The Double Life Of Main Line Murder Suspect Craig Rabinowitz Is Linked To Prostitution, Strip Clubs.

Posted: May 08, 1997

He started inviting a woman from an escort service to his home around the time he got married.

He took his wife and baby to restaurants at night - but by day, paid a stripper $1,000 a week to perform for him, authorities say.

Craig Rabinowitz, the Lower Merion latex salesman accused of strangling his lawyer wife to death, led two lives.

Yesterday, Rabinowitz - portrayed over and over by family and friends as almost fanatically devoted to his wife - was described in a 34-page court document as a man who paid for prostitutes and had an addiction to the company of a stripper.

According to a petition from the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office seeking bail of $5 million, Rabinowitz had been a frequent customer of an escort service and brothel from about 1990 to 1992, coinciding with the beginning of his marriage.

In addition, investigators say they found that for at least the last six months he spent between $1,000 and $3,000 a week on a 24-year-old exotic dancer named Summer, who performed at Delilah's Den in Philadelphia. Part of that money was for special dances; part was for gifts of jewelry and furniture.

According to the document, Rabinowitz's ``employment status and history contains evidence of fraud and deceit.'' It maintains he has ``no appreciable assets and is heavily indebted to credit cards.''

This is a piece of Rabinowitz that apparently no one saw. Not his friends, who were still lining up to offer support. Not his family and in-laws, who remain willing to risk everything to help him, said one of Rabinowitz's attorneys.

``Everybody - everybody - is standing behind him,'' said Jeffrey Miller. ``The people who know and love him are still 100 percent behind him. I hope the family and friends stay galvanized. I have no reason to believe they won't.''

The family yesterday again declined comment.

Rabinowitz was arrested Monday afternoon, five days after his wife was found dead in a bathtub in their Lower Merion home. Police initially treated the incident shortly after 12:30 a.m. April 30 as an accident, rushing Stefanie Rabinowitz to Lankenau Hospital - where she was pronounced dead - and not securing the house as a crime scene. It was later in the day when an autopsy conducted by a medical examiner showed that Stefanie Rabinowitz had been strangled by hand. On Friday, officials publicly called the death a homicide.

On Monday, hours after her burial, her husband was charged with first- and third-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. His preliminary hearing is Monday in Narberth District Court.

Yesterday, as family members sat out back in lawn chairs, Lower Merion police and Montgomery County detectives spent about three hours in the Rabinowitz home on Winding Way in Merion. They left carrying three boxes containing such items as a black binder, a shopping bag, and numerous brown evidence bags, one of which was marked ``money wrappers.''

What prompted yesterday's painfully public revelations was a request for bail for Rabinowitz that Miller made on Tuesday. In that petition, Rabinowitz was described as a family man with personal and professional ties to the community, with a solid business, and an absence of a criminal record. It pointed out that Rabinowitz's widowed mother and his in-laws - who are sharing care of his year-old daughter, Haley - had promised to put up homes as collateral for his bail. It also alluded to his ``fine reputation.''

Yesterday, the Montgomery County district attorney filed an answer to the petition that offered a stunning contradiction of that portrait. It suggested that Rabinowitz has been deceitful for many years, making a high bail necessary to ensure his appearance at trial.

A bail hearing is scheduled for next Thursday.

The filing accuses Rabinowitz of engaging ``in multiple infidelities during his marriage'' and points out that he was caught by the Philadelphia district attorney in a wiretap investigation into a call-girl ring run by former Philadelphia Police Lt. Joe Kelly and his wife, Jayne. In March 1993, Rabinowitz accepted an offer of immunity to testify against the Kellys, and appeared on the witness stand during a preliminary hearing for the Kellys.

``What, if any, contact did you have with Jayne Kelly?'' he was asked.

``Saw her through an escort service,'' Rabinowitz said.

``How many times did you see her?''

``Four, five.''

``Where did you see her?''

``My home.''

He testified that in March and August 1992, at the suggestion of Jayne Kelly, he visited her business, J.P. Tiffany's, on Pine Street. On both occasions he paid $150 for a shower, massage and oral sex.

The Kellys, who are estranged, were sentenced to probation in 1994.

Rabinowitz went to Delilah's Den two or three times a week, according to the document. He often appeared around lunchtime and was always dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and tie, said Meg Palmer, 36, a cocktail waitress. In his dress and generous tipping, she said, he resembled the typical Delilah's customer.

``Craig was like any other guy that comes in here,'' Palmer said. ``Every time I served him a drink, he was very nice.''

The performances by dancers cost $10 and up, said Tucker Mooney, the club's night manager. He said many customers use credit cards to purchase coupons known as ``Delilah's Dollars.''

How much money Summer earned from her performances for Rabinowitz is unknown. ``The girls keep that to themselves,'' Mooney said.

Summer, who was questioned by Montgomery County detectives Tuesday, has worked at the club for three years, he said. She is the single mother of a young child.

Mooney said while many dancers have regular customers, it would be unusual for someone to receive large gifts such as furniture. But he said visitors often gave dancers Christmas presents, jewelry, and flowers.

``I'm talking guys from all over the world. They'll send flowers saying, `Thanks for listening to me.' A lot of this is fantasy. These guys, they've got a lot on their minds.

``To me,'' he added, ``this is a little blown out of proportion. It's like if he went to Neiman Marcus, or McDonald's. He spent money here. I guess this was just one of his stops.''

Miller, the defense lawyer, said the sexual details revealed of Rabinowitz's double life should not affect his right to reasonable bail.

``The issue is whether a person will or will not appear [in court],'' he said. ``If a person frequents Delilah's Den or goes to the zoo or a bookstore every day, that may be very interesting or amusing, and it may or may not be relevant if there's a trial. But it has nothing to with bail.

``Five million may be reasonable for Bill Gates or Donald Trump. But it's not reasonable for Craig Rabinowitz. Five million isn't bail. It's ransom.''

Montgomery County District Attorney Michael Marino yesterday declined to elaborate on the specifics of Rabinowitz's employment problems that were outlined in the filing. However, Lower Merion officials said no business permit exists for C & C Supplies Inc., the latex-products firm owned by Rabinowitz. Nor, they said, is any business licensed to be conducted out of the Winding Way home. Permits are required to legally conduct business in the township.

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pennsylvania shows a lien was filed against C & C Supplies, on Feb. 21. No specifics were available to document the company's debts.

One week before that, the firm borrowed $193,000 through mortgages on his home and on the Elkins Park home of his in-laws, Louis and Anne Newman. Both homes were used as collateral for two separate $96,500 loans granted by Allied Mortgage Inc. of Villanova. County records show Rabinowitz signed the loan for himself and for his wife, using his power of attorney.

Records also show that the Newmans signed for a separate loan to support Rabinowitz's business. That marked the third time the Rabinowitzes mortgaged their $230,000 home since buying it in June 1995. Over the last two years, the couple has borrowed a total of $300,500.

The debt is an important piece of the case for the prosecution. Marino revealed on Monday that a $1.5 million life insurance policy on Stefanie Rabinowitz had been taken out last month, naming her husband as beneficiary.

Miller said the defense team will meet with Rabinowitz tomorrow for the first time since his arrest to talk about Monday's preliminary hearing. The lawyers also plan to meet with family members on Wednesday, he said.

``We don't know Craig Rabinowitz all that well. You never know anybody well in a week,'' Miller said.

``We're learning more about him, and the case, every day. That's just the way it is.''

PHILADELPHIA ONLINE * The full Affidavit of Probable Cause and related video are available from Philadelphia Online, The Inquirer's site on the Internet: http://www.phillynews.com

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