WHITE LINES, DARK SIDE
Mystery Bad Girl Led Doctor to Coke Death, Friend Says
An HBO honcho and an alleged drug dealer are charged in Kiersten Cerveny’s fatal overdose, but her friend says ‘Miss X’ left her in the clutches of cocaine.
Two men in New York were indicted Wednesday for distributing cocaine to a Long Island doctor who fatally overdosed, but Kiersten Cerveny’s friend says the real culprit is a mysterious bad girl she calls “Miss X.”
Cerveny, 38, was found in the doorway of a Chelsea building on Oct. 5, 2015 after partying with HBO producer Marc Henry Johnson and James Holder, an alleged drug dealer. Police said in an affidavit that Holder and Johnson carried Cerveny downstairs and left her outside around 8:30 a.m. the following morning. Johnson called 911 but by the time paramedics arrived, the mother of three young children was dead.
Johnson and Holder aren’t charged in Cerveny’s death, but have been charged with drug charges and for moving Cerveny’s body when she became unresponsive.
“The worst part was that I thought that she was murdered, when I first got the information,” Caron Bernstein, Ceveny’s friend, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “So it’s just a huge relief. I don’t know what it feels like to overdose, but it can’t be as terrifying as getting murdered.”
Bernstein was in Los Angeles when she heard about Cerveny’s death, then heard she was in Manhattan in the first place for a “girls night” out with their mutual friends. While the other women stayed back at the hotel room, Bernstein said Cerveny and a woman she would only refer to as “Miss X” went out.
The duo eventually found themselves at the KGB bar on the Lower East Side. A KGB employee, who said he was interviewed by police in the weeks after the death, confirmed the women were there.
“I know Marc Johnson and he’s definitely not a drug dealer,” Dan Christian told The Daily Beast. “Someone dragged him to some late night hang or something like that.”
Miss X, referred to as Individual 5 in the affidavit, texted with Johnson from the bar, according to court documents released Wednesday. The HBO producer told Individual 5 that he was “tipsy” and jonesing for coke, according to documents.
“I may go to Pepsi for a pickup,” he texted, referring to Holder.
“Kiersten was in the worst case naïve, in the best case innocent,” Bernstein added.
Miss X, the alleged late-night companion, knows some “slime-baggy people,” Bernstein said.
Miss X allegedly played a “long con” on friends, milking them for meals, drinks, and more, Bernstein said, adding she had a reputation for being wild and going out a lot.
“When I heard that she went [to KGB], I said: Let me guess, blahdy blah took her,” Bernstein said.
While it wouldn’t have been “the craziest, most lunatic thing in the world to know that Kiersten did some blow,” Bernstein said that her friend’s usual style was much more reserved, contrary to tabloid reports. While she enjoyed cocktails and drinks with friends on girls’ nights out, she typically preferred to remain in control, so that she could be present if her children, or anyone else, needed her at a moment’s notice.
There was “no extramarital anything,” Bernstein emphasized.
She was happiest when she was helping. Bernstein recalled how she “giggled like a school girl” after figuring out a diagnosis her fellow doctors couldn’t.
“I know people speak about dead people like that, like all of a sudden they’re perfect,” Bernstein said. “I’m not saying that Kiersten was a perfect person, but she was closer to that goal than any person I’ve ever met.
“She was always just good to everyone, and she didn’t heed advice like, oh, this girl is potentially dangerous,” she said.
Indeed that night, court documents suggest Cerveny left KGB in a taxi with Johnson. Miss X evidently didn’t follow her.
Cerveny and Johnson arrived at Holder’s Chelsea apartment around 4:25 a.m., according to court documents. Four hours later, Cerveny was dead.
“For HBO [Johnson] to call 911 and then not be there, holding there, trying to give her CPR... that boggles my mind,” Bernstein said.
Johnson worked as a producer on The Deuce, an upcoming HBO drama about prostitution around Times Square in the ’80s. He stepped away from the show after being investigated in relation to Cerveny’s death.
“Foremost, this is a grievous tragedy for a young woman and her family,” David Simon, an executive producer on the series, told The Daily Beast in a statement. “As evidence has yet to be presented and the case yet to be adjudicated, it would be irresponsible to say more than that at this point.”
But Bernstein says the most important thing to know is that Cerveny was a good person with a big heart. The kids and her husband Andrew “were her everything, not including her career.”
“She didn’t really make money with her career, because in a typical day she would see 35 patients, most of them children, in this crappy Brooklyn hospital,” Bernstein said. “Her joy was to help and heal.”