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Rabbi Retracts Testimony in His Murder Trial

Crime: Man accused of hiring wife's killers says he did not love woman with whom he was having affair.

November 01, 2001|From Associated Press

CAMDEN, N.J. — A rabbi charged with having his wife murdered to protect his relationship with another woman returned to the witness stand Wednesday and took back one element of his previous testimony.

On the 11th and final day of testimony in his trial, Rabbi Fred J. Neulander said he did not love Elaine Soncini, the Philadelphia radio personality with whom he was having an affair at the time of his wife's death.

Neulander, 60, said he was not sincere in a letter he wrote Soncini on Jan. 4, 1995, professing his love. He only wrote the letter because he wanted the relationship to continue, he said.

On Tuesday, he said he wrote the letter as a sign of love.

"I gave the wrong impression," Neulander said Wednesday. "And I used the wrong words."

The case was expected to go to the jury Thursday, seven years to the day after Carol Neulander, 52, was found dead in the couple's home in Cherry Hill.

If convicted, Neulander could face the death penalty.

During cross-examination Wednesday, Camden County First Assistant Prosecutor James Lynch pressed Neulander on whether Tuesday's testimony was honest.

"You believe . . . that the two persons who took your wife's life from her are in the process of being brought to justice?" Lynch asked.

Neulander: "Yes."

Lynch: "What about the man who hired them?"

Neulander: "I'm innocent."

Lynch: "You're an innocent man with a bad memory?"

Neulander: "As to what?"

Lynch: "As to your testimony yesterday."

Neulander: "I'm not perfect. I don't have all the answers."

Also Wednesday, the jury heard from a surprise witness, James "Mickey" Rooney, a friend of Len Jenoff, the man who confessed last year that he killed Carol Neulander and said the rabbi paid him to do it.

Jenoff, 56, and his confessed accomplice, Paul Michael Daniels, 27, both pleaded guilty last year to aggravated manslaughter.

Rooney contacted lawyers in the case Monday, the same day two state prison inmates testified that Jenoff had told them Neulander had nothing to do with his wife's death.

Rooney testified that he and Jenoff discussed how Jenoff could profit from the killing by selling his story for a book or movie. Rooney said Jenoff told him it was important that Neulander be found guilty, or the story wouldn't sell.

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