A retired New York stock trader, set to lay claim to half of his dead wife’s $4 million fortune, has been indicted in connection with her mysterious death more than five years ago.
Rod Covlin, 42, is facing two counts of second-degree murder in the slaying of Shele Danishefsky Covlin. The 47-year-old finance executive’s daughter, then 9, found her face-down in the bathtub of their upscale Manhattan apartment on New Year’s Eve 2009.
Arrested on Sunday and arraigned in Manhattan on Monday, Covlin entered pleas of not guilty to the charges. During the court proceeding, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos did not divulge why, after so many years, authorities have suddenly decided to charge Colvin.
In a press release, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. said only that an “investigation over the ensuing years” resulted in the arrest.
“It is our hope that this prosecution will bring justice for Ms. Danishefsky Covlin, and provide closure to her grieving family and friends,” Vance said.
The arrest comes two months before a court order, prohibiting Covlin from collecting half of his wife’s estate — estimated to be about $4 million — was set to expire.
Authorities initially believed Shele Covlin slipped in the bathtub and hit her head before drowning. According to The New York Post, her Orthodox Jewish family reportedly objected to an extensive autopsy and the official cause of her death was initially listed as undetermined.
At the time of her death, Shele Covlin was engaged in a “bitter and acrimonious” divorce and custody battle with her husband, according to court papers filed in Surrogates Court in Manhattan. Authorities said she was scheduled to meet with her attorney on Jan. 1, 2010, to cut Rod Covlin out of her will, leaving her entire estate to her children.
“She was fearful for her life, believed Rod intended to kill her, and there was some urgency to make changes in her will,” the documents state, according to the New York Daily News.
Family members, suspicious of Shele Covlin’s death, received a rabbinical exemption allowing an autopsy and agreed to the exhumation of Covlin’s body. In March 2010, a medical examiner examined her remains and ruled her cause of death strangulation and the manner of her death a homicide.
Despite the ruling, Rod Covlin was not immediately charged in connection with his wife’s murder. However, per the terms of a court order, stipulations were placed on the collection of his wife’s estate, which was to be divided between Covlin and his children.
According to the court order, Covlin was prohibited from collecting his inheritance if he was found responsible for his wife’s death. It was further ordered he could only collect the inheritance if the district attorney said he is no longer a suspect or if six years passed after her death, the New York Post reported.
The six-year prohibition was set to expire in roughly 60 days — the six-year anniversary of Shele Covlin’s death.
Rod Covlin’s attorney, Robert Gottlieb, told The Associated Press on Monday that his client was dumbfounded by his arrest.
“There can be no credible evidence, because he did not kill his wife,” Gottlieb told the AP.
A Manhattan Criminal Court judge ordered Covlin held without bail pending his next court appearance. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years behind bars.
“It’s about time,” Shele Covlin’s mother, Jaelene Danishefsky, 84, told The New York Post of her former son-in-law’s arrest. “I hope he gets what he deserves.”
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