Given the hatred they encountered after the economic damage caused by her husband’s Ponzi scheme, Ruth and Bernard Madoff contemplated a pill-induced suicide on Christmas Eve 2008, she tells 60 Minutes in an interview taped Oct. 6 and scheduled to air Sunday. The appearance marks the first time she has spoken publicly.
“I don’t know whose idea it was, but we decided to kill ourselves because it was so horrendous what was happening,” says Ruth, 70, adding that she had sent jewelry worth millions to family members as she prepared for death.
Raiding the home medicine cabinet and finding the Ambien and possibly Klonopin, “I took what we had. He took more. … We took the pills and woke up the next day. … It was very impulsive, and I’m glad we woke up.”
In a separate interview that he gave Oct. 14 from behind bars in the Federal Correction Complex at Butler, N.C., with ABC News’ Barbara Walters, Bernard says, “I feel safer here than outside. Days go by. I have people to talk to and no decisions to make. … I know that I will die in prison. I lived the last 20 years of my life in fear. Now I have no fear – nothing to think about because I’m no longer in control of my own life.”
The Madoffs are now estranged. “Not seeing my family and knowing they hate me” is the worst thing about being in prison, Bernard, 73, tells Walters. “I betrayed them.” As for the victims of his final fraud and the anger they have toward him, he says he “can live with” it.
Ruth stopped speaking to her husband because of the Dec. 11, 2010, suicide of their son Mark, 46, who could no longer deal with the disgrace his father brought upon the family. Bernard Madoff defrauded clients of his Manahattan-based financial investment firm out of more than $60 billion by running the most elaborate Ponzi scheme in history.
“Ruth not communicating is the hardest thing,” Bernard tells Walters. “Ruth doesn’t hate me. She has no one. It’s not fair to her. She lost her first son. … She is a devoted wife and didn’t care about the money.”
Mark Madoff’s widow, Stephanie Madoff Mack, also holds Bernard responsible for her husband’s death. Her account of those circumstances form the crux of her new book, The End of Normal: A Wife’s Anguish, A Widow’s New Life.
In addition, surviving Madoff son, Andrew Madoff, 45, is said to have cooperated, as has Ruth, with a book to be published next Monday, Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family, by Brooklyn-based author Laurie Sandell.