Two years after a New York socialite who found dead at the bottom of a trash chute at her luxurious Manhattan apartment, her heartbroken father maintains she was murdered.
Lara Prychodko, 48, was discovered dead on July 10, 2018, by a maintenance worker after plummeting from the 27th floor of the Zeckendorf Towers in Union Square.
Investigators determined that Lara’s mysterious and unusual death was a tragic accident, but Nicholas Prychodko maintains that his daughter was brutally killed that evening.
‘What could have happened to her?’ Nicholas told NBC’s Dateline.
‘Was it a suicide? It’s not possible. That’s not Lara. Was it an accident? I very quickly became convinced that there was only one plausible explanation for what took place. And that’s homicide.’
Lara Prychodko with her father Nicholas Prychodko who believes that she was murdered
New York City’s former chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Baden also claimed the mother-of-one may not have accidentally fallen in the chute, and that her body showed signs of strangulation.
Lara died less than a week after celebrating her birthday with friends in Paris and Ibiza, despite court documents later revealing she was ‘buried in debt’
Security footage showed Lara, reportedly intoxicated and stumbling, entering her Zeckendorf Towers building at 4:10pm on July 10 and getting onto the elevator alone.
Nicholas said Lara had gone to nearby bar that day to watch the FIFA World Series Cup semi-finals.
‘Her grandfather is French and she speaks French. So she was a big fan,’ he said.
France beat Belgium in the match that day, which Nicholas said his daughter was ecstatic.
‘The doorman said she was happy. She was high-fiving themThey all loved her because, you know, she was just so friendly and nice,’ said Nicholas.
Lara Prychodko (in 2010), 48, was found dead on July 18, 2018, at her $6,500-per-month apartment at Zeckendorf Towers in Union Square after falling 27 floors
Zeckendorf Towers where Prychodko died in July 2018 is pictured above
Police investigating her death at the time concluded that she drunkenly fell into the chute (above) by accident. However, famed pathologist Michael Baden later ruled the mother-of-one may have been strangled to death before being place in the garbage chute
One of Lara’s neighbors on the 27th floor later told authorities that she returned home around 4:20pm and nothing seemed amiss in the hallway.
But ten minutes later, the neighbor said she heard loud noises coming from the hallway and stepped outside her apartment to investigate.
Although she did not see anyone at the time, she did discover an unattended purse on the floor near the trash compactor.
Authorities would later reveal that the purse belonged to Lara.
At 4:40pm, a maintenance worker stopped by the trash chute after it became jammed. That’s where he found Lara’s body ‘crushed from multiple angles.’
A brief investigation by the New York Police Department determined there was no criminal activity involved.
The NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner announced that Lara’s cause of death ‘undetermined,’ but did note that she had a blood alcohol level of .29 at the time of her death.
‘The circumstances around the death are unclear; however there is no suspicion of foul play,’ the office said.
But Nicholas refuses to believe his daughters death was simply drunken accident.
He told Dateline that the trash chute at Zeckendorf Towers was around 15″ by 18″ with a door and that Lara was tall at 5’10”.
Nicholas argues that his daughter Lara (pictured), who was nearly six-feet-tall, had too much height to simply fall down the trash chute
Lara accidentally falling into the trash chute, based on her height, seems implausible to Nicholas – and her friends agree.
Vesna Todorov is both devastated and confused by the death of one of her closer New York City friends.
‘It’s definitely tragic, but it is not a tragic accident,’ Todorov said.
‘That’s what puzzles me. If she fell down the stairs, OK, but not a trash chute. That’s not an accident. Someone did that to her.’
Desperate for answers, Nicholas sought help from Michael Baden, who rose to prominence in 2019 after concluding that Jeffrey Epstein’s injuries were ‘more indicative’ of murder than the suicide ruling made in the official autopsy report.
Baden reviewed autopsy notes, X-rays, lab tests and crime scene photos before sending a letter to the Prychodko family less than a year after the incident.
He determined that Lara ‘may have died because of homicidal ligature strangulation and was then placed in the garbage chute.’
The new report also suggested that alleged strangulation ‘may also explain why there was little bleeding from the lacerated viscera and torn blood vessels noted at autopsy.’
Baden also mentioned a photo from the crime scene that showed Lara without her shirt.
‘Lara’s blouse is torn from her body and that to him is an indication that there could have been a struggle against the assailant,’ said Nicholas.
But earlier this month, famed pathologist, Dr Michael Baden (pictured) who controversially concluded that pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy showed signs of murder claimed in bombshell new findings that Prychodko’s death was not a tragic accident
Nicholas, fully intent on continuing a probe into Lara’s death, for a period of time moved from Toronto, Canada, to New York City to persuade officials to reopen the case based on Baden’s findings.
Baden offered to investigate the case pro-bono for the family after being approached by Nicholas.
Despite the shocking findings, the city’s Medical Examiner’s office told Nicholas that they found ‘no signs of foul play in your daughter’s death’ and would not reopen the case.
At the time of her death, Lara was was reportedly buried in debt, hadn’t held a job in five years and was in the midst of a bitter divorce battle with her estranged husband, David Schlachet.
The couple argued over millions of dollars in assets, like two apartments in Manhattan and a home in the exclusive Hamptons community.
Lara and David Schlachet, who owns a Manhattan construction company, have one 14-year-old son together named Talin. A DUI charge caused Lara to lose custody of the child.
Nicholas said his daughter was granted visitation rights and was set to see her son just one day after she was discovered dead.
Seeking $321,629 plus interest from Schlachet (right), the lawyers, who also represented Prychodko in her divorce against him, claim he pocketed all of the couple’s assets in July 2018 but hasn’t taken any action to write off their client’s debts
David Schlachet with his son Talin Schlachet in 2017 – David won custody over Talin
Schlachet said in an email to Dateline that he and his son were still grieving from the loss.
‘I can only say that my divorce -like so many- was a painful and sad experience to go through with someone I had loved so deeply,’ wrote Schlachet.
‘But that does not diminish the grief and trauma our son and I have experienced by the tragic loss of our wife and mother, Lara. It is a pain that we are both still learning to cope with and which we will both carry with us forever.’
Nicholas said he will get justice for Lara. He recalled how much she impacted those around her.
‘She shaped both the beginning of my formative adult life and now she’s shaping how I spend the last years of my life,’ said Nicholas.
‘She has made a tremendous impact in my life, and also in so many other lives through the course of her own, all-too-short life.’
Lara was raised in Toronto, where she studied at Etobicoke School for the Arts before attending University of Toronto.
He says she was a happy child who was protective of her siblings.
‘Although you can imagine that she could also be a little bit bossy at times,’ Nicholas said, jokingly.
‘She had this happy childhood. I remember spending summers at the lake — renting cottages by the lake going fishing, canoeing, swimming.’
Nicholas Prychodko (pictured): ‘She shaped both the beginning of my formative adult life and now she’s shaping how I spend the last years of my life’
Lara followed her dreams to New York City after college and worked several jobs as she built a network in the Big Apple.
‘Lara was extremely sociable. She had great interpersonal skills and networking skills, which is what helped to make her so successful,’ said Nicholas.
In fact, Lara worked as an event organizer with corporate organizations and that’s how she met former WebMD CEO Wayne Gattinella, whom she was dating at the time of her death.
A report from the New York Post alleged that couple’s relationship was actually an affair that began in 2009.
At that time, Gattinella was married to his wife of 40 years, Valerie Gattinella, and had four children together.
In January 2018, Lara and Gattinella allegedly signed a less on a $6,500-per-month apartment at Zeckendorf Towers.
In an email from May 2018 that was obtained by the newspaper, Prychodko wrote to the millionaire: ‘I just woke up missing my beautiful amazing son whom I’ve lost because of my love of you.’
She also wrote to the father-of-four: ‘You said you would take care of private school. But you are not. My child deserves the same privilege yours do.’
She was said to be having a several years-long affair with former WebMD CEO Wayne Gattinella (above) at the time
Before her death, Prychodko (pictured with her husband in 2010) was in the middle of a bitter divorce with her estranged husband, David Christopher Schlachet
Valerie reportedly learned of their alleged relationship when she found a charge for a gym membership at Equinox on her husband’s credit card statement.
She filed for divorce from Gattinella not long after Lara’s death.
Lara’s sister Tayla, said they had a very closer relationship growing up.
‘She was my best friend,’ said Tayla. ‘She was kind and generous and found the good in everyone. She was a beautiful soul.’
Lara would have turned 50 this year in June 23. Tayla reached out to Lara’s friends across the world to share memories and celebrate her life.
Nicholas Prychodko: ‘ Lara was extremely sociable. She had great interpersonal skills and networking skills, which is what helped to make her so successful’ Pictured: Lara Prychodko
‘She touched so many people’s lives during her time here,’ said Tayla. ‘She was a social person and she strived to surround herself with people of influence, not affluence.
The last time she spoke to her sister was on her birthday in 2018, just days before she died.
‘I can’t believe that’s the last time I heard her voice,’ Tayla told Dateline.
‘I don’t know how to live without her. There’s a hole in my heart now that will never be filled.’
‘It’s haunting to think of my sister’s final moments. You don’t just slip and fall into a trash chute. Something really terrible happened to her that day. And this is what the family is left with – those last moments of her life.’
Prychodko was laid off from her job at WebMD in 2013 and had ‘no meaningful income’ other than $4,375-a-month Schlachet had been ordered to pay her as part of their divorce, the court documents claim
Vesna Todorov said she still struggles with taking the garbage out.
‘I think of her last moments and I just can’t do it,’ said Vesna. ‘I just don’t understand why anyone would do this to such wonderful person. But whoever killed her is still out there.’
At the moment, the Prychodko family does not have a definitive decision on their next step in Lara’s investigation.
But Nicholas is not giving up the fight to uncover what really happened to his daughter that night.
He’s urged anyone with information or knowledge to come forward.
‘Someone out there may know something about what took place, even if they were not actually a participant, he said.
‘And for whatever reason, out of the goodness of your heart or out of a feeling of remorse, please step forward and share that with the police and the district attorney’s office so that they can pursue that investigation further.’
Pictured: New York City police officers stand outside Zeckendorf Towers after Lara Prychodko was dicovered dead at the bottom of the trash chute
The news of Lara’s debt came last month after her lawyers filed a lawsuit against Schlachet that revealed she was virtually penniless at the time of her death.
Seeking $321,629 plus interest from Schlachet, the lawyers, who also represented Prychodko in her divorce against him, claim he pocketed all of the couple’s assets in July 2018 but hasn’t taken any action to write off their client’s debts.
The only money Prychodko had to her name at the time of her death was in her individual retirement account (IRA) which would – and should – have gone towards paying off her creditors, the lawsuit filed in Manhattan Supreme Court says.
However, Prychodko’s attorneys say construction executive Schlachet illegally transferred the money to their son’s beneficiary account, of which he administers.
‘As a result of the IRA transfer, Ms. Prychodko’s estate has no meaningful assets to distribute to her creditors, and to date no distribution has been made,’ according to court documents observed by the NY Post.
The suit further claims that Schlachet moved the money because he knew his wife owed ‘substantial attorneys’ fees’ and wanted to ‘hinder, delay or defraud’ her legal team.
Prychodko was laid off from her job at WebMD in 2013 and had ‘no meaningful income’ other than $4,375-a-month Schlachet had been ordered to pay her as part of their divorce, the court documents claim.
Just five months before her death, a judge also ordered Schlachet to pay Prychodko $30,000 to help cover her legal fees.
Schlachet, was the co-founder of Taocon Inc, a construction company in New York, which owed more than $3.4million to creditors and had assets of only $550,844, according to documents filed in federal court in 2016.
The company filed for bankruptcy in 2016, the same year that he filed for divorce from Prychodko.
Schlachet has never been named a suspect in his wife’s death.