy about someone, but didn’t want to get into specifics, dismissing his concern with a wave of her hand. “She was like, ‘Next. It’s fine, it’s fine.’”

Early media reports on the killing had said police believed Johnston was burglarizing Trott’s apartment when she encountered Trott, but Johnston was not charged with burglary by prosecutors. In the current case file, prosecutors note that they provided a “rap sheet” of Johnston’s prior convictions at arraignment. WSR asked the Manhattan DA’s office to describe Johnston’s prior criminal record. A spokesperson replied, “The only prior case with our office under this defendant’s name is now sealed, so there’s nothing we would be able to provide.” Defense attorney Schneider did not respond to WSR’s inquiry about Johnston’s alleged criminal history. 

WSR also attempted to speak with longtime building shareholders — including Johnston’s mother Isabel —  about the months leading up to and following the murder. No one responded. 

In the forward to ‘I Smell Heaven’ Judy Segaloff remembers Trott as “creative, brash, fierce and gutsy,” a supportive friend and fashionista who was “the epitome of love for all creatures, human and other.” 

Today, Upper West Siders may rest on a Riverside Park memorial bench dedicated to Trott, located near the monument to another fierce, gutsy lady — Joan of Arc — at 93rd Street and Riverside Drive. 

This past spring, Boscia and a few friends scattered a mixture of Trott’s ashes and those of some of her departed pets around the spot. “Everyone thinks she was this tough woman, but Sue had the biggest heart.” 

Inscription on Trott’s memorial bench in Riverside Park 

NEWS | 4 comments | permalink
    1. T. Sato says:

      I worked with her when she was freelancing at Young & Rubicam in the 80s. Very talented copy writer. Subsequently, I enjoyed running into her either in RSP or CP, always with her latest rescue in tow (I remember meeting Mr. Pink who had allergies). I will go look for the bench now.

    2. susan says:

      Thank you, WSR, for this excellent update.

    3. Rita McMahon says:

      Sue Trott and Eric Boscia were great supporters of the Wild Bird Fund. From T-shirt designs to the beautiful feather logo for WBF, the wildlife of New York City is in their debt.

    4. B.B. says:

      Anya Johnston will likely never stand trial, but will “cop a plea” something lesser that has her confined to an institution for criminally insane.

      If OTOH case does go to trial, burden will be on defendant to prove they were mentally challenged at time of committing crime. Again if that works Anya Johnston will be confined to a mental institution

      https://nycourts.gov/judges/cji/1-General/Defenses/CJI2d.Insanity.pdf

      https://nysba.org/NYSBA/Practice%20Resources/Substantive%20Reports/PDF/Mandated%20Representation%20report.pdf

      Being found not guilty by reason of or taking an insanity plea isn’t cake walk many imagine. Ironically people on average spend more time thus confined than if they’d been convicted or plead guilty to criminal charges.

      Criminal convictions are for definite terms, and there is also possibility of parole or other early release. OTOH those confined for mental reasons by law are held until state no longer believes they pose a threat.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/27/magazine/when-not-guilty-is-a-life-sentence.html