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Rabbi Fred Neulander, Serving Life Sentence, Passes Away at 82

(JTA) – Fred Neulander, a New Jersey rabbi who was sentenced to life in prison for orchestrating the murder of his wife Carol in 1994, has passed away at the age of 82.

The New Jersey Department of Corrections website confirms Neulander’s death, indicating his “date out of custody” as Thursday. Reports from local news sources suggest that Neulander was discovered unresponsive in a prison infirmary and was pronounced dead on Wednesday.

Neulander, the former rabbi of the 1,000-family M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, was convicted in 2002 for hiring hitmen Len Jenoff and Paul Michael Daniels to kill his wife so he could pursue a romantic relationship with former Philadelphia radio personality Elaine Soncini.

Carol Neulander, aged 52, was found brutally murdered in their Cherry Hill home in November 1994. Following the discovery of evidence linking Neulander to an extramarital affair, he resigned from his position at the synagogue, but it took nearly four years before he was arrested.

Although Neulander’s initial trial resulted in a hung jury, he was ultimately found guilty on all charges related to the murder of his wife in November 2002. The prosecution described the crime as a clear case of murder for hire.

Despite his conviction, Neulander avoided the death penalty due to the jury’s inability to reach a unanimous decision on the sentence.

One of the individuals involved in the murder plot, Len Jenoff, confessed to his role as the hitman to authorities, leading to Neulander’s eventual conviction. Both Jenoff and Daniels were released from prison in 2014 after serving approximately 14 years behind bars.

Even while incarcerated, Neulander maintained his innocence regarding the murder, acknowledging his marital infidelity but denying any involvement in the violent act. He expressed remorse for his behavior and its consequences, recognizing the impact on his life.

A musical production titled “A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill,” based on the tragic events, premiered in Los Angeles in 2022, despite objections from Neulander’s surviving children.

Neulander, also known as the author of the memoir “Keep Your Mouth Shut and Your Arms Open: Observations From the Rabbinic Trenches,” published under the pseudonym Adam Plony, faced significant public scrutiny and media attention surrounding the case.

Arthur Magida’s nonfiction book, “The Rabbi and the Hit Man,” served as the inspiration for various television documentaries, shedding light on the stark contrast between Neulander’s esteemed position within his community and the dark realities of the murder-for-hire scheme.