Phila. Lawyer Found Strangled In Merion Home Stefanie Newman Rabinowitz, 29, Was Discovered Dead In Her Bathtub. Authorities Consider It A Homicide.

Posted: May 03, 1997

A 29-year-old Center City lawyer was found strangled Tuesday in a bathtub in her Main Line home, Montgomery County officials said yesterday.

The death of Stefanie Newman Rabinowitz, a litigator at the Center City law firm Fineman & Bach, is being investigated as a homicide, said First Assistant District Attorney Bruce L. Castor. Jr. Rabinowitz's daughter just turned 1 yesterday.

``It was manual strangulation,'' he said, referring to strangulation by the hands, ``and since manual strangulation is inconsistent with drowning and is very difficult for one to perform on oneself, we are investigating it as a homicide.''

Castor said Rabinowitz's husband, Craig, found her body in a bathtub full of water in their two-story, stone house in the 500 block of Winding Way in Merion. She appeared to have been taking a bath when she died, Castor said.

He refused to say whether there were any suspects. He said prosecutors planned to meet Monday with Lower Merion police, Montgomery County Coroner Halbert E. Fillinger Jr. and Philadelphia Deputy Medical Examiner Ian Hood to discuss the investigation.

Lower Merion police began investigating the case earlier this week as ``a suspicious death,'' Sgt. Mark Keenan said.

Fillinger said yesterday that he believed the death was a homicide. Keenan said yesterday that police would not comment further until after the meeting Monday. He said toxicology reports were pending.

Colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances interviewed yesterday remembered Rabinowitz as an intelligent, cheerful woman who was enthusiastic about her career, her synagogue and her family.

``She was one of the happiest people I've ever known,'' said David Fineman, managing partner of the law firm where Rabinowitz had worked full time since 1992. ``She was very much into having just had a daughter.

``She seemed to be able to balance life as a lawyer with those commitments that you have to make being part of a family,'' he said.

Rabinowitz, a 1989 graduate of Bryn Mawr College, worked as an intern at Fineman & Bach in 1991. After graduating from the Temple University School of Law in 1992, she joined the firm's litigation department as an associate.

Fineman & Bach, a relatively cozy firm with just 25 lawyers, closed its offices Thursday to honor Rabinowitz.

Partner Mitchell Bach said Rabinowitz's death was ``devastating'' for her colleagues.

``She was well-liked,'' he said. ``She was loved here. Our clients liked her very much and she's really going to be missed.''

He said Rabinowitz handled commercial litigation and insurance defense cases.

``She didn't handle any big cases, but she got to the point where she was handling smaller cases, taking depositions and going to arbitrations,'' he said.

``She was extremely competent. She was one of the most organized people I've ever known.''

Fineman called Rabinowitz ``a fine lawyer'' on her way to ``a wonderful career.''

About a dozen family members and friends were gathered on shady Winding Way yesterday at the house the Rabinowitzes bought in 1995.

``She was a wonderful, wonderful person who we will all miss, and adore,'' said Anne Newman, Rabinowitz's mother, reached by telephone at the house. She said the family would have no other comment. ``We're just trying to work through this,'' she said.

A woman who answered the phone at Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park said Rabinowitz had been very active there when she was growing up. Rabbi Seymour Rosenblum of the congregation officiated at a memorial service Thursday.

Rabinowitz graduated from Bryn Mawr with a degree in political science. Yearbook photographs of Stefanie Paula Newman of Elkins Park show an attractive young woman with long dark hair and a broad smile. In each picture, she has her arm around a classmate in a friendly hug.

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