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       May 02, 2013 6:44 PM

 Nobody's Perfect


After a hard day at work Carol Neulander, 52, was relaxing at home on the night of November 1, 1994. She and her husband, Rabbi Fred Neulander, 53, lived in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Years earlier, when her children were young, Carol began selling cakes and pastries from her home to help support the family.

Now her Classic Cake Company was thriving. When the doorbell rang, she went to the door and saw two men outside. One said he knew her husband and asked to come inside. As she led the men into the house, one hit her from behind with a metal pipe.

She fell to her knees, screaming, "Why? Why?"

The men beat her head with pipes until she was dead.

Odd behavior


Rabbi Fred Neulander came home at 9:20 and found his wife lying in a pool of blood. He called 911 and asked the dispatcher what he should do. "Should I touch her?" he asked.

When police and EMTs arrived, one of them his son Matthew Neulander, Fred was waiting outside the house. Inside, police found a bloody scene. At first they thought it was a robbery gone bad. Carol ran a successful business. She sometimes took home large sums of cash and her purse was missing.


But police thought it strange that Fred had no blood on his hands or clothes. Moreover, he showed no emotion. He had not stayed inside to comfort his wife, nor had he said the Jewish last rites over her.

Later, her daughter, Rebecca, told them about a phone call with her mother two weeks earlier. The doorbell rang and her mother said: "Oh, this must be the man with the package Daddy said would be coming." The man asked to use the bathroom, gave her an empty envelope and left. The night of the murder, Rebecca phoned her mother again. Again, the doorbell rang.

"Oh, it must be the bathroom man," Carol said. She told Rebecca she would call her back. These were the last words Rebecca ever heard from her mother. 

A charming and charismatic leader


Cherry Hill residents were shocked by the murder. Twenty years earlier in 1974, Fred and Carol had founded M'kor Shalom, a Reform synagogue, in Mount Laurel, NJ. Charming and charismatic, Fred quickly attracted followers. In 1991 they moved the synagogue to Cherry Hill, NJ.

By 1994, M'kor Shalom was the largest Jewish temple in South Jersey, with more than 900 members.

And by then Fred was a compulsive philanderer. He answered personal ads and used his synagogue office for trysts with his lovers. Some were members of the M'kor Shalom congregation.

After hearing rumors of his roving eye, police questioned members of his synagogue. Three women in the congregation admitted having affairs with him.

In February 1995, four months after his wife's murder, Fred became a suspect and resigned his post.

The other woman


230In August 1995, listeners were shocked when Philadelphia radio host Elaine Soncini admitted she had a 2-year affair with Rabbi Fred Neulander. "I have made some errors in judgment," she said on her morning radio show. "If this has caused you discomfort or pain, I am truly sorry."


Police interrogations may have spurred her confession. After reviewing the rabbi's phone records, they found numerous calls to Soncini. She initially denied the affair, but later told the truth. She said she met Rabbi Neulander when her husband was dying in 1992. Soon they began a torrid affair.


For two years, Fred wooed her with passionate phone calls and love poems. But by the summer of 1994, she was tired of hiding the relationship. She threatened to end it if he didn't leave his wife. He assured her they would be together by her birthday in December.

Carol Lidz and Fred Neulander


The third of four children, Carol Lidz was born in 1942 and grew up in affluent Woodmere, Long Island. Her father was a wealthy executive. Her mother fostered her appreciation for culture and good manners, evident in the parties Carol later hosted with her rabbi-husband at their home. She was devoted to their three children, Rebecca, Matthew and Benjamin.


Born in 1941, Fred grew up in Albany and New York City. His mother was a homemaker. Descended from a long line of rabbis, his father was a dry-cleaner. Fred studied religion and philosophy at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. During his senior year he met Carol Lidz, a cultured girl from a wealthy family.


They married in 1965, a significant step up for a man with a lower middle-class background. Over the years they had three children. At the time of the murder, Rebecca, 28, was a hospital administrator. Matthew, 25, was a medical student. Ben, 22, had recently graduated from college.


Carol parlayed her talent for baking into a prosperous business, partly to support the family, partly to fill the time during Fred's 14-hour days at the synagogue. When the children were small, she ran the business out of their home. Her son Matthew said: "My mother was not a naive housewife who dabbled in business. She was a shrewd businesswoman. [Even so], she was my best friend."

A self-centered narcissist


While Fred worked to become a successful rabbi, Carol played the good wife and loving mother. As long as she catered to his needs and doted on him, things were fine. But twenty years later Fred wanted excitement. Carol was ordinary. When she threatened to divorce him and expose his philandering, he feared she would destroy him financially. He was angry. In his mind, she deserved to be punished.


As Dr. Robi Ludwig says in her book Till Death Do Us Part, for Fred, being a rabbi was a job, not a calling. Controlling and power-hungry, he used his pulpit to get what he wanted. Now that he was a star, he wanted another star to share it with him: his popular radio-host lover, Elaine Soncini.

Nobody's perfect


Fred continued to deny any involvement in Carol's murder. A December 1994 lie detector test indicated he lied when he denied hiring someone to kill his wife. However, after Elaine Soncini and others said they had affairs with him, he admitted he lied about this.


He asked one of his friends, a physician, to write a letter saying the medication he took caused him to fail the lie detector test. "Fred," said the doctor, "You're charming and beguiling. But I think you're a psychopath and a murderer." Fred responded with a smile and said: "Well, nobody's perfect."


Months passed. Finally, almost four years after Carol was murdered, police arrested him. In January 1999, a grand jury indicted him for conspiring to have his wife murdered and for being an accomplice to murder. But prosecutors and police had little evidence. Their case was largely circumstantial.

Bombshell confessions


That changed when Leonard Jenoff and Paul Daniels confessed to the murder.

Jenoff, 54, said Fred promised them $30,000 to kill his wife. Daniels, 26, admitted helping him. They decided to make it look like a robbery. Fred insisted they had to do it on a Tuesday night. That was the night Matthew worked as an EMT and Carol would be home alone. The first attempt on October 25th, failed when Jenoff went inside, lost his nerve and left.

When they met later, Fred was furious: "You kill her or I'll kill you," Jenoff quoted him as saying. "I looked into his eyes," Jenoff said, "and I believed him."


On May 1, 2000, Jenoff and Daniels were charged with Carol's murder. On June 1, Jenoff pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter. On June 6, Daniels did the same.

A sensational trial


On June 20, a grand jury indicted Fred Neulander on charges of capital murder, felony murder and conspiracy. Prosecutors vowed to seek the death penalty. A Camden County judge refused a defense request for a change of venue. The trial, televised live on Court TV, began in August 2001. By now Fred Neulander was 60 years old. Witnesses said they saw him at the synagogue the night of the murder, but said it was very unusual for him to be there on a Tuesday night.


Elaine Soncini (left) gave chilling testimony. She said Fred had told her he dreamed of his wife dying, and after the murder he said: "I told you to trust me. When God closes a door, he opens a window."


Fred took the stand to proclaim his innocence. But under withering cross-examination, he admitted lying to police about his extramarital affairs. He said he never planned to leave his wife for Soncini. But the prosecutor read a romantic poem he sent her and played a message from her answering machine in which he called Soncini "the most wonderful thing that came into my life."


Despite the dramatic testimony, the jury was unable to reach a verdict. On November 13, 2001, the judge declared a mistrial. Fred smiled. A month later, Elaine Soncini resigned from her radio job and retired to Florida.

A second trial, a new verdict


A year later the retrial began, again televised live on Court TV, this time in Freehold, NJ. Matthew Neulander (left) testified that he was stunned by his father's lack of emotion the night of the murder. His father didn't try to stop him from entering the house, but his fellow EMTs physically restrained him. They wanted to stop him from seeing the gruesome murder scene in the house where his bloodied mother lay dead.

This time Fred did not testify. Eight years after Carol died, the jury found him guilty of murder, for which he could receive the death penalty.

This time Fred wasn't smiling. At the sentencing hearing, he addressed the jury. He claimed he loved his wife and missed her. Family members were outraged. Matthew called it "absolutely galling." Carol's sister said: "He is truly a monster beyond human comprehension. He should never live free again."


By then Matthew was an emergency room doctor. He did not appear but submitted a written statement. "Fred robbed [my baby daughter Madison] of a warm, vibrant grandmother whose late years would have revolved around her grandchildren just as her earlier ones did around her own kids. [Madison] is left with a worthless, soulless, pathetic shell of a man who did not even have the grace to call or write when she was born. A textbook sociopath. A man with no regard for others. However, I will take from him what would mean the world to a normal man, Madison and her siblings will never know him. I request that the Court permanently remove this vicious and evil person from their futures."


Fred again proclaimed his innocence. "I cannot express remorse for something I did not do." But the jury could not decide on a sentence, and Fred Neulander was sentenced to life in prison.

Then, in a startling turn of events, in 2009 Leonard Jenoff recanted, saying he lied when he said Fred hired him to kill Carol. In a February 2012 interview, Fred said he hopes a new trial will overturn his conviction. Prosecutors had no comment. At this writing, he remains in prison.

For more details on this and other cases see DARK DEEDS, Volume Two: Serial killers, stalkers and domestic homicides


What do you think? Was the Rabbi guilty or innocent? Please use the comment form and tell me what you think about this chilling case of domestic homicide.

Sources: Till Death Do Us Part, Dr. Robi Ludwig, 2006

Timeline of Carol Neulander murder case, Courier-Post staff, 8-12-2001



"Rabbi Neulander convicted of murder, son calls him a sociopath"



"Delayed impact," Thomas Fields-Meyer, people.com  10-19-1998



"Tribute Celebrates Life of Carol Neulander ..." Nancy Phillips, The Inquirer, 11-26-95

"Dj Apologizes For Affair with Rabbi," Nancy Philips, The Inquirer,  8-22-1995 


"The hows and whys of Fred Neulander," Kevin Riordan, Courier-Post, 5-16-2003


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[ Posted by Maria, June 23, 2014 8:35 PM ]
     Elaine Soncini is a whore and an adulterer.

posted by SUSAN FLEET   May 02, 2013 6:44 PM  Domestic Homicide 


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