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Adds Abramowitz, one of Feinberg's former attorneys: "The case just started feeding on itself. I sympathize for Brenda. I sympathize for Paul. I sympathize for the child. I sympathize with all the lawyers, including myself, that got involved in this case."
In 1967, when Paul Levine met Brenda Slutsky (Feinberg is the last name of her second husband), they were both attending Penn State University. Paul, who came from a small, central Pennsylvania town called Hughesville, was the sports editor of the student newspaper; Brenda, who was from nearby Allentown worked in the paper's advertising department. "It was a small office," Feinberg remembers. "I'd have to go past him to get my coat, and he noticed me. He was nice." Levine, she recalls, would flirt or tell jokes. On April 6, 1968, they went out on their first date, to a restaurant outside the town of State College. They had Chateaubriand and cre me de menthe parfait, Feinberg remembers. She was impressed.
They were engaged in 1969. By then Levine was editor of the school paper and had his sights set on a career in journalism. They graduated together in June of that year, with Feinberg earning her bachelor's degree in Spanish in only three years. When they wed on July 27, 1969, she was twenty. He was 21. "I saw greatness in Paul," says Feinberg. He wanted to be a journalist and help change the world. "I thought I was marrying Walter Cronkite, and we would travel around the world and never have material possessions and just be real bright and intellectual and political."
After a honeymoon in Puerto Rico, the couple moved to Miami. Paul had taken a job at the Miami Herald, where he would be one of the youngest reporters on the newspaper's staff. In moving to Miami, Brenda gave up a fellowship to Temple University in Philadelphia, which would have paid for her master's degree in Spanish. Feinberg says Paul's parents told her not to worry about money; if she wanted to attend graduate school in Miami, they would pay for it. Sally and Stanley Levine often made such offers, Feinberg says. It wasn't that they were wealthy - they owned a small department store in Hughesville and lived above the store - but they saved every penny they could for their only son.
Paul and Brenda's first home together was on Galen Drive in Key Biscayne. Like most newlyweds, they had plans about how their lives would progress. Paul would work at the Herald. Brenda would teach part-time and begin taking graduate courses at the University of Miami, working toward her master's degree. They would wait five years before starting a family. But not long after their first wedding anniversary passed, Brenda was surprised to learn she was pregnant.
"I considered having an abortion," Feinberg recalls, "even though they were not legal in Florida. I thought I was much too young. I cried at my doctor's. And then Paul and I talked. And Paul and I agreed to have the baby. I would have had an abortion if he had even hinted that was what he wanted. But he never really suggested that."
It was a difficult pregnancy. Feinberg became terribly ill, and when Wendy Levine was born on April 9, 1971, doctors discovered the infant suffered from tracheomalacia. The cartilage around her airway was very soft and could collapse without warning, causing the baby to suffocate. Because excessive crying could cause the collapse, the new parents weren't to let the child cry. If the cartilage did collapse, they were warned, the baby would be unable to scream for help. Before they were allowed to take Wendy home from the hospital, each parent was instructed how to perform CPR on a child. The condition was likely to persist for more than a year.
Those were scary times. Feinberg remembers having Wendy's crib next to her bed at night. She learned to sleep light and awake often. There is always a unique bond between a mother and her first-born child, but with Wendy's problems, Feinberg says, she developed a "special closeness."
Paul, meanwhile, had enrolled at the University of Miami School of Law. At the Herald he had become the paper's courthouse reporter, covering trials and legal issues. "I just got fascinated by it," he says now. "I thought these lawyers looked like they were having so much fun." Feinberg says she was supportive of the abrupt change, but less than thrilled. She had passed up the fellowship at Temple so Paul could move to Miami and work at the Herald. "I had reversed my whole life so he could do this very important thing," she says, "and then it turned out he was not really the reporter type." By this time Paul's parents were financially supporting the new parents, as well as footing the bill for Levine's tuition.
Despite the changes in their lives, 1973 held the promise of being a very good year for the Levines. Paul finished his law studies, passed the bar exam, and joined a Miami firm. Wendy's medical condition improved substantially, and Brenda found she was enjoying motherhood. That fall, when the couple took their two-year-old daughter on a trip to Pennsylvania to visit her grandparents and enjoy homecoming festivities at Penn State, Feinberg says she was thinking it might be time to have a second child.