Legal experts said a botched criminal investigation might result in an acquittal for a New York man on trial for killing his estranged wife in 2009.
Shele Danishefsky’s 9-year-old daughter reportedly found her mother face-down in a bathtub at their New York City apartment on New Year’s Eve. The girl alerted her father, Rod Covlin, who lived in a separate unit across the hall as the couple was in the middle of a bitter divorce, according to the New York Post.
While prosecutors accused him of snapping Danishefsky’s neck to gain control of her $5.2 million fortune, the newspaper reported that Covlin, now 47, was never pressed on several inconsistencies police had noticed.
Police had remarked that Covlin’s clothes were noticeably dry despite him claiming he pulled his wife’s dead body out the tub. Moreover, he reportedly asserted that his wife must’ve slipped and fell—but a cabinet over the tub which was nearly torn off the hinges wasn’t dusted for prints.
The New York Post also reported that law enforcement never sought access to Covlin’s apartment or examined his body for injuries. Furthermore, it wasn’t until five months after the 2009 slaying when they acquired a search warrant and seized items from the slain woman’s apartment.
The search warrant was executed two months after Danishefsky was exhumed and a medical examiner determined her neck had been snapped. The newspaper explained that officials initially declined to perform an autopsy after Danishefsky’s Orthodox Jewish family objected to it on religious grounds.
According to police experts who spoke with the newspaper, that delay could make it difficult for prosecutors to prove a homicide occurred.
Covlin, an accomplished backgammon player, was charged for his wife’s murder six years after the New Year’s Eve slaying. A linchpin in the prosecution’s case against Covlin is Danishefsky’s iPhone, which was temporarily missing just after the murder. Her family reportedly found it charging next to her bed sometime later.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos speculated that Covlin took the phone and returned it to the scene using a key he had to his wife’s apartment. Prosecutors said cellphone data showed the device remained on, suggesting it was being charged, after the slaying and never left the Upper West Side apartment building.
“The person who had the iPhone and returned it had to be the murderer,” Bogdanos reportedly said.
Alarmingly, the New York Post reported that the phone wasn’t dusted for prints. Furthermore, an ex-prosecutor who called the criminal investigation “incompetent” found prosecutors’ circumstantial case against Covlin doesn’t hold due to how many people had access to the crime scene.
“The contention you can trust that the murderer was in possession of that cellphone is borderline laughable,” former homicide prosecutor Daniel Bibb told the outlet.
At the murder trial, Covlin’s ex-girlfriend recently testified that Covlin devised three plans to kill his parents years after Danishefsky’s murder. According to the newspaper, Debra Oles, 60, revealed how one of those plots entailed her driving Covlin to purchase a “black man’s wig and makeup,” which he intended to wear while attacking his mother.
Court testimony revealed that Covlin never followed through with killing his parents but he kept plotting their deaths as he was angry they kicked him out the home and gained custody of his kids.
The prosecution and defense will give their summations Monday before the jury begins their deliberation.
[Featured Image: Shele Danishefsky Covlin/Handout]