Jury finds rabbi guilty of hiring hit man to kill
November 22, 2002
FREEHOLD, N.J. — A former New Jersey rabbi now
faces the death penalty after he was found guilty on all counts
Wednesday of hiring a hit man to carry out the murder of his wife of 28
Fred Neulander, 61, showed no emotion as the
forewoman of the jury of seven men and five women pronounced the once-beloved
religious leader guilty of murder, felony murder and second-degree
Carol Neulander, 52, was bludgeoned to death in her
Cherry Hill, N.J., home with a one-foot section of lead pipe on Nov. 1,
1994, after returning home from her work as a bakery manager. The
couple's son testified that he had heard his parents fight two nights
before she was killed and that his father had told his mother their
marriage was "over."
As jurors filed out of the courtroom after the
verdict was announced, members of Carol Neulander's family appeared
relieved, wiped away tears and hugged each other.
"We are very pleased by the verdicts returned this
afternoon by this jury," said prosecutor James Lynch, who was surrounded
by members of Carol Neulander's family as he addressed reporters briefly. "We
now move to a very critical stage of this case."
Michael Riley, the rabbi's lawyer, called Neulander a
"courageous" man and said the rabbi would address the jury directly on
Thursday during the penalty phase of the trial. "We are disappointed
with the result, obviously," he said before leaving the courthouse.
The jury will return Thursday at 1:30 p.m. to begin
the penalty phase.
Deadly Mix: A Rabbi, a Mistress and a Hit Man
On that November night in 1994, the rabbi arrived
home from his synagogue, M'Kor Shalom, to find his wife, Carol, sprawled
on the couple's parlor floor. She was covered in blood, the rabbi
testified at his first murder trial, so he ran from the room and called
The events of that night would set off eight years of
investigation, shocking revelations about the indiscretions of one of
New Jersey's noted religious leaders, a mistrial, and finally, a murder
conviction. The case made national headlines because of its startling
details: a rabbi, a mistress, a murder and a hit man.
Investigators at first had few leads in the slaying
of Carol Neulander, a bakery manager and mother of three. But suspicions
soon turned to the rabbi, who had been caught lying about a two-year
affair he had been having with Elaine Soncini, a Philadelphia radio
The case was coming together for police, who long
suspected that the rabbi had arranged to have his wife killed.
Prosecutor Lynch argued that Neulander feared losing the affections of
Soncini and believed that a divorce would bring him too much
embarrassment. Murder, the prosecutor argued, was the rabbi's way out.
In 1998, the rabbi was indicted for murder, but the
case was entirely circumstantial. That would all change two years later
when, in April 2000, Len Jenoff, a private investigator who was being
paid by Neulander to investigate his wife's murder was persuaded by a
Philadelphia Inquirer reporter to tell police what he knew about the
Jenoff told investigators and the reporter at a
Cherry Hill diner that he and an accomplice, Paul Daniels, killed Carol
Neulander — and that the rabbi had paid him to do it. Jenoff said he
gave Daniels a cut of the $18,000 Fred Neulander paid him to kill Carol
Neulander and make it look like a botched robbery.
Jenoff, however, was widely known in the suburban
Philadelphia community of Cherry Hill as a storyteller. Among other
things, according to testimony, he claimed falsely to have been a former
CIA agent, a former FBI agent, a "comrade in arms" of President Ronald
Reagan, a player in the Iran-Contra Affair and a former police officer.
He also falsely told people that he was a candidate for the Israeli
intelligence service, Mossad, and that he had tried three times to kill
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro for the CIA.
'The Bathroom Man'
Jenoff testified that Neulander's plan was to be seen
at the synagogue while the murder was being carried out so that he would
have an alibi.
Neulander's adult daughter, Rebecca, told police that
her mother ended a cellphone conversation as she arrived home from the
bakery minutes before she was killed. A man (Jenoff) the two knew as the
"bathroom" man — because he had visited once before and asked to use the
bathroom — had arrived. Carol Neulander told her that her father had
told her to expect a delivery that night, Rebecca Neulander-Rockoff
During the rabbi's retrial, numerous witnesses from
Temple M'Kor Shalom testified that Neulander made a rare appearance at
the synagogue on the night of the killing and even sat in on choir
practice, which raised eyebrows.
After he found his wife lying on the floor that
night, Neulander had not a speck of blood on his clothes, which raised
questions among investigators about why he did not bend down and render
his assistance to the woman he insisted he loved. Neulander also told
police that he was not seeing anyone else and that his last conversation
with his wife was a telephone call that afternoon in which he told her,
"I love you."
One of the most damaging prosecution witnesses was
Matthew Neulander, the second oldest of the Neulanders' three children.
Now a physician in North Carolina, Matthew Neulander, 29, testified that
he witnessed a heated exchange between his parents two days before the
Matthew Neulander, referring to his father only as "Fred," said
his mother asked her husband that night if he wanted to try to save the
marriage. He said the defendant just sat at the kitchen table, bowed his
head and replied, "No, it's over."
Neulander's convictions come at the end of his second
trial. A previous jury deadlocked in its eighth day last year. Despite a
court order not to speak to discharged jurors, Philadelphia-area media
outlets reported that the jury was stuck 9 to 3 in favor of conviction.
Neulander's current trial was moved from Camden to
Freehold, in Monmouth County, because of intense publicity in
Philadelphia and the large New Jersey suburb of Cherry Hill.
Jury Failed to Buy Defense Theory
By returning guilty verdicts, the jury apparently did
not believe the testimony of two prison inmates, defense witnesses who
claimed that Jenoff bragged after his arrest that the murder was a "robbery
gone bad" and that Neulander was not involved.
The defense also attacked the testimony of
prosecution witnesses, alleging that many of the 25 people who took the
stand had motives for testifying against the rabbi and others were
manipulated by police. Six prosecution witnesses were accused of lying
Riley, the rabbi's lawyer, argued that Soncini,
Neulander's former mistress, only began cooperating with police when
detectives told her that she was not his only girlfriend.
Riley also argued that Neulander's racquetball
partner, Myron "Peppy" Levin, did not tell police about incriminating
statements he attributed to Neulander until after police informed Levin
that his rabbi had ripped him off by selling him an inferior Torah.
Levin testified that after a racquetball match, Neulander remarked that
he wanted to arrive home one day and find his wife "dead on the floor."
Levin, an ex-convict whose record includes a federal fraud conviction,
initially told police that Neulander said nothing incriminating to him
despite rampant rumors in the community to the contrary.
If prosecutors persuade jurors during the penalty
phase that aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors, the jury
could sentence Neulander to death.
In Neulander's case, only one aggravating factor
exists: the fact that he paid someone to kill his wife. The defense is
expected to argue that Neulander's lifetime of service to the community
and the more than 1,000 families who belong to Temple M'Kor Shalom
represent significant mitigating factors.
In a statement released Wednesday night, members of
the congregation said they accept the jury's decision. "Our hope and
prayer is that all those touched by this tragedy will now begin to know
some measure of the healing peace we call shalom," the statement read.
Rabbi Fred Neulander
August 14, 1941)
was the founding Rabbi of the Congregation M'Kor Shalom
Reform Temple in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, 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.
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.
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.
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
In December 2006, the Appellate Division of the New
Jersey Courts denied Fred Neulander's appeal. 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
Neulander (born August
14, 1941) was the founding Rabbi of the Congregation M'Kor Shalom
Reform Temple in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
He was convicted of
paying hitmen Len Jenoff and Paul Daniels $18,000 to kill his wife
Carol. The case took many twists and turns.
motive was to continue a relationship with a former Philadelphia area
radio personality, Elaine Soncini. He was unable to divorce his wife and
remain a rabbi, hence the need to have his wife killed. Soncini would go
on to testify at trial that when her previous husband, Philadelphia
radio personality Ken Garland died, she turned to Neulander for comfort.
became physical and Soncini would eventually convert to Judaism under
Neulander's tutelage. Soncini was pressured with a conspiracy indictment
when she agreed to testify against Neulander.
She testified twice
that Neulander wanted to be with her and "dreamed" of finding Carol
dead. In yet another twist, Soncini was afforded protection from the
Cherry Hill Police after she agreed to cooperate.
Soon after the
protection commenced, Soncini and the officer responsible for her
protection wound up marrying and moving to Florida before the trial
However, the actual
method of killing Carol Neulander had not been revealed. Suspicion
swarmed around Neulander, but it was not apparent who the actual killer
Five years after her
death, the prosecution had lots of rumours surrounding Neulander but
very little fact. Regardless, intrepid Prosecutor Jim Lynch decided to
press forward with a trial against Neulander. Apparently, the State
thought there was a conspiracy case against Neulander, even if his
co-conspirators were unknown.
The actual killer, Len
Jenoff, eventually betrayed himself to Philadelphia Inquirier reporter
Nancy Phillips. He had been communicating with Phillips who knew that
Jenoff was a shady character and was good friends with the rabbi. Jenoff
had apparently lead a troubled life, career troubles, marriage troubles,
Then Jenoff met
Neulander, and things were looking up. Neulander befriended Jenoff, even
performing his wedding. However, Neulander apparently 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, he
confessed to an Inquirer reporter.
The Inquirer reporter
then convinced Jenoff to tell his story again to then Camden County
Prosecutor Lee Solomon in the very same diner. Jenoff would tell his
story again to a jury eventually leading to Neulander's conviction.
Jenoff's story went
like this: Jenoff had apparently "cased" the Neulander home by meeting
Carol at the home alone on 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.
In perhaps the most
damning testimony, Neulander's own daughter indicated that she was on
the phone with her mother Carol when "the bathroom man" was at the door.
It would be the last time Carol Neulander's daughter ever heard her
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.
The defense contended
that Jenoff and Daniels acted independently, and that their motive was
robbery. 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 held
himself out 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
The first jury,
empaneled in Camden County hung. 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.
In Monmouth, after an
extensive trial, Fred Neulander was found guilty. In yet another showing
of the restraint and sense of justice which has pervaded his career,
Asst. Prosecutor Jim Lynch simply submitted to the jury on the question
of the death penalty, indicating that they had heard the testimony and
that they had enough to decide the issue. The jury panel declined to
apply the death penalty, relegating Neulander to serve 30 years to life
in New Jersey State Prison in Trenton.
The Honorable Linda G.
Baxter, P.J. Cr., who presided over both trials remains the presiding
judge in Camden County. It is rumoured that she will be moving up to the
Appellate Division in 2006. Asst. Pros. Jim Lynch remains with the
Camden County Prosecutor's Office.
When Prosecutor Lee
Solomon resigned, Mr. Lynch was the Acting Prosecutor for Camden County.
Neulander's first defense team, Dennis Wixted and Jeffrey Zucker remain
in Camden County as two of the premier defense attorneys in Southern New
Jersey. Wixted was once referred to by Court TV reporters during the
trial as "like Harrison Ford". Michael Riley, Neulander's defense
counsel at his second trial once enjoyed a reputation as one of the best
Prosecutor's in the State, and enjoys a good reputation as a defense
attorney in Burlington County despite the loss at the re-trial.
Rumours abound that
the "bathroom man" may continue to haunt this trial. As the case
proceeds through the appeals process, the admission of what may have
been "hearsay" evidence, i.e.; the out of court statement by Carol
Neulander about the "bathroom man" as testified to by her daughter may
result in a new trial.
resides in Riverfront State Prison in Camden, NJ. His first parole date
will not come until 2010 and he could remain confined until 2023. At his
age, failure to get his parole could result in his spending the rest of
his natural life in prison. Paul Daniels was sentenced similarly,
although he resides in a seperate facility. Given his youth upon
admission, he will likely see the outside walls of a prison again.
resides at East Jersey State Prison in Trenton where he was disavowed
publicly by his faith and at least one of his sons. Barring a successful
appeal, he will likely breath his last breathe in custody as his 30 to
life sentence assures him of no possiblity for parole until he is
eighty-eight years old, a very ripe age for an inmate.
of Cherry Hill rabbi found bludgeoned to death
By Carol Comegno and Louis T.
Lounsberry - Courier-Post
November 3, 1994
CHERRY HILL -- A local businesswoman, the wife of a
Cherry Hill rabbi, was bludgeoned to death Tuesday night, according to
authorities, who say they have "substantial leads" in the grisly crime
that has stunned neighbors.
Carol Neulander, 52, was found dead inside her home
in the 200 block of High Gate Lane in the Wexford Leas development at
about 9:20 p.m. Tuesday, Camden County Prosecutor Edward F. Borden said
at a press conference Wednesday.
Her husband, Rabbi Fred J. Neulander, found her body
when he came home from Congregation M'Kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, where
he is senior rabbi.
The victim, known as a straight-talking woman who
spoke her mind, was found lying face down in a pool of blood in the
living room of the couple's two-story home. She was pronounced dead at
the scene by the county medical examiner's office.
Borden said Mrs. Neulander, a woman of medium build
who was just over 5 feet tall, had been beaten on the head numerous
times with an unknown blunt object. The autopsy concluded she died from
"multiple incidents of blunt trauma to the head." Authorities know how
many times she was struck, but Borden would not disclose the number of
The prosecutor said there was no sign of forced entry
into the home and no murder weapon was found. There were signs of a
struggle, but the prosecutor declined to describe them.
Both Borden and Cherry Hill Police Chief William
Moffett said authorities want to contact two brothers who live in the
area, Daniel and Frank Spanolia, in connection with the crime. The two
were paroled from state prison about two months ago for a series of
burglaries committed in the area several years ago.
"They are on intensive supervisory probation. We've
been alerted by neighbors about them. Attention to them is part of the
investigation. I wouldn't classify them as particular targets of
investigation," Borden said.
Police and prosecutor's investigators were at the
scene Wednesday, interviewing neighbors and conducting an extensive
search for evidence that had them combing through leaves on the heavily
wooded lot and picking through the family's recycling bucket. They
borrowed ladders from a Cherry Hill firetruck to check the roof for
"Given the fact that our investigation is just about
14 hours old, it appears that robbery may have been the motive. We have
some very substantial leads to follow up," Borden said at a mid-morning
press conference Wednesday at the Cherry Hill municipal building. He
wouldn't elaborate on those leads.
Borden did say Mrs. Neulander had been taking home
the day's receipts from the Classic Cake Co., which she managed, since
the bakery's Voorhees outlet was robbed Oct. 3. She was the founder of
the Classic Cake Co. of Audubon and Voorhees. She sold the bakery
several years ago, but still worked as its wholesale manager.
Borden declined to say if Mrs. Neulander had any
receipts from the Eagle Plaza bakery with her Tuesday night. Authorities
were still trying to determine if anything was taken from the home.
Sources close to the investigation said Mrs.
Neulander's purse was missing. Other sources said police have determined
the crime was committed during a period of roughly two hours between 7
p.m. to shortly after 9 p.m.
That determination was pieced together from
interviews with the family, neighbors and bakery employees.
Renee Stockman, retail manager at the Voorhees store,
said Mrs. Neulander was still at work when she left at about 5 p.m.
Tuesday, which she described as a normal working day. Neighbors say Mrs.
Neulander had not arrived home by 6 p.m. They saw her husband and son in
the house around that time. The family members said they left the house
by 7 p.m., Mr. Neulander to return to the synagogue, and their son
Matthew to go to work. Mr. Neulander's emergency call to police was
recorded at 9:20 p.m.
Cherry Hill police arrived at the scene at 9:22 p.m.,
followed by the ambulance squad from the Ashland Ambulance Squad. The
Neulanders' son Matthew -- an emergency medical technician there -- was
at work when the call came in for an injured person at his home.
His unit and another from Deer Park responded. When
he arrived, police -- knowing his mother lay dead inside -- kept him
The family has not been allowed to return to the home
since the killing so that officials can preserve the crime scene, Borden
said. There's no indication when they will be allowed to return.
The Neulanders had lived in this upscale neighborhood
of well-kept homes since 1975. They have three children. Only Matthew
lives at home. Son Benjamin, who attends the University of Michigan,
flew home Wednesday. Daughter Rebecca lives in Philadelphia.
Bakery retail manager Stockman recalled Mrs.
Neulander as "a wonderful person who was always encouraging, supportive
and behind the business 100 percent. We will miss her."
Cherry Hill Mayor Susan Bass Levin, who knows the
family, was called to the house Tuesday night.
"The entire community mourns their loss. The
Neulanders are a close family. I'm sure they are pulling together in
this time of need," Levin said. "She was very active in both the
neighborhood community and the temple's community."
Mrs. Neulander served as a volunteer on the Camden
County Child Placement Review Board and was active in her neighborhood
and with M'Kor Shalom.
"She was a very caring and giving person," the mayor
said. This is "a terrible tragedy."
unnerves neighbors of family
By Carol Comegno - Courier-Post
November 3, 1994
CHERRY HILL -- On a quiet, tree-lined, suburban
street, neighbors on Wednesday discovered the horror of a violent crime
amid their American Dream.
"It's horrible," said one numbed resident, reacting
to the murder of longtime neighbor Carol Neulander, a businesswoman and
rabbi's wife bludgeoned to death in her Wexford Leas home Tuesday night.
"This is what you expect to see on Action News and
not in your neighborhood -- and especially not to a family so community-oriented,"
said Jack Mitchard, sweeping leaves at his home next to the Neulander
residence on Highgate Lane.
Carol Neulander, the mother of three, was a bright,
caring woman, a straight talker who "got the job done," said neighbors
"They were a nice family and so active," said one
neighbor, who did not give his name.
The victim's husband, Rabbi Fred J. Neulander, is
senior rabbi at Congregation M'Kor Shalom on Evesham Road and is well-known
in the community.
Authorities suspect robbery as a possible motive in
the brutal slaying.
"If they wanted money, why didn't they just take it?"
asked one neighbor. "Why did they have to do this to her?"
As police combed the property and photographed the
family car and other possible evidence, leaves drifted onto the cordoned-off
crime scene and toward nearby homes still decorated for Halloween.
Some people in the neighborhood have alarms but
others do not. A number have dogs that they say help protect their
Linda Folger, whose Pembroke Court home faces the
victim's residence, said she's thinking about the need for a burglar
Mitchard said his wife saw Rabbi Neulander and the
rabbi's grown son Matthew through a kitchen window about 6 p.m. Tuesday,
just hours before the crime. The two men left home after dinner.
"Our kitchen window faces their kitchen window, so
she happened to see them, but she did not see the wife and she did not
notice when she came home later," said Mitchard. "We were watching TV
afterward and did not hear anything."
rabbi feels 'rage'
Rabbi Fred Neulander tells ABC's Barbara Walters in
an interview scheduled to air April 11 that he feels enraged that he is
spending the rest of his life in prison for a crime he insists he had
nothing to do with.
"You have no idea how much rage I have," Neulander
told Walters during an interview taped at a New Jersey prison. Neulander
was convicted in November of hiring hit man Len Jenoff, who along with
an accomplice killed Neulander's wife of 28 years in 1994.
Neulander also expressed his disappointment and hurt
over the fact that two of his three adult children testified him against
Rabbi spared death penalty after jury
unable to make unanimous decision
By John Springer - Court TV
Nov. 22, 2002,
FREEHOLD, N.J. — The same jury that convicted Rabbi
Fred Neulander of arranging his wife's murder was unable to decide
Friday whether he should live or die, thus leaving it up to the judge to
sentence the rabbi to 30 years to life in prison.
After just 90 minutes of deliberations, the jury of
seven men and five men failed to reach a unanimous decision in the
penalty phase of the 61-year-old rabbi's capital murder trial. As a
result, Neulander will not be eligible for parole for 30 years and could
get life in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 16 by Judge Linda Baxter.
Neulander sighed as the jury forewoman announced the
verdict. Earlier Friday, Neulander insisted that he loved and misses
Carol Neulander, and promised jurors that he would positively impact the
lives of other inmates if they spared him the death penalty.
"Personally, I had a problem with him saying he loved
his wife," said one juror, who declined to be identified in an interview
Prosecutor James Lynch did not specifically ask
jurors to hand down a death sentence but urged them to let their
conscience guide them to "do the right thing." After the decision was
announced, Lynch said he was not particularly surprised. "In my opinion,
justice has been served," Lynch said. "This was not a defendant who was
above the law."
If Neulander had received a death sentence, he would
have become the fifteenth person to be sent to New Jersey's death row
since capital punishment was reinstated in 1982.
Rebecca Neulander-Rockoff's testimony helped convict
her father for arranging her mother's murder, a juror says.
Neulander's convictions on charges of first-degree
murder, felony murder and second-degree conspiracy are headed for the
appellate division of New Jersey Superior Court. Among other things, the
defense is expected to complain that Baxter erred when she allowed
jurors to listen to hearsay testimony about remarks Neulander made to his
wife, Carol, and related to the couple's adult daughter, Rebecca
Neulander-Rockoff testified that Carol Neulander told
her in a telephone conversation that a man who asked to use the bathroom
was a deliveryman sent by "Daddy." Len Jenoff, a private investigator,
testified that he was the "bathroom guy" Carol Neulander referred to in
the telephone call. He said Fred Neulander paid him $18,000 to kill
Carol Neulander and make the murder look like a botched robbery.
The only juror to speak after the death penalty phase
ended Friday said Neulander-Rockoff's testimony was crucial in the
jury's decision to convict the rabbi. Because the jury believed Jenoff "was
a liar about a lot of things," they looked to Neulander-Rockoff to
corroborate his testimony, the juror said. "It was very critical
information that played an important part in him being found guilty," he
"There were too many things that could not have been
coincidental," the juror said.
Carol Neulander's sister, Margaret Miele, said the
family would be "forever saddened" by Carol's death.
Margaret Miele, Carol Neulander's sister, told
reporters after the decision that the family was relieved that the case
was over after eight long years. "Though forever saddened by the
permanent void in our lives, we look forward to cherishing our many
wonderful memories of a warm, generous and fun-loving sister."
Matthew Neulander, the rabbi's oldest son, said he,
too, was pleased with the jury's decisions. He said he was convinced of
his father's guilty and disturbed by his comments earlier Friday to the
"We all know Fred to be those things, arrogant beyond
anyone I have ever met," said Matthew Neulander, who refers to his
father by his first name. "His words this morning were so absolutely
galling, absolutely so inappropriate, so frustrating and so maddening
and yet so like him ... that he would sit there as a convicted felon and
eulogize my mother."
He described his mother as his "closest friend and
confidante" and said "the void I feel not having her in my life and the
lives of my wife and new baby certainly hurts every day."
His mother's killers &mdash Jenoff and his accomplice,
Paul Daniels &mdash pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter and will
be sentenced on Jan. 23. Jenoff faces 10 to 30 years in prison; Daniels
faces 25 to 50 years.
jury to spare his life, says he can teach other prison inmates
By John Springer - Court TV
Nov. 22, 2002
Rabbi begs jury to spare his life, says he can teach
other prison inmates Rabbi Fred Neulander, left, begged jurors to spare
him from the death penalty.
FREEHOLD, N.J. — He stands convicted of hiring his
wife's killer, but Rabbi Fred Neulander insisted Friday that he loves
and misses Carol Neulander and meant it when he told her often that he
wanted to "grow old" with her.
Neulander, 61, took the witness stand to plead for
his life. He promised jurors if they do not impose a death sentence, he
will spend the remaining "days of the years of my life" counseling
fellow inmates and teaching illiterates how to read.
Several jurors appeared uncomfortable and sat with
their arms folded as Neulander expressed his love and admiration for his
wife, whom jurors already concluded was brutally beaten with a lead pipe
by two men who shared $18,000 provided by the rabbi.
"I am here to offer a plea for my life," Neulander
said, looking directly at the jury as he began a rambling 23-minute
speech that evoked sacred scriptures.
"First and foremost, I loved my wife Carol,"
Neulander said. "She was a remarkable woman. She was bright ... Carol
Neulander had class."
Jurors scanned the gallery when Fred Neulander
mentioned his three adult children, but they were not in the courtroom.
Carol Neulander's two brothers, sister and other relatives wore
expressions that broadcast their skepticism about the rabbi's sincerity.
"And I missed her. And I loved her. And I love her,"
Under the rules of a defendant's allocution,
Neulander was not permitted to deny his guilt or talk about the evidence
that could make him the fifteenth resident of New Jersey's death row.
Judge Linda Baxter told Neulander Thursday that he had to confine his
remarks to reasons his life might be worth sparing.
"Starting today, there is another sense of the days
of the years of my life that will unfold," Neulander said, employing a
theme he would repeat a dozen times or so. "I do not know where I will
be, quite obviously. But where ever I will be there will be men who
cannot read. The legacy of illiteracy is striking, and very sad, and
very lyrical. I would hope that where ever I am, I will be able to teach
young men to read."
Neulander choked up and stopped several times to
regain control of his emotions, though he did not break down.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "if you give me this
privilege to redeem, to atone, what will happen is that the days of the
years of your life will indeed be made more rich because you have given
me the privilege, in the days of the years of my life, to reach out and
change for the better the days of the years of the lives of so many men
I have yet to meet. Thank you, ladies. Thank you, gentlemen."
Defense lawyer Michael Riley, speaking to each of the
jurors as if they were the only person sitting in the box, reminded them
that it takes just one to spare Neulander's life. "You have a decision
to make that you have to live with for the rest of your life," he told
them. "The decision you set is irretrievable. You have to be able to
live with that decision.
Getting in the last word, prosecutor James Lynch
stopped short of asking jurors to hand down a death sentence. He merely
reminded the panel of their responsibility, the intent of the
legislature when reinstating the death penalty in 1982, and he again
asked them to let their conscience, individually and collectively, guide
them. "This is serious, serious business," Lynch said. " The defendant
procured the murder of Carol Neulander by payment of money."
Jurors are expected to begin deliberating Neulander's
fate Friday afternoon after receiving instructions from the judge on
what they may consider.
If jurors fail to agree unanimously that Neulander
deserves to die for hiring his wife's killers, he faces up to life in
prison. In addition to first-degree murder, he was convicted of felony
murder and second-degree conspiracy.
Carol Neulander's killers, Len Jenoff and Paul
Daniels, pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter and are awaiting
The penalty phase is being broadcast live on Court
accused of having his wife killed on trial for second time
By The Associated Press
October 21, 2002
FREEHOLD, New Jersey - A rabbi accused of having his
wife killed so that he could carry on an affair went on trial again
Monday, a year after the jury at his first trial deadlocked.
Rabbi Fred Neulander is charged with having his wife,
Carol, bludgeoned to death in their suburban Philadelphia home in 1994.
He could get the death penalty.
Prosecutor James Lynch said that Neulander hired two
men to commit the murder so he could continue an affair with former
Philadelphia radio host Elaine Soncini.
Defense attorney Michael Riley said that Soncini gave
conflicting statements to police to hide her affair and protect her job,
and that convicted killer Len Jenoff is testifying to get a lighter
Jenoff and another man confessed to the killing and
pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter.
Rabbi Fred Neulander is accused of having sexual
affairs and murdering his wife. The story of a spiritual leader gone bad
arrived in court this week.
By Suzanne Pollak - Jewish Telegraphic Agency
December 31, 2001
Jewsweek.com | It's been almost seven years since the
former head of one of the largest Reform congregations in southern New
Jersey walked into his living room and saw his wife of 29 years lying
face down in a pool of blood, the victim of a brutal beating with a lead
· MURDER AT SHUL: A new book describes what happens
when murder and sexual misdeeds rack a congregation.
Since that time, Rabbi Fred Neulander quickly sunk
from a revered member of the Jewish community into an inmate confined to
a small jail cell, awaiting the verdict of a jury that could sentence
him to death.
Although the long-awaited murder trial only began
Monday, much of the events leading up to the Nov. 1, 1994 murder of
Carol Neulander are already known.
Testimony is expected to dwell around infidelity and
disreputable characters allegedly hired to be hit men.
The rabbi, now 60, resigned his pulpit at M'Kor
Shalom in Cherry Hill, N.J., in 1995 after the world learned of his two-year
affair with a famous radio personality who had come to him for
Elaine Soncini, whom Neulander helped convert to
Judaism, has told police that the two met often and wrote love poems to
each other. She is not the only woman Neulander is said to have had
affairs with after counseling.
In 1996, Neulander was suspended from the Central
Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform movement's rabbinic
The investigation continued and two years later, he
was arrested on charges of being an accomplice to murder and conspiring
to commit murder. He was freed on bail.
Then in May 2000, two men came forward and confessed
to the murder, alleging that Neulander hired them to kill his wife.
In light of the confessions, a Camden County grand
jury reindicted Neulander on charges of capital murder, felony murder
and conspiracy, and the judge revoked his bail.
Besides lies and love, the trial also is expected to
feature testimony from at least two of the rabbi's adult children —
Matthew, an emergency medical technician, and Rebecca, who was on the
phone to her mother shortly before her death — and employees of the
Classic Cake Company, which Carol Neulander had formerly owned and still
worked for at the time of her murder.
The trial has enough intrigue to bring in Court TV
cameras, which are expected to roll through much of the trial and is
carried across the United States.
Local Jewish reaction has ranged from initial shock
to sadness and anger.
Stuart Alperin, executive director of the Jewish
Federation of Southern New Jersey, says he is not particularly concerned
about the attention now that the trial has started.
"I don't think it has any effect on how it affects
the Jewish community," Alperin said. "It's a controversial case, because
he is a clergyman. But it would be no different if he was a prominent
Through it all, Neulander has maintained his
innocence. No murder weapon has been found. No fingerprints were
obtained. And almost all the witnesses against the rabbi come with
enough baggage to undermine their credibility.
The two confessed hit men, Leonard Jenoff and Paul
Michael Daniels, have pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and await
sentencing following this trial.
Jenoff, a former congregant of Neulander who says the
rabbi offered him $30,000 for the killing , once told people he worked
for the CIA and now admits that he lied to offset his failures and low
He had a "severe, severe alcohol problem," according
to James Lynch, the attorney prosecuting the case for the state.
Daniels leads "a difficult life," including drug
abuse, Lynch said Monday during his opening statements in the trial.
Myron "Pep" Levin, Neulander's racquetball partner
who claims the rabbi told him he wished his wife was gone, has served
prison time for fraud. And Soncini is now married to the Cherry Hill
police officer assigned to her immediately following the murder.
The trial, expected to last four weeks, will feature
testimony from these people as well as the rabbi himself.
On the trial's first day, Neulander showed little if
Family members were obviously pained by some of the
first day's proceedings, especially the airing of the 911 tape of
Neulander's gasping voice as he made the original call to police.
"... The rabbi resigned his pulpit in 1995 after the
world learned of his two-year affair with a famous radio personality who
had come to him for counseling ..."
But Neulander's gaze was fixed. His only movements
came as his fingers brushed his lips and cheeks from time to time.
Shortly before the murder, Neulander and Jenoff spoke
about "how to do it neat, how to do it clean and how to keep suspicion
off Mr. Neulander," Lynch said in his opening statement.
"This was no burglary ladies and gentlemen. They came
into this house to kill. She opened the door to her killers. A series of
blows rained down upon her head. They came to kill and they carried out
their purpose," Lynch told the jury.
Lynch also worked to discredit Neulander, noting that
for a time, he lied to the police about his affair with Soncini. He said
Neulander is guilty, adding, "He planned it. He plotted it. He paid
money to have it carried out."
But defense attorney Jeffrey Zucker said there were
too many gaps in the case for any juror to find Neulander guilty.
He said Neulander may be "a person who betrayed, a
person who disappointed. But that is not what he's on trial for."
He spoke harshly of the people who will testify,
saying Soncini's comments "get more and more detailed against Neulander
the further she went along." He accused Jenoff and Daniels of trying to
lessen their jail sentences by testifying.
Of Jenoff, he said, "This is a man by his own
admission could not sift out truth and fantasy. His whole life was a
Jenoff's testimony will paint him as "a sick,
demented person who was desperate for money," Zucker said.
Zucker also questioned the police investigation
against Neulander, noting that a sharp knife was found beneath a cushion
about three days after the murder. It was also discovered that Carol
Neulander's purse with a large amount of money was missing; yet Cherry
Hill police didn't learn of this until later.
Testimony is expected to continue for weeks as many
people, Jews and non-Jews alike, continually monitor the TV news and
check their local newspapers to see if the prime witnesses are
disreputable people out to get Neulander or if the former rabbi really
hired someone to kill his wife to avoid a messy divorce.
Supreme Court hears Neulander cases media dispute
By Angela Couloumbis - Inquirer Trenton Bureau
Mon, Mar. 25, 2002
TRENTON - New Jersey's highest court will now decide
whether a judge's decision to restrict the news media from interviewing
jurors and publishing their names in the murder trial of Rabbi Fred J.
Neulander was unconstitutional.
Appearing before the state Supreme Court today,
attorneys for Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. argued that Judge Linda G.
Baxter's rulings in Superior Court in Camden County interfered with the
First Amendment rights of free press and free speech, and should be
"We have had 200 years of practice here in New Jersey
without the need for an order restricting the interviews of jurors,"
said Warren W. Faulk, who represented Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.,
which publishes The Inquirer and Daily News.
"I think the law is clear," Faulk said. "An order to
restrict publication of information that is obtained from the public
record or public court is . . . unconstitutional."
Baxter, who presided over Rabbi Neulander's high-profile
trial in the fall, had issued two highly unusual orders that were at the
heart of today's oral arguments.
The first came in July, before the start of the trial,
and effectively barred reporters from contacting or identifying
prospective jurors and those selected for the jury.
At the time, it was unclear whether the order would
apply after the trial, and The Inquirer challenged its constitutionality.
Baxter said she had issued the order to protect jurors from unwarranted
attention in anticipation of the media's overwhelming interest in the
Nonetheless, when jury selection began, jurors' names
were part of the public record, and both prospective jurors and those
selected for Rabbi Neulander's jury were identified in court.
The second order came right after jurors announced in
mid-November that they were deadlocked.
At the time, Baxter said she was extending her order
to bar reporters from attempting to interview jurors - which is common
journalistic practice after high-profile court cases.
Baxter did not, however, forbid jurors to call the
news media if they chose.
Shortly after the trial, The Inquirer published one
juror's name. Four Inquirer reporters have since been charged with being
in contempt of court.
Today, Dennis Wixted, Rabbi Neulander's former
defense attorney, argued that the judge's decisions were correct - and
that a state appeals court had upheld her order.
Wixted also said the release of information such as
what jurors felt or believed about the case - or the state's witnesses -
could taint the jury pool in the retrial of the rabbi, who is charged
with arranging the 1994 murder of his wife, Carol, in their Cherry Hill
"We're more concerned about [Rabbi Neulander's]
compelling interest . . . for a fair trial," he said.
Several justices asked a number of questions about
how jurors in high-profile court cases can be protected from excessive
Faulk said there were remedies short of a ban on jury
interviews, including instructing the jurors that they have the option
to tell reporters that they do not want to speak.
"Jurors are citizen soldiers," he said, "and
sometimes have to put up with irritations that soldiers put up with."
Tom Cafferty, an attorney at the hearing on behalf of
several other news organizations, also cited case law to show that
before judges can issue orders restricting the media, they must notify
the media of their intent; hold a hearing to give the press the
opportunity to argue against it; and specifically point out what
concerns warrant such restrictions.
Baxter, Cafferty argued, did not follow those
The justices also questioned today whether allowing
jurors in a mistrial to publicly discuss their thoughts on the case
would taint future juries - as well as give prosecutors a road map on
how to strengthen their case against a defendant.
Faulk countered that in the Neulander case, it was
clear to the prosecutor from the start what the weak points were. And
Cafferty added that no two jurors look at evidence in the same way.
Toward the end of the hearing, several justices also
questioned whether Baxter had been obligated to show "good cause" before
issuing her orders to the media. One justice - James H. Coleman Jr. -
said he did not see any indication that she had shown good cause.
Chief Justice Deborah Poritz then asked whether some
of the concerns over tainting the next jury could be addressed by
changing the venue of the next trial.
The rabbi has been granted a change of venue, though
it has not yet been decided in which county the next trial will be held.
Judge agrees to
move rabbi's retrial out of Camden
By Emilie Lounsberry - Philadelphia Inquirer
Fri, Mar. 15, 2002
The rabbi retrial is hitting the road.
Camden County Superior Court Judge Linda G. Baxter
agreed today to move the murder retrial of Rabbi Fred J. Neulander to
another county, but postponed a decision on which New Jersey county will
be the site.
Defense attorney Michael E. Riley and First Assistant
Camden County Prosecutor James P. Lynch had urged the judge to move the
retrial from Camden because of the extensive media coverage that
surrounded the rabbi's trial last fall.
While Baxter characterized news articles during the
trial as "fair," she said the case was front-page news every day. The
coverage, she concluded, was "so prominent, so extensive and so
unrelenting as to make it impossible to select a jury here."
Rabbi Neulander, 60, is charged with capital murder,
felony murder and conspiracy in the killing of his wife, Carol, who was
bludgeoned to death on Nov. 1, 1994, at their Cherry Hill home.
His case ended in a mistrial in November after a
Camden County jury deadlocked on all three charges in a case that
attracted national news coverage as well as extensive local and regional
Baxter scheduled a hearing for May 17 on where the
retrial should be held. Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex Counties — central
New Jersey counties where trial publicity was not as pervasive — have
been discussed as possible sites.
Lynch said yesterday that the trial coverage went
beyond news accounts, with talk show panelists offering opinions and
Court TV providing analysis to supplement its nearly gavel-to-gavel
He said some shows even offered opinion polls and a
chance for callers to vote on the outcome.
"Nothing I've seen approached this in terms of the
nature of the publicity and the volume," said Lynch, who has been a
prosecutor for two decades.
Riley had revived the request for the trial to be
moved, saying "there are very few people in this general area that have
not formed an opinion about this case."
The request was first raised last year by defense
lawyers Jeffrey C. Zucker and Dennis Wixted, who handled the first trial.
Baxter had refused their request.
Today, Baxter said she now believed that the
magnitude of trial coverage meant that it would be "extremely difficult"
to find Camden County jurors who do not have opinions on the case or
think they know the facts in it.
The judge said that as possible locations are
examined, factors to be considered include the impact on the host court,
witnesses and other parties as well as the racial, ethnic and religious
demographics of a county.
She said she already has begun gathering data to
determine the Jewish population of other counties in an effort to pick a
county with a Jewish population similar to that of Camden County.
The former head rabbi at Congregation M'kor Shalom is
accused of hiring former private investigator Len Jenoff to arrange the
Rabbi Neulander testified that he had nothing to do
with his wife's death, but Jenoff said that the rabbi agreed to pay him
$30,000 to arrange the killing.
Riley said the retrial could begin in late summer,
but may be scheduled more quickly if the state Supreme Court soon
decides a Gloucester County case focusing on a novel legal issue —
whether the prosecution can seek the death penalty at retrial after a
capital murder trial has ended in a hung jury.
Riley and Zucker said the rabbi, who is being held
without bail at the Camden County Correctional Facility, is ready for
"It's tough to sit in jail without bail," said Zucker,
who said the rabbi spends much of his time reading. "He wants to get
back in court."
Rabbi gets life in
prison, still professes innocence in wife's slaying
By John Springer - Court TV
January 16, 2003
CAMDEN, N.J. — After insisting that only he "knows
the truth" and it resides deep inside of him, Rabbi Fred Neulander was
sentenced to life in prison Thursday for the 1994 contract killing of
Neulander, 61, said he was not prepared to speak but
then spent 20 minutes talking about how the "private part" of him "could
not be reached" by the emotional victim impact statements heard in court
by Judge Linda Baxter.
Wearing a waist shackle, handcuffs and bright orange
prison overalls, Neulander sat silently as Carol Neulander's three
siblings took turns describing him as a cold, narcissistic, selfish
killer of a loving and caring person. He also showed no emotion as two
of his adult children, in letters read aloud in the packed courtroom,
said they wanted nothing to do with the man they described as "evil" and
Neulander, who will be in his mid-80s before he can
even apply for parole, tried unsuccessfully to waive his appearance at
his sentencing. He did not give a reason for wanting to skip the
proceeding. Baxter ruled that listening to the impact statements was
part of his punishment.
"I see the need to release rage and anger here today,"
Neulander said, referring to a parade of speakers who looked directly at
him as they read prepared statements. "I can't be reached because the
internal person, the private person, knows something that no one else
knows, and that is my innocence."
Stopping several times to choke back emotion,
Neulander said he was betrayed by Len Jenoff — the hit man he hired to
kill his wife — twice: when his friend and an accomplice, Jeff Daniels,
killed Carol Neulander with a lead pipe on Nov. 1, 1994, and then when
Jenoff told police on May 1, 2000, that Neulander paid him to do it.
Neulander, then the head of Temple M'Kor Shalom in
Cherry Hill, was having an affair with Philadelphia radio personality
Elaine Soncini when the murder occurred. The crime went unsolved until
1998, when prosecutors indicted Neulander for murder based on
circumstantial evidence. The evidence included testimony from Myron "Peppy"
Levin, a colorful character who claimed that Neulander asked him after
racquetball if he knew anyone who would kill his wife.
"I still can't believe this. All this over a goddamn
broad," Levin remarked Thursday, as he sat watching the sentencing in
the last row of the courtroom.
Neulander was convicted of murder, felony murder and
conspiracy at the end of a five-week trial in November. In 2001, a
different jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared.
"It was wrong," Neulander told the judge on Thursday,
referring to the jury's judgment that he hired Jenoff to kill Carol
He spoke cryptically during his 30-minute spiel,
telling the judge that he was prepared for any sentence she might dole
out and that he would spend the time helping people in prison. Carol
Neulander's siblings shook their heads as the defendant dismissed their
remarks and his children's letters to the judge.
"I know what is true and what is untrue," Neulander
said. "I know the truth as I know it. I alone know that I am innocent."
Prosecutor James Lynch asked for the maximum penalty.
He noted that Neulander plotted the murder for a great amount of time
and went to great strides to appear the grieving, loyal husband and
father when in fact he was the opposite.
Referring to Matthew Neulander's testimony that his
father was casually dressed early on the evening of the murder but
wearing a suit when police arrived after the murder, Lynch said Fred
Neulander was clearly playing a role.
Neulander had not a speck of blood on him or his
clothes when police and paramedics arrived at 204 Highgate Lane, Lynch
reminded the court.
"The image, judge, is clear and unimaginable. This
defendant dressed for a part that night. He was going to perform for
authorities and members of his congregation," Lynch said. "It is
After listening to both sides and the victim's
relatives for more than an hour, Judge Baxter made her ruling. She said
that the fact that Neulander contracted the killing and planned it for
six months cried out for the maximum penalty allowed by law. She noted
that the crime was eligible for the death penalty in New Jersey,
although the jury that convicted Neulander failed to reach a unanimous
decision on capital punishment, taking it out of play.
"She had the right to live out each and every day
that was allotted to her," Baxter said, as Neulander stood. "She had the
right to grow old and you took that right away from her. You decided how
long she would live and when she died. You planned and plotted and
premeditated the murder over six months."
Baxter said Neulander also had the gall to tell
jurors that he loved his wife and told her so every afternoon in a phone
call, all the while planning to have Jenoff kill her.
"It is conduct which is cold and calculated, and
should send shivers down the spine of any civilized person," the judge
Matthew Neulander, now a physician in Charlotte,
North Carolina, asked the court in writing to protect him and his
children from "Fred" because he fears that he could someday commit
another horrible crime.
"Like most criminals, he is a coward in word and deed,
and has refused repeatedly to confront me like a man," Matthew Neulander
wrote about his father.
"It is with the physical and emotional welfare of my
children in mind that I request that the court permanently remove this
vicious and evil person from their respective futures," the letter went
on to say. "A man capable of this fiendish act visited on the woman he
wanted to 'grow old with, slowly' is clearly capable of any future
Rebecca Neulander Rockoff, who now lives in
Connecticut, wrote that she hopes her father thinks about all that he is
missing and enjoyed about life while he is incarcerated.
"I hope that the longer he sits in prison, the more
he will be haunted by the magnitude of his losses — there are many and
they are painful," Rockoff wrote. "I humbly ask the court to make sure
that he will never forget."
Carol Neulander's brother, Robert Lidz referred to
Neulander's "single act of malignant arrogance" in asking Baxter to "sentence
him to anonymity so that he could suffer his narcissism in silence."
Another sibling, Edward Lidz, had some more invective for the defendant.
"Before you had Carol killed in the most brutal
manner imaginable, and during the ensuing eight years, you acted in a
manner so repulsive that words cannot begin to describe the type of
person that you became," Lidz said. "You are a murderer. You are a liar,
a coward and a cheat. You dishonored Carol, yourself, your children,
this court, your congregation, the rabbinate and Judaism."
Neulander was transported back to the Camden County
Correctional Facility. Eventually, he will be sent to a maximum-security
prison, most likely in Trenton.
He has 45 days to appeal the conviction and
Hit men sentenced in
murder of rabbi's wife
Len Jenoff testifies during Rabbi
Fred Neulander's trial in November.
By John Springer - Court TV
January 30, 2003
CAMDEN, N.J. — Two confessed hit men hired by a New
Jersey rabbi to kill his wife were each sentenced to 23 years in prison
Leonard Jenoff originally faced up to 30 years and
Paul Daniels up to 50 years, but both will be eligible for parole in
about seven years.
The two pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter for
their role in the beating death of Carol Neulander, wife of New Jersey
rabbi Fred Neulander. They admitted to police that Neulander paid them
$18,000 for the killing, and they testified against the once-respected
religious leader in his November murder trial.
Judge Linda Baxter gave Jenoff credit for coming
forward about the Nov. 1, 1994, crime when he was not even a suspect.
She also noted that his testimony was critical to Neulander's conviction
for the murder.
"Without your cooperation, there is a considerably
strong possibility that the most culpable co-defendant, Fred Neulander,
might have been acquitted," said Baxter, who sentenced Neulander to 30
years to life in prison on Jan. 16.
"Let me be clear," she added, however. "You are, and
you were, a very calculating murderer who killed Carol Neulander in a
most brutal manner."
Jenoff, who like Daniels appeared handcuffed and
shackled and wearing an orange prison uniform, expressed remorse before
the sentence was issued.
"I realize what I have done. I denied Carol Neulander
the right to have a full and fruitful life. I denied Carol Neulander the
right to be a loving wife, loving mother, loving sister and sister-in-law
... I denied her the right to be a loving grandmother, which she would
be today if not for me," Jenoff said.
Baxter interjected, "Two grandchildren."
During his sentencing, Daniels blamed his actions the
night of the murder on a drug problem, which his lawyer, Craig Mitnick,
said his client had suffered since age 10.
Paul Daniels "I just want to say to the
Neulander family that it wasn't me at the time. I was on drugs," Daniels
mumbled. "I was messed up. I didn't mean to hurt their family in any way."
Mitnick asked the judge to take into account Daniels'
severe, diagnosed mental and health problems. He also noted that Daniels,
who attempted suicide three times since the killing, was sexually abused
as a child by his father.
Daniels, now 28, was also sentenced to 20 years for
robbery at the crime scene, but, bowing to a wish by the victim's
siblings that Daniels get no more prison time than Jenoff, the judge
ordered Daniels' sentences to run concurrently.
'Why? Why? Why?'
Most people following the sensational case knew
Jenoff, now 54, only as Neulander's investigator for more than six years
after the killing. He even spoke to the media on Neulander's behalf,
including Nancy Philips, a Philadelphia Inquirer writer investigating
When Jenoff finally told Phillips that he knew a lot
more about the murder than he had previously let on, Philips convinced
him about a month before Neulander's scheduled trial in May 2000 to meet
with prosecutors and police in a Cherry Hill diner. Three days later,
Jenoff gave police a full statement implicating himself and Daniels.
During the trial, both Jenoff and Daniels described
the killing of Carol Neulander in graphic details. It occurred on a
Tuesday night, the only night of the week that Carol Neulander would be
alone, Fred Neulander told Jenoff, according to testimony.
Pretending to have a delivery for the rabbi, Jenoff
gained access to the house. When Carol Neulander's back was turned, he
hit her on the head with a short length of lead pipe. Carol Neulander
asked, "Why? Why? Why?" as she lay on the ground, according to Jenoff.
He then summoned Daniels, who waited outside, to finish it.
Fred Neulander told police the night of the killing
that he returned home from Temple M'Kor Shalom at about 9:40 p.m. to
find his wife of almost 29 years lying in a pool of her own blood.
Police became suspicious when he explained that there was not a speck of
blood on his suit or body because he was so "repulsed" by the sight that
he did not try to render aid.
He also denied any marital strife and insisted that
he was faithful to Carol Neulander. Both were lies. His son, North
Carolina physician Matthew Neulander, testified that his parents had a
terrible fight two nights before the killing and Fred Neulander told her
in the son's presence, "It's over."
Police learned soon after the murder that Fred
Neulander was having an affair with Elaine Soncini, then a Philadelphia
radio personality. She testified that she never gave Neulander any
ultimatums but indicated she was "moving on" with her life on Jan. 1,
1995. Neulander promised his mistress that they would be a couple by her
birthday in December 1994.
Neulander was indicted for murder in 1998 and the
case, entirely circumstantial and weak in the view of many at the time,
was headed for trial when Jenoff appeared with his story. A November
2001 trial ended in a hung jury and mistrial. The defense failed to
convince the jury that Jenoff, a self-aggrandizing liar, falsely
implicated Neulander for vengeful, personal motives and gain.
Jurors failed to agree unanimously on a death
sentence for Neulander. Jenoff and Daniels both escaped a potential
death sentence for their murder-for-hire by pleading guilty and agreeing
to testify against Neulander.
At the sentencing Thursday, the victim's brother,
Edward Lidz, told the court that, although he appreciated Jenoff's
testimony, he felt that both men already got a break when they were
allowed to plead guilty to something less than murder.
"No one forced them to enter Carol's home and take
her life," Lidz said. "They did it to get the money... Simply put, they
accepted a price for a human life set by Fred [Neulander]."
The Neulanders' three adult children did not attend
the sentencings, but a victims' advocate read a letter signed by all
three — Matthew and Benjamin Neulander and Rebecca Neulander-Rockoff —
in which they called the two men "monsters."
"These men are not star witnesses ... These men are
cold-blooded murderers," the letter said.