In the frigid upstate New York City of Syracuse a made-for-TV, high-profile murder case is just getting underway. You might want to take a peek.
Doctor Robert Neulander, a well-known obstetrician, faces a trial starting to today in Onondaga County Court. If he is found guilty he could get a life sentence.
The case is receiving national TV news attention. In fact, the courthouse is expected to be so packed with spectators, attorneys, family members and news reporters that a second courtroom will broadcast live coverage of the trial. CBS News’ 48 Hours will cover the case live.
All of this, in a case that would not have even started had the prosecution not received an anonymous letter. Until then, the death of Leslie Neulander was considered an accidental fall in the shower. Why? Because that is exactly what her husband, Dr. Robert Neulander, age 63, told investigators at the time.
On September 17, 2012, Doctor Neulander, with an ob/gyn clinic in DeWitt, told police that he had found his 61-year-old wife on the floor of the shower and moved her into the bedroom in order to do CPR.
But an anonymous letter convinced the district attorney to have investigators give the woman’s death scene a closer look. And after examining photos of the scene, they were all convinced that the story the doctor told police did not make sense.
The first officers on scene, who responded to a 911 call from the Neulanders’ adult daughter, testified later that they weren’t convinced it was an accident, either.
One officer actually started collecting evidence, because, “It wasn’t adding up to what we’d been told,” Sergeant Thomas Norton testified. Another officer noted the blood spatter didn’t make sense. “Something didn’t set right,” said sergeant Michael Kurgan.
In spite of what law enforcement found, the county medical examiner accepted the doctor’s explanation and ruled the death “accidental.” The police investigation was halted within hours and the case was closed.
The medical examiner will now get to explain to the world why he elected to take the doctor-husband’s word for what happened.
District Attorney William Fitzpatrick explains that he doctor would never have been charged had he not received the anonymous letter months later. Fitzpatrick said the person, whoever wrote it, “had an air of legitimacy.”
“The case really wasn’t on my radar screen at that point as a criminal case,” Fitzpatrick said. “Then we got this letter.”
Fitzpatrick then met with Police Chief Gene Conway and saw photos from the scene for the first time. There was blood all over the bathroom: on the walls and floors of the bedroom and bathroom, even high on the wall by the bed.
Fitzpatrick then showed the photos and other evidence to experts he trusted, including retired Onondaga County Medical Examiner Dr. Mary Jumbelic. He reached out to nationally-renowned forensic expert Dr. Michael Baden, known for his high-profile cases. They both said the same thing: the slip and fall could not have happened. They are certain the evidence shows that Neulander killed his wife in a fit of anger and moved her body and changed the bed sheets to cover up the murder.
So, two years after his wife’s death, the doctor was arrested for Murder.
Here is more on this all-too-common case of a physician killing his wife:
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