I Miss Him `He Was Special To Me' In Interview, Summer Recalls Wife-killer As The Perfect Man

Posted: February 09, 1998

He seemed like the perfect man when she met him in the strip club.

Beautifully dressed. Well-mannered. Intelligent? Why, yes. He was a lawyer, wasn't he? Craig Rabinowitz seemed like ``the perfect man trapped in an unhappy marriage,'' said Shannon Reinert, the dancer known as Summer, in an interview with the TV show ``American Journal'' to be aired Wednesday on KYW-TV (Channel 3).

Rabinowitz, of course, violently ended that marriage last April 29 by strangling his wife, Stefanie, 29, in the bathtub of their Merion home while their baby daughter slept in an adjoining room.

The 34-year-old self-employed latex-glove salesman confessed to the crime on the eve of his murder trial in October and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In the interview, which was taped in December, the street-smart Delilah's Den stripper avoided directly admitting a physical relationship with the confessed killer before the murder.

But she did express her feelings for Rabinowitz, and she also shed light on why he allegedly abandoned his family to pursue a reckless free-spending fantasy with her. It was a choice that ended in a murder-for-insurance scheme.

Reinert, 25, also expressed sympathy for the victims of the tragedy, including her own family and Rabinowitz himself, upon whom she laid all blame.

``It's not my fault,'' she said.

Reinert said Rabinowitz wanted more intimacy in his marriage.

``He would say to me all the time that she's perfectly content with the way things are. That she couldn't ever care less if they ever had sex again,'' she explained.

``As long as she kept to her traditional Jewish family, that was fine with her. As long as the three of them were together, and it was picture-perfect.''

Rabinowitz, she said, ``wanted to be fulfilled. He wanted to be loved. I think he wanted to be touched. I think he wanted more than a friendship'' with his wife. ``He always said that he had a great friendship with his wife and that he loved his wife. He wasn't in love with his wife.''

But was he in love with Reinert - obsessed with her, as prosecutors, press and his attorneys had suggested? ``I don't think it was an obsession,'' Reinert said. ``I think it was a feeling.''

``Do you think he fell in love?'' ``American Journal'' host Charles Perez asked. ``Very possible. Very possible,'' she said.

More telling are Reinert's responses to questions about her own feelings for the convicted Main Line murderer.

``He treated me as if I were special,'' she told Perez.

``Do you miss him at all?'' he asked.

``I do. I do.''

How often do you think about him?''

``Every day.''

``Is there any part of you that ever thought you would have a life with him?'' Perez asked Reinert.

``He seemed like the perfect man,'' she responded. ``. . . The perfect man in an unhappy marriage.''

Pressed further, Reinert became emotional and asked the television crew to stop filming, according to outtakes viewed by the Daily News.

From the beginning, the relationship between Reinert and Rabinowitz was different from most at Delilah's.

Reinert said she met him a couple of months before his daughter was born, when a fellow stripper had to leave and asked if she could finish the table dance she had started with Rabinowitz.

``I think if I wasn't there when the girl couldn't finish her dance it would have been someone else,'' she said. ``He was looking for companionship.''

``He dressed beautifully, he conducted himself beautifully,'' she recalled. ``I believed he was a well-rounded man.''

But after that first encounter, which lasted several dances before moving to the higher-priced and more private Champagne Room for one more dance, Reinert claimed she never danced for Rabinowitz again.

On subsequent visits to the club it was all talk - and it wasn't cheap. According to investigators, Rabinowitz averaged between $1,000 and $3,000 a week at the club, including $30,000 in champagne and sympathy in the three months before his wife's murder.

When they first met, Rabinowitz told her he was a lawyer who was in the process of leaving his family's firm to work for the CoreStates Center.

It was only several months down the line, she said, that Rabinowitz came to her and confessed that he was a latex-glove salesman who wasn't happy in his life.

``He just told me he wasn't being honest with me,'' Reinert said of the disclosure.

But while he could be honest with his stripper, he was less forthcoming with his wife.

Family and friends of Stefanie Rabinowitz said the bright Center City lawyer would never have tolerated Rabinowitz's stripper fixation if she had known about it.

Reinert, on the receiving end of his free-spending largess, admitted she had not cared what was going on in his home life.

``A lot of those men that go into these places are married, and they go there because they are missing something or they feel as if they need companionship in picking up where their partners are leaving off,'' she said.

``I'm . . . expressing warmth, and welcome them through dance and talking to them.''

And Reinert was handsomely rewarded for the warm and fuzzy feeling she gave her perfect man.

Rabinowitz spent thousands on her outside of the strip club. He spent roughly $8,000 on furniture for her apartment and more than $1,000 on his-and-her fitness memberships.

He showered Reinert's 6-year-old son with gifts and bought her expensive jewelry, including an $1,800 pearl necklace from Tiffany's that she appears to be wearing in the ``American Journal'' interview.

Nearly all of it was financed on a stack of maxed-out credit cards and cash floated by friends who believed they were investing in his latex-glove business.

She showed up for the interview with her lawyer, whom she consulted during taping. People familiar with the taping said Reinert used a stripper's charm to try to control the interview, but off camera dropped the sweet facade to yell about questions she did not want to answer.

Like whether she and Rabinowitz had an affair.

On camera she said she did not care what people thought and had no desire to fill them in.

``That's not going to get me anywhere in life,'' she said. ``They are not putting food on my table. They are not clothing my child.''

But the interview, scheduled to air at 5:30 p.m., will. Reinert, who hustled dollar bills at Delilah's in a g-string, was paid an undisclosed sum for her story.

Rabinowitz, too, was motivated by money. He killed his wife for a $1.8 million insurance policy in part to extricate himself from the massive debt he rang up courting the dancer.

Reinert said he talked about insurance policies, but never gave the impression there was evil intent behind them.

``It was portrayed to me that they were for his daughter,'' she said.

The stripper was also among those who clung to the belief in the early days of the investigation that Rabinowitz was innocent.

Reinert describes how a ``hysterical'' and crying Rabinowitz stopped her in the parking lot of Delilah's shortly after the death to tell her that his wife had slipped and fallen in the tub. ``He was a nervous wreck,'' she said.

Then when he emerged as the prime suspect in a murder:

``I thought, `This is not the person I know,' '' she recalled in the interview. ``I just prayed every day that they would find what they needed to let him go. That he was innocent.''

But now that the truth is known, Reinert said she felt ``horrible.'' Rabinowitz, who has refused requests for interviews from jail in Houtzdale, has already confessed his guilt. But it is an emotion that Reinert does not share.

``I feel horrible for Stefanie's family. I feel horrible for his daughter, his mother, all the families,'' she said.

``I feel horrible for my family. But it's not my fault. I didn't do it.

``. . . It's nobody's fault but his. He's the only one responsible for his actions. We can't put blame like that on me, Stefanie or anyone else. He's responsible for his own actions, so it's his fault that this happened. It is him that lost control of himself.''

If anything, the single mother known as Summer feels sorry. For Rabinowitz - and for herself.

``He told me I was very special to him. I made him feel good. I made him feel wanted. I believed I was special to him. And he was special to me.''

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