Why did the jury convict Doctor Robert Neulander? Here’s why:
• Time of Death: Medical Examiner Robert Stoppacher took Leslie’s body temperature two hours after 911 was called. At trial, Stoppacher testified that the cooling of her body suggests that she died between 4:15-7:15 in the morning — at least an hour before the 911 call. Famous forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden put the death at between 4:15-5:15.
• Blood in all the wrong places: Prosecution experts testified that blood on the bedroom walls shows that Leslie Neulander was assaulted there. The CSI techs found more than 100 blood drops on the walls. Neulander told police he found his wife in the shower. This is the factor that Doctor Stoppacher testified caused him to change his mind. In explanation, Stoppacher pointed to reports from experts Doctor Peter Pizzola and Karen Green that suggested an “impact outside of the shower,” as he put it. Green testified that blood spatter on walls was consistent with an attack on the bed.
• Injuries that didn’t match up with a fall: Leslie Neulander had multiple injuries to her head, face, neck, shoulder and arm. The major one, a large fracture to the right side of her head, might have been caused by hitting a marble bench in the shower. The prosecution’s experts disagreed if the injury was caused by one or more blows. But they all agreed that the other injuries could not be explained by subsequent rescue efforts. In addition, experts said that a fall in the shower would have caused lower body injuries, which Leslie Neulander did not sustain.
• Rigor Mortis: Paramedics and police officers all agreed that Leslie Neulander’s muscles were stiffening in a process called rigor mortis. In fact, the medics reported that her jaw was so rigid that they were unable to insert an airway. The neck and shoulder were also stiff. Baden estimated the jaw would take 2 hours to stiffen after death and smaller muscles 5-6 hours.
• The body wedged into a space between the bed and nightstand: Prosecutors have said that the doctor’s own actions – carrying and dragging his injured wife 50 feet from the bathroom to the bedroom – are proof of a guilty conscience and cover-up. They believe the doctor placed his wife in an odd location against the night stand and bed to cover up blood and other evidence from an earlier attack. The doctor gave numerous explanations to police for moving his wife. He told them at one point that it was cold in the bathroom. Later he said there was not enough light to help her. Another time he said he moved her because the floor was slippery.
The adult daughter of the Neulanders – Jenna – entered the bedroom through the doorway when her dad called for help. She called 911 and told the dispatcher that “there is blood everywhere!” However, at that point she could not see her mother, who was lying on the floor in the bathroom 50 feet away around a corner. The doctor was dragging her body toward the bedroom. If she fell in the shower, why was there blood all over the walls in the bedroom?
All of the items on the nightstand had blood spatters, EXCEPT the white coffee cup.
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Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick’s radio comments:
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Leslie London Neulander was an inspiration, her children say. She inspired them to become social, original and confident adults – who had compassion for others. Those are among the revelations in this video made by Neulander’s children on the occasion of her 60th birthday.
Neulander died at age 61, and an Onondaga County jury says her doctor husband killed her in September 2012. Robert Neulander, 63, was found guilty of second degree murder and tampering with evidence. Click here for more on the verdict. Prosecutors say Neulander killed his wife and staged the scene in their master bedroom and bathroom to make it appear as if his wife had taken a deadly fall in the shower.
Leslie Neulander’s obituary calls her “a devoted and beloved member of Syracuse area charities.”
Neulander was known for giving back to the Central New York community – and beyond.
She served on the Board of Hillel of S.U., the Jewish Community Foundation and Vera House. Neulander traveled to the Gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina with Operation Southern Comfort to rebuild homes.
She was a longtime supporter of The Syracuse Stage and Symphony, the Jewish Community Center, Syracuse Hebrew Day School and The Rabbi Epstein Hebrew High School. She was a member of Temple Concord.
(We thank New York’s CBSNews5 investigative reporter Michael Benny for his research in his case)
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