Rabbi Fred Neulander, Convicted of Hiring Hitmen to Kill Wife, Dies in Prison at 82

Rabbi Fred Neulander, founder of Congregation M'kor Shalom, died in prison at 82 after being convicted of hiring hitmen to kill his wife Carol in 1994 to continue an affair. The sensational case shocked the community and inspired true crime books and a musical.

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Rabbi Fred Neulander, Convicted of Hiring Hitmen to Kill Wife, Dies in Prison at 82

Rabbi Fred Neulander, Convicted of Hiring Hitmen to Kill Wife, Dies in Prison at 82

Rabbi Fred Neulander, the founding rabbi of Congregation M'kor Shalom synagogue in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, died in prison on April 17, 2024 at the age of 82. Neulander was serving a 30-year to life sentence for hiring two men to kill his wife, Carol Neulander, in 1994.

Carol Neulander, 52, was beaten to death in her home on November 1, 1994. Prosecutors alleged that Rabbi Neulander hired two hitmen, Len Jenoff and Paul Michael Daniels, and paid them $30,000 to make the murder look like a robbery gone wrong, so he could continue an affair with Elaine Soncini, a Philadelphia radio personality.

Neulander was convicted by a jury in 2003 of capital murder, felony murder, and conspiracy to commit murder after a previous trial ended with a hung jury in 2001. He narrowly avoided the death penalty and was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison. The two hitmen, Jenoff and Daniels, were released from prison in 2014 after serving 23-year terms.

Throughout his imprisonment, Neulander maintained that Jenoff and Daniels acted on their own and were motivated by robbery. He sought to have his conviction overturned, but his appeals were denied by an appellate court in 2012 and the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2016.

Why this matters: The murder of Carol Neulander and conviction of her husband, Rabbi Fred Neulander, shocked the South Jersey community and attracted nationwide interest. The case raised questions about the double life of a respected religious leader and the lengths he would go to continue an extramarital affair.

Neulander was the senior rabbi at Congregation M'kor Shalom, a Reform synagogue he founded in 1974, for nearly three decades before the murder. The synagogue has since merged with Temple Emanuel to become Congregation Kol Ami. In a statement, the synagogue said it has "chosen to focus on the future rather than dwell on the past," while extending condolences to the family.

The sensational case was the subject of several true crime books and television documentaries over the years. In 2022, it was adapted into a musical titled "A Wicked Soul in Cherry Hill," which premiered in Los Angeles. Neulander was found unresponsive in his cell at New Jersey State Prison on April 17 and was pronounced dead at a Trenton hospital. The cause of his death has not been released.

Key Takeaways

  • Rabbi Fred Neulander, founder of Congregation M'kor Shalom, died in prison at 82.
  • Neulander was convicted of hiring hitmen to kill his wife, Carol Neulander, in 1994.
  • Neulander was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison, narrowly avoiding the death penalty.
  • The two hitmen, Len Jenoff and Paul Michael Daniels, were released from prison in 2014.
  • Neulander's murder case shocked the community and was the subject of true crime books and TV.