Neulander Murder Was Long Planned, Attacker Tells Court Len Jenoff Pleaded Guilty To Aggravated Manslaughter And Said Carol Neulander's Rabbi Husband Was Behind It.

Posted: June 02, 2000

Before settling on a plan to beat Carol Neulander to death in her Cherry Hill home, Len Jenoff said, he and her husband, Rabbi Fred J. Neulander, discussed several options.

He said they talked about gunning her down on a New York street after a Broadway show; killing her in the parking lot of the mall in Short Hills, N.J., where she often shopped with her sister; or striking her by machine gun in a drive-by shooting in Camden, where she served on a social-service board.

It was the spring of 1994.

An 89-page transcript of a statement made by Jenoff to Camden County investigators on May 5 offers the first glimpse of of what Jenoff says was Rabbi Neulander's intimate involvement in planning his wife's murder.

Yesterday, Jenoff, 54, of Collingswood, pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the slaying of Carol Neulander, a mother of three and owner of two popular South Jersey bakeries.

Jenoff said he and then-roommate Paul Michael Daniels went to the Neulander home on Nov. 1, 1994, armed with two pipes and beat her to death.

For this, he said, the rabbi had agreed to pay them $30,000.

Daniels, 26, of Pennsauken, is expected to plead guilty to similar charges, perhaps next week, according to his attorney, Craig Mitnick.

Rabbi Neulander, 58, has pleaded not guilty to murder and conspiracy and has denied any role in the crime. Through his attorneys, he has said Jenoff and Daniels are lying.

Jenoff's statement to investigators, which was obtained by The Inquirer, offers a fascinating look at how he says one of South Jersey's most sensational murders unfolded.

When he first met the rabbi in the spring of 1993, Jenoff said, he was working at Denny's for $1.80 an hour and moonlighting as a cab driver. He was struggling with alcoholism and marital and money problems. His life, he said, had hit "rock bottom."

He said he was questioning his very faith in God when a friend recommended that he meet with Rabbi Neulander. The rabbi, Jenoff said, rekindled his faith in Judaism and restored his self-esteem.

By August 1994, Jenoff said, the rabbi was speaking with increasing urgency about the crime.

"He was pushing me relentlessly," Jenoff said.

At one point, he said, the rabbi suggested that his wife could be killed outside a North Jersey shopping mall.

"You could make it look like a mugging," Jenoff said the rabbi told him.

"But what if her sister's with her?" Jenoff said he asked.

"You kill that bitch, too," he said the rabbi replied.

At one point, Jenoff said, Rabbi Neulander suggested a drive-by shooting in Camden, so that the "authorities would think that minorities or drug dealers did it."

Finally, Jenoff said, the rabbi decided that the murder should take place in his home.

"He kept coming back to his house," Jenoff told investigators. "Do it at his house. Do it at his house."

Jenoff said he asked: "Why do it in your own house? What if your children are home? I didn't know, like, his children's routine, whether they're in school. And he said, 'Well, that's just the point.' "

On Tuesday nights, Jenoff said the rabbi told him, the rabbi's son Matthew would be home or working, as an emergency-medical technician in Cherry Hill.

"He said, 'It would look so heinous - heinous - that nobody would even think that I could have done that, you know, in my own home with my offspring, with my son possibly being there,' " Jenoff said.

And so, Jenoff said, he and the rabbi planned to carry out the crime at the home on a Tuesday night, when Carol Neulander would be there - alone or possibly with her son - and the rabbi would be working late at the synagogue.

The plan, he said, was to make the crime look like a robbery gone awry.

Jenoff said that since Carol Neulander was a small woman, he suggested breaking her neck or slitting her throat but that the rabbi rejected that idea.

"No, that looks like a hit," he quoted the rabbi as saying. "It looks professional, you know? . . . I want it to look like a sloppy . . . like a drug addict came into the house to steal her money."

The first attempt failed, Jenoff said, when he went to the house on a Tuesday night in late October.Rabbi Neulander, he said, was furious upon returning home and finding his wife still alive. Jenoff said the rabbi soon summoned him to a meeting and threatened to kill him.

"The job will be done, or you're dead," Jenoff quoted him as saying.

Jenoff described how he delivered the first blow to Carol Neulander, striking her from behind.

"I can't recall where," he said, "the back of the neck or somewhere."

He said he then turned to summon Daniels, who had been waiting outside, and heard Carol Neulander's body fall.

"I didn't see it, but I heard a thump," he said, adding that he then left and Daniels struck her.

Jenoff and Daniels told authorities that the rabbi paid them several thousand dollars up front and several thousand more a few days after the murder, when Jenoff visited the house during shiva, the traditional Jewish period of mourning.

Jenoff and Daniels, each struggling financially at the time, reveled in the money, Jenoff said. When the rabbi made the first payment, Jenoff said, he put half of it in a brown lunch bag and showered Daniels with it as he sat in a lounge chair.

The cash, Jenoff said, flowed like confetti. Daniels, he said, started screaming, "That bitch is dead!"

Prosecutors say Rabbi Neulander had his wife killed so he could pursue a romance with Elaine Soncini, a Philadelphia radio host, without having to get a divorce and risk financial trouble or the loss of his job as senior rabbi at Congregation M'kor Shalom in Cherry Hill.

The rabbi vigorously denies that.

Jenoff said he told the rabbi that he had worked for the CIA. In reality, he was a twice-divorced college dropout who had held and lost a series of jobs, from data processing to selling X-ray film to arranging casino junkets.

The rabbi's defense team has questioned the credibility of Jenoff, who has admitted lying about his past and who has given inconsistent statements to authorities.

"He admitted that his life has been a fantasy," said Jeffrey Zucker, one of the rabbi's attorneys.

Jenoff, in his May 5 confession, acknowledged that he had embellished his credentials and initially lied to investigators about his role.

"I created this whole, like, new life, like a new identity for myself, a fantasy identity," he said.

His attorney, Francis J. Hartman, said that Jenoff was now telling the truth: "He got what the rabbi couldn't give him. He got religion, and he decided to tell the truth."

Nancy Phillips' e-mail address is nphillips@phillynews.com.

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