Rod Covlin strangled his wealthy wife, Shele Danishefsky, six years ago, according to charges against him after he was finally busted last week. However, the brutal murder, motivated by money, wasn't all that Covlin wanted to do in order to keep his hands on his wife's fortune, the Manhattan, New York City, prosecutors now say.
The 2009 New Year's Eve death of the successful financial executive — who was found by her 7-year-old daughter submerged in the bathtub of her upscale West 68th Street apartment — stunned New York's high-finance community. Covlin, 42, better known as a champion competitive backgammon player than as the unemployed stockbroker that he was at that time, was long considered the leading and perhaps only suspect.
Shele Danishefsky Covlin was 47 at the time she was murdered. She was a financial manager at her family's Wall Street firm.
View a report on the Covlin case from the New York Daily News, in the video on this page, above.
New York City police investigators have not revealed what, if any, new information led them to finally arrest Covlin. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. offered only that the November 1 arrest was the product of "an investigation over the ensuing years" since the death of Shele Danishefsky.
Covlin entered a not guilty plea to the two counts of second-degree murder charges against him when he was arraigned in a Manhattan courtroom last Monday, November 2.
But now prosecutors and media reports are painting a disturbing picture of Covlin as a stalkerish creep who, after separating from his wife, apparently spied on her and slandered her to her co-workers. After he killed her, Covlin plotted to sell his own 13-year-daughter into a marriage in Mexico, believing that the perverse nuptials would render her a legal adult and able to access his late wife's multimillion-dollar estate.
The couple had already obtained a religious divorce, known under Jewish law as a "get," but remained legally married under New York State law and lived on the same floor in the expensive, Upper West Side complex.
But after their separation, according to the picture now emerging of Covlin and his activities, he appeared to experience a psychological breakdown, pulling such malicious stunts as accusing his wife of abusing their youngest child and calling her workplace to "report" her as a drug addict, prosecutors told a judge in Manhattan.
An investigation published last Friday by the New York Post revealed that for at least the past six months, Covlin had been living under the name "Rod Sommer" and was working as a debt collector at a New York investment firm that specializes in loans to "even credit challenged merchants," according to the company's site.
One of Covlin's co-workers there, who knew him as "Sommer," described him to the Post as "a f*****g psychopath" who drank excessively at odd hours and was given to fits of rage.
Prosecutors claim that Covlin murdered Danishefsky after he learned that she intended to remove him as a beneficiary in her will. If he had remained a free man for another two months, he would have been able to legally lay claim to her reported $4 million estate — six years from the date of his wife's death. But under an agreement between Covlin and the trustees of his wife's estate, if he became the target of a criminal investigation, he would be ineligible to collect the cash.
Covlin's attorney, Robert Gottlieb, denies that the former stockbroker had anything to do with his wife's death and says that his client was "stunned" when he was arrested while waiting to board a train in New Rochelle, New York, on his way to see his children.
"We don't believe there is any credible evidence to these charges," Gottlieb told The New York Daily News. "He's very concerned about the children."
At a bail hearing for Covlin on Monday, November 9, Gottlieb told a judge that his client's plan to sell his daughter into an underage marriage was simply a "desperate" act of a man who feared losing his child.
"He did something that looking back even Mr. Covlin would say obviously he shouldn't have done, but it was not, again, money," Gottlieb said in court. "It was to protect his children."
The judge ultimately sided with the prosecution, ordering Rod Covlin held without bail and barring him from making personal phone calls or receiving visitors while behind bars, due to prosecutors' fears that Covlin may attempt to influence potential witnesses in the case.
[Images via Shele Danishefsky Covlin In Loving Memory, Facebook]