Rabbi Fred Neulander admits his behavior as a husband was awful, “sinful stuff,” but insists he did not mastermind the murder of his wife, Carol.
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"My behavior was appalling in my marriage and I'm going to have to live with that for the rest of my life. It was arrogant and it was selfish, and that burden, I will just carry for the rest of my life," Neulander said in an exclusive interview with NBC10 Investigative reporter Harry Hairston from behind prison walls. "I knew better. I should have behaved better. It's just that simple."
The Rabbi was convicted in one of the most high-profile murder cases in our recent history. Neulander was a popular, powerfully charismatic rabbi and his wife, Carol Neulander, was a thriving entrepreneur who co-founded a boutique bakery. The couple lived in Cherry Hill and raised three children.
Carol Neulander was bludgeoned to death with a pipe when she opened her front door one day in 1994. Rabbi Neulander was convicted of paying two men $30,000 to carry out the killing so that he could carry on a relationship with another woman, former radio personality Elaine Soncini.
Neulander said he takes responsibility for his infidelities but tells Hairston -- without hesitation -- that he is innocent.
"I was an embarrassment to myself and others, absolutely!" Neulander said. "Did I kill my wife? Absolutely not! Period."
Neulander’s capital murder case ended the first time in a mistrial. Neulander was convicted the second time around and sentenced to a minimum of thirty years. He tells Hairston he's in prison not because he's guilty, but because the prosecutor was “cunning enough” to convince the jury that Neulander “was a bad guy and therefore he killed his wife,” the Rabbi said.
In the exclusive video interview, Neulander talks in detail about what he did when he came home that night to find his wife’s body. And what happened when their son Matt, an EMT, arrived on the scene.
His greatest concern, he told Hairston, is “that you know, this toxic cloud has affected my family and it has affected my colleagues, my congregation, my community, Carol's family. And that sadness, I just, I can't correct. I have enough issues with carrying this embarrassment and humiliation and that's my burden. I wish I could do more for those people that I indirectly affected."
Neulander says he spends a lot of his time reading and doing crossword puzzles and he meets almost daily with his Jewish prayer group in New Jersey’s only maximum security prison. He is hoping for a new trial based on an appeal he filed after one of the men who testified against him recanted some of his damning testimony. Len Jenoff changed his story in 2009, saying the murder was a robbery gone bad, not a hired hit.
Until he gets an answer to his appeal, Neulander says he has dreams, but no plans.
"I'm just trying to fill my days with things that are possible."