Husband Arrested In Orthodox Jewish Wife’s Death In NYC Tub, After 5 Years

New York – For nearly five years after a finance executive was found strangled in her Manhattan bathtub, suspicion swirled around her estranged husband.

But Roderick Covlin denied involvement, and law enforcement authorities eyed but never accused him until Monday, when he was arrested on a murder charge in a case full of dramatic twists: a death initially seen as accidental and later ruled a homicide, an exhumed body, a divorce that was reaching a crucial point and a trail of accusations in civil court papers.

Covlin’s lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, declined to comment ahead of Covlin’s arraignment. Gottlieb has previously said there was “no basis to even consider charging Mr. Covlin with the tragic death of his wife.”

Shele Covlin, 47, was a money manager at UBS, part of a finance family in which she worked alongside her brother and father. Her 42-year-old husband, known as Rod, had been a trader and was a noted figure in the backgammon world, having helped found the U.S. Backgammon Federation.

After years of marriage and two children, their relationship was falling apart. He had moved into an apartment across the hall in their Upper West Side building, and they were embroiled in a bitter divorce, according to court papers filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court, which handles estates.

And Shele (pronounced SHEE’-lah) Covlin was due to meet an attorney on Jan. 1, 2010 — the day after she died — to cut her husband out of her will. He stood to get half her roughly $4 million estate, with the rest going to their children.

“She was fearful for her life, believed Rod intended to kill her, and there was some urgency to make changes in her will,” documents filed in Surrogate’s Court say.

Then their daughter, 9 at the time, found Shele Covlin lifeless in the tub.

With the only obvious sign of trauma a cut on the back of her head, investigators initially thought she had slipped and fallen. After her Orthodox Jewish family objected to an autopsy for religious reasons, the cause of her death was listed as undetermined.

But as an investigation began, her body was exhumed and autopsied with her family’s permission. Medical examiners concluded in April 2010 she had been strangled.
And her relatives — and later, a court agency — said Roderick Covlin was to blame.

Her father scorned his son-in-law as “an animal” in a newspaper interview, and the family fought him for custody of the children. His guardianship was eventually suspended after information on the criminal investigation surfaced.

And the Manhattan public administrator, a government figure who handles complicated estates and was named temporary custodian of Shele Covlin’s, filed a 2011 wrongful death suit accusing her husband of killing her.

Roderick Covlin, meanwhile, has been living in his parents’ house in suburban New Rochelle, New York.

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    NEW YORK — A 42 year old man long suspected in the death of his estranged wife in their Upper West Side condo in 2009 was finally charged with her murder.

    Roderick Covlin was arrested Sunday at the Metro North station in Scarsdale and appeared briefly in Manhattan Criminal Court Monday.

    Covlin pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, said his client was stunned by the arrest and said there can be no credible evidence, because his client did not kill 47-year old Shele Covlin.

    Her body was found in their West 68th Street apartment on New Years Eve 2009.

    Her body was found face down in the bathtub by their nine-year-old daughter. But initial interviews of her by detectives may have been tainted by her father’s influence, authorities say.

    “In the back of his mind he did not know this day was going to come because right from the beginning he said he did not commit the crime,” said Gottlieb. “And people should understand right from the beginning he cooperated with police, with investigators. He spoke to them for hours on end. So yes he’s stunned because based on the cooperation, based on what he told them, based on the lack of credible evidence, he never thought it would result in him being formally charged with murder.”

    An autopsy was not immediately done for religious reasons, and the body was badly decomposed by the time they got a rabbi’s blessing to exhume the body three months later.

    The death was initially believed to be an accidental slip-and-fall, and her body was buried the day after her death.

    Friends later revealed that she told them her estranged husband threatened to kill her, and that she feared for her life. Embroiled in a bitter custody battle, she obtained an order of protection against him.

    In July 2010, the medical examiner ruled her death a homicide by strangulation.

    Covlin was the prime suspect in the case, but attempts to prosecute were delayed because of lack of forensics.

    He was named in a wrongful death suit by his estranged wife’s estate last month, alleging that Covlin “intentionally, deliberately, willfully, wantonly, maliciously, brutally and without provocation or just cause did strangle, choke, strike, injure, assault, abuse, beat and murder” his wife.

    The civil suit, filed just before the statute of limitations was to expire, was intended to prevent him from inheriting a share of wife’s estate, which was estimated to be worth at least $1.5 million.

    The husband now lives in New Rochelle.

    Shele Covlin, 47, was a money manager at UBS, part of a finance family in which she worked alongside her brother and father. Her 42-year-old husband, known as Rod, had been a trader and was a noted figure in the backgammon world, having helped found the U.S. Backgammon Federation.

    Shele Covlin was due to meet an attorney on Jan. 1, 2010 – the day after she died – to cut her husband out of her will. He stood to get half her roughly $4 million estate, with the rest going to their children.

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