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Former Playboy centerfold, son who died jumping from New York City hotel have ties to ND

Stephanie Adams (left) & Vincent Nicolai

NEW ROCKFORD, N.D. – A funeral has been scheduled in the central North Dakota town of New Rockford for the 7-year-old boy who died after being caught in the middle of a bitter custody battle between his former Playboy centerfold mother and his father.

The funeral for Vincent Nicolai, 7, will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 1, in the town about 60 miles north of Jamestown, according to an obituary listed in the Grand Forks Herald. A visitation will be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, May 31, at Evans Funeral Home in New Rockford.

Nicolai died May 18 after leaping with his mother off the 25th floor of a New York City hotel. His mother, 47-year-old Stephanie Adams, was a former Playboy playmate and 1992 November centerfold who was in a custody battle with her estranged ex-husband, Charles Nicolai, a New York City chiropractor.

Charles Nicolai’s connection to North Dakota can be traced to his brothers, Michael and James Nicolai. Michael Nicolai, like his brother Charles, is a chiropractor with his own practice in New Rockford. James Nicolai is based in Bismarck and serves as the deputy solicitor general for North Dakota serving under Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

Michael Nicolai and Charles Nicolai both attended Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, where Michael Nicolai graduated one year ahead of Charles Nicolai in 1994.

The battle for custody of the boy had heated up just a week before the deaths, the New York Post reported. During a May 15 court appearance, Charles Nicolai filed a motion for sole custody of the boy, the man’s lawyer said in an interview with the New York Post. Then, a day later on May 16, Adams’ request to take her son away for the summer to Spain was denied by a judge.

The relationship had become toxic to the point that Adams would meet Charles Nicolai – who had visitation rights for the boy – at a police station in Tribeca, a neighborhood in lower Manhattan, according to a Page Six report.

Michael Nicolai and his wife, Cheri, have lived in New Rockford since 1996 and have four children. He and business partner and colleague Zachary Smith own and operate Nicolai Chiropractic Center in New Rockford.

In an obituary posted on the Evans Funeral Home website, Vincent Nicolai was described as an accomplished artist both in painting and in music, despite only being 7 years old.

“He was just seven, but had already touched the lives of many and left behind sweet memories that will be forever treasured,” the obituary reads. “His smile was captivating, his laugh infectious, and his wonder and curiosity about the world never-ending.”

“Vincent’s sheer abandon for life inspired all who knew him. You could venture all over New York City with Vincent and it wasn’t a rare occasion for people from all walks of life to greet him by name and ask him how he was.”