Craig: I'm Still Cuckoo For `Summer'

Posted: April 21, 1998

What's the first thing convicted Main Line murderer Craig Rabinowitz would do if he was released from prison?

Run back to Summer.

That's what Rabinowitz, who confessed in October to killing his attorney wife to collect $1.8 million in insurance, says in a jailhouse interview appearing this week in Philadelphia Weekly.

Rabinowitz, of course, won't be fulfilling this fantasy.

The 34-year-old former latex-glove salesman is serving a life sentence without parole for the bathtub strangulation of Stefanie Rabinowitz, 29.

Summer, of course, is Shannon Reinert, the stripper in the middle of the murder.

Rabinowitz, escaping what he asserted was an unhappy, sex-starved marriage, lavished his affections and between $1,000 and $3,000 each week in drinks and tips on the 25-year-old exotic dancer when she worked at Delilah's Den.

Summer was his ``soulmate,'' Rabinowitz told Weekly staff writer Karen Abbott, ``the first person who showed me everything a relationship could be.''

``If Gov. Ridge decided tomorrow that I'm a hell of a guy and should be released, the first thing I'd do would be to go see Shannon.''

Rabinowitz said in the wide-ranging interview that:

His wife's murder last April 29 in the bathtub of their Merion home while their baby slept in an adjoining room was not premeditated, and he has blocked out much of the memory.

``Believe me, I didn't decide to do what I did on that night,'' he said of the murder, three days before daughter Haley's first birthday.

``I would never have planned to deprive Steffi of Haley's big day.''

He said he ``wanted to do what I did . . . but without hurting her.''

He ``wanted her gone, but didn't want her to feel any pain.''

Rabinowitz said he does remember that he ``looked at her and realized she was dead,'' then held her for a half-hour, crying and apologizing before calling 911.

``I remember the last time I saw her.

``She was on the gurney in the hospital room, and a detective was there, which I thought was inappropriate, and I didn't have much time.

``And she was pale and beautiful and she had that bruise on her collarbone and her eyes were shut and she looked peaceful, like she was sleeping.

``And I just told her I was sorry.''

The morning before the murder, he considered telling his wife about Summer and his mounting financial problems, but couldn't work up the nerve.

``I'd say to myself, `Craig - you have to tell Steffi about the debt and you have to tell Steffi about Shannon and you can't go on living this lie anymore.' ''

He concocted a getaway plan in which he would take $15,000 and drive his car to 30th Street Station so police would think he took a train.

He then would take a taxi to Philadelphia International Airport, take a shuttle bus from there to Newark Airport and get on a flight to a faraway place.

Rabinowitz said he realized he couldn't pull off the plan because his daughter had no passport and he would be ``way too conspicuous traveling with a baby.''

The day after the murder, he ``panicked'' and pawned his wife's engagement ring to raise $20,000 he needed for lawyers.

He had a ``grand plan'' to get out from under his debts that involved taking out a $73,000 loan, the biggest his mortgage company would give him, then ``liquidate my assets and walk away from my house'' and ``screw the mortgage company'' in order to pay back friends and family so they wouldn't be ``crippled by my Ponzi scheme.''

Although Summer has asserted that their relationship was never sexual, it was much more than platonic.

Rabinowitz said they would see each other twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays, and go shopping or to hotels.

You ``don't have to be a rocket scientist to know what went on there,'' he said.

Reinert, for her part, apparently has missed Rabinowitz as much as he misses her.

In an ``American Journal'' interview aired in February, the stripper said she thought Rabinowitz seemed like ``the perfect man trapped in an unhappy marriage.''

In addition to the money he spent at Delilah's, Rabinowitz spent thousands on Summer outside the strip club, including about $8,000 for her apartment and more than $1,000 on his-and-her fitness club memberships.

Rabinowitz confessed on the eve of his murder trial last fall.

He is serving his life sentence in a medium-security state prison near Houtzdale in Western Pennsylvania.

He spends his days processing packages in the prison receiving room and attending stress management, domestic abuse and criminal awareness classes.

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