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Fred Neulander
Born August 14, 1941 (1941-08-14) (age 68)
Conviction(s) Murder (1994)
Status In prison
Occupation Rabbi
Spouse Carol Neulander

Rabbi Fred Neulander (born August 14, 1941) was the founding Rabbi of the Congregation M'Kor Shalom Reform Temple in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, United States, which opened in the summer of 1974. Previously, he had been the assistant Rabbi at Temple Emanuel, also in Cherry Hill. Neulander graduated from Trinity College in 1963. He was convicted of paying congregant Len Jenoff and drifter Paul Daniels $18,000 to kill his wife Carol on November 1, 1994. The case became a media circus and was broadcast live on CourtTV.

Biography

Neulander's motive was his desire to continue his adulterous relationship with former Philadelphia area radio personality Elaine Soncini. She testified that when she insisted he leave his wife for her, he complained that a divorce from his very popular wife would compromise his credibility and authority as a spiritual leader, even cause the loss of his job as a Rabbi.

Soncini initially lied to the police about the affair but when she was informed that Neulander had other mistresses, she began to cooperate. She would testify at the trial that when her husband, Ken Garland, another Philadelphia radio personality, died, she turned to Neulander for grief counseling. Their relationship became physical within weeks, and Soncini would eventually convert to Judaism under Neulander's guidance. She testified twice that Neulander wanted to be with her and told Soncini how he "dreamed" of finding Carol Neulander dead and the life he and Elaine would live. Soncini was granted protection from the Cherry Hill Police after she agreed to cooperate.

Suspicion pointed to Neulander from the night of the murder, but it was not known who had actual committed the crime. Five years after Carol's murder, the prosecution had only circumstantial clues—particularly his lying about his philandering and the state of his marriage—but little else. Regardless, Prosecutor Jim Lynch decided to press forward with a trial against Neulander. Apparently, the state thought there was enough evidence to establish a conspiracy case against Neulander, even if his co-conspirators were unknown.

In February 1995, he resigned a Rabbi from Congregation M'Kor Shalom and by 2002 was involved with Victoria Lombardi, better known as Miss Vicki, the former wife of Tiny Tim.[1]

On the eve of Neulander's conspiracy trial, the actual killer and conspiracy partner, Len Jenoff, confessed to Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Nancy Phillips. Upon receiving the confession, the Prosecution re-indicted and amended the charges against Neulander to reflect the identities of the conspirators. Jenoff had been communicating with Phillips for some time. Phillips was aware of Jenoff, and she knew he was a shady character, and that he was good friends with the rabbi. Although from a prominent Cherry Hill family, Jenoff had apparently led a troubled life. He had fabricated large segments of his history (including his claim that he was an undercover CIA agent), apparently in order to mask ongoing career troubles, marriage troubles, etc... Then Jenoff had met Neulander, and things began to look more positive. Neulander apparently befriended Jenoff, even holding Jenoff's wedding in the very room where Carol would later be found bludgeoned to death. At some point, Neulander allegedly manipulated Jenoff into murdering Carol in exchange for money. Jenoff then recruited Paul Daniels, an even more troubled young man who had been a roommate of Jenoff's. Jenoff would eventually come forward and in the dining area of Weber's, a popular South Jersey Diner in the town of Audubon, confess to Phillips. The Inquirer reporter then convinced Jenoff to tell his story again to Camden County Prosecutor Lee Solomon in the same diner. Jenoff would go on to tell his story to two juries.

Jenoff's version of events was: he apparently "cased" the Neulander home by meeting Carol at the home alone using the premise of delivering a package and requesting to use the bathroom. Jenoff's use of the bathroom earned him the moniker "bathroom man" from Carol Neulander. The murder allegedly occurred when Jenoff and Daniels returned a few weeks later and entered the Neulander home while only Carol Neulander was home. On the premise of delivering a package for the rabbi, Jenoff entered the home. Carol was on the phone with her daughter and identified Jenoff as the "bathroom man." It would be the last time Carol Neulander's daughter ever heard her mother's voice.

Jenoff, in exchange for a plea, would go on to testify that Paul Daniels only struck Carol Neulander once, but that Jenoff himself struck her repeatedly over her cries of "Why?", splattering her blood onto a wall.

Neulander and his defense team, Dennis Wixted and Jeffrey Zucker, contended that Jenoff and Daniels acted independently and that their motive was robbery. The defense contended that Jenoff knew that Carol ran her own business, Classic Cakes, and that she frequently brought cash designated for deposit into the home. Jenoff, needing money and armed with that knowledge, recruited Daniels and killed Carol Neulander for the deposits. Jenoff himself was a dubious character, and the defense spent hours cross-examining Jenoff on the fact that he had lied about CIA ties and work as an FBI informant. Jenoff had apparently also misrepresented his credentials and often presented himself as a private investigator. Only Jenoff had met with Fred Neulander, and only Jenoff's testimony could support the allegation that Neulander had paid Jenoff to kill Carol Neulander. In fact, Daniels, obviously suffering from mental difficulties, could not even testify that Jenoff had indicated that Neulander had paid for the killing.

Tried before Judge Linda G. Baxter, the first trial resulted in a hung jury. It had been empaneled in Camden County. Area newspapers reported rumours that the panel hung 9-3 in favor of guilt. Due to the intense media coverage in Camden County, the re-trial was moved to Monmouth County. At the re-trial, Neulander was defended by Mt. Holly attorney Mike Riley. In Monmouth, Fred Neulander was found guilty. Neulander's son Matthew, whose testimony at the first trial had been lukewarm, was by the time of the second trial thoroughly convinced of his father's guilt, which was reflected in his testimony.[2]

Following the verdict, Assistant Prosecutor Jim Lynch submitted to the jury on the question of the death penalty which the jury panel declined. Neulander was sentenced to serve 30 years to life in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.

In an interview by ABC's Barbara Walters after his incarceration, he told her "You have no idea how much rage I have.” He was also saddened that two of his three adult children testified him against him.

In December 2006, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Courts denied Fred Neulander's appeal.[3] His appellate counsel had argued that the trial Court had erred in not permitting Neulander to argue a third party liability defense based on a similar home invasion burglary murder that had occurred in Cherry Hill. Neulander had also argued Court error on the issue of double or triple layer "hearsay" evidence; i.e., the out-of-court statement by Carol Neulander as elicited by and through her daughter, about the telephone conversation involving the "bathroom man." Although an appeal and Post-Conviction Relief application were planned, Neulander's best chance at a new trial had been lost. He is currently imprisoned in New Jersey State Prison.

Jenoff is incarcerated in Riverfront State Prison in Camden, New Jersey. His first parole date will come in 2010, and he could remain confined until 2023.

Paul Daniels was sentenced similarly, although he is in a separate facility.

Jim Lynch left the Camden County Prosecutor's Office and is now an Assistant. U.S. Attorney.

Dennis Wixted, Jeffrey Zucker, and Mike Riley remain in private practice.

Judge Linda G. Baxter is now a member of the Appellate Division.

References

  1. ^ Hanley, Robert. "Younger Son Asks Jury to Spare Rabbi's Life", The New York Times, November 22, 2002. Accessed January 1, 2008. "The Philadelphia Daily News today quoted the woman, Victoria Lombardi of Haddonfield, N.J., as saying of the rabbi, He is mine and I am his."
  2. ^ Neulander's oldest son calls father `coward'
  3. ^ a3616-02.opn.html

External links

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