Murderpedia

 

 

Juan Ignacio Blanco  

 

home

last updates

MALE murderers

by country

by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
   

FEMALE murderers

by country

by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 

Fred J. NEULANDER

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - Murder for hire
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: November 1, 1994
Date of arrest: 1998
Date of birth: August 14, 1941
Victim profile: Carol Neulander, 52 (his wife)
Method of murder: Bludgeoned to death with a one-foot section of lead pipe
Location: Cherry Hill, New Jersey, USA
Status: Sentenced to serve 30 years to life in prison on January 15, 2003
 
 

 
 
photo gallery
 
 

 
 

Jury finds rabbi guilty of hiring hit man to kill his wife

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 years.

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 conspiracy.

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 911.

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 personality.

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 crime.

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 testified.

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 killing.

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 outright.

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 (born 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 against 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 Appellate Division.

Wikipedia.org


Fred 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.

Neulander's apparent 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.

Their relationship 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 commenced.

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 was.

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, etc...

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 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.

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 killing.

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.

Regardless, Jenoff 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.

Neulander himself 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.


Wife 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 blows.

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 clues.

"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 outside.

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."


Slaying 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 and friends.

"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 property.

Linda Folger, whose Pembroke Court home faces the victim's residence, said she's thinking about the need for a burglar alarm.

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."


Imprisoned rabbi feels 'rage'

Court TV

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 him.


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.

Carol Neulander

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 with Courttv.com.

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.

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 said.

"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 jury.

"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.


Rabbi begs 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," Neulander continued.

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 sentencing.

The penalty phase is being broadcast live on Court TV.


Rabbi 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 sentence.

Jenoff and another man confessed to the killing and pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter.


Rabbi On Trial

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 pipe.

· 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 counseling.

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 association.

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 priest."

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 self-esteem.

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 any emotion.

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 fantasy."

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.


N.J. 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 overturned.

"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 case.

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 home.

"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 press attention.

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 procedures.

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 coverage.

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 coverage.

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 killing.

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 the retrial.

"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 his wife.

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 "maniacal."

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 Neulander.

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 unimaginable hypocrisy."

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 said.

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 horror."

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 sentencing.


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 Thursday.

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 the murder.

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.

 

 

 
 
 
 
contact