He was a family man turned maniac.
The failed stockbroker charged with the nearly 6-year-old murder of his estranged banker wife plotted to kidnap his teen daughter and marry her off in a diabolical bid to access her inheritance, a Manhattan prosecutor said Monday in court.
Rod Covlin, 42, is accused of slaying Shele Danishefsky, before allegedly hatching a depraved plot to plunder his teen daughter’s share of her estate.
“He comes up with a plan to kidnap his 13-year-old daughter, take her to Mexico and pay some Mexican $10,000 to marry her so she’ll no longer be a minor and he’ll get access to the money,” said Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos.
The prosecutor then played a 2013 audio recording of the suspect talking on the phone to an unidentified person about the marital scheme.
“I have a passport for Anna,” he can be heard saying. “I’m not sure that for 10,000, there’s not some 18- year-old who would be willing to marry her and remain married and obviously not live with her but like whatever and like sign a pre-nup or whatever.”
He then discusses hiring a Mexican law firm “to make sure it’s done properly.”
During the bail hearing, prosecutors continued to lob stomach-churning allegations against the the failed stockbroker.
Months earlier, Covlin’s parents had petitioned the court for sole custody of the children, then 12 and 6, accusing their father of abuse, Bogdanos said.
His mom, Carol, and dad, Dave, said that Covlin responded to defiance from his son, then 6, “with appalling usage of force that could easily have resulted in serious injury.”
The parents also said that Covlin had “violently assaulted” both of them in front of the children.
Covlin had already been locked out of Shele’s $4 million fortune, which had been placed in a trust during the pendency of a wrongful-death suit filed against him in 2011.
He agreed to make no further claims on the money unless the district attorney’s office confirmed he was no longer a suspect in the case or 6 years had elapsed.
He was arrested just two months shy of the 6-year mark on Nov. 1st after he’d blabbed to a girlfriend about the crime and she went to authorities, according to law-enforcement sources.
Had he gotten his hands on the dough, he was only entitled to a portion of its interest, approximately $30,000 to $50,000 a year, said defense lawyer Robert Gottlieb.
In another sick twist, Bogdanos told Justice Bonnie Wittner that Covlin had “poked” several adolescent girls as young as 11 on Facebook in 2012.
“Please stop poking me or I will report you as a pedophile so watch out!” one girl replied.
The prosecutor then raised another piece of mysterious evidence against Covlin that, “involves the solicited sexual abuse of a minor.” The details of the allegation, however, were not revealed in open court.
Bogdanos conceded that the case was entirely circumstantial but strong enough to deny Covlin bail.
Leading up to the murder, Covlin and Shele were in the midst of a bitter divorce.
Shele, 47, was the breadwinner and Covlin was unemployed, sponging off her to pursue his backgammon career, Bogdanos said.
Although he had moved across the hall of their Upper West Side apartment building to ease the transition on their 9-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son, a judge had soon issued a full order of protection barring him from contacting his estranged wife.
Covlin started a campaign of harassment against Shele, sneaking into her apartment, calling her workplace to report her as a drug addict ad threatening to call the IRS to falsely claim her family was evading taxes, Bogdanos said.
Then in July of 2009, he accused Shele of sexually abusing their 3-year-old son. As a result, the court ordered that he could only have supervised visits with their children.
The situation became more dire as Covlin’s funds dried up and Shele, despite a court order, hadn’t paid $50,000 in his lawyer’s fees.
On New Year’s Eve 2009, the couple’s young daughter discovered Shele dead in the bathtub. Initially, Shele was buried but her body was later exhumed for an autopsy that determined she had died from a neck compression “consistent with a chokehold.”
She had suffered abrasions to her face, hemorrhaging of her right eye, bruising and cuts on her lips and dislocation of two ribs, Bogdanos said.
The prosecutor also said there was evidence that Covlin had tampered not only with witnesses but the crime scene.
“He was desperate, and the financial situation, your Honor, that the defendant was facing at the time, coupled with the custody battle, was truly moving over him like a Damocles sword,” Bogdanos said. “Based on the evidence, the only person who had the unparalleled motive, the unfettered opportunity, the undeniable means is the defendant.”
But Gottlieb called the case “weak” and “circumstantial” and objected to the prosecution’s characterization of the alleged kidnapping plot. “It was not to gain money, it was not to kidnap somebody, it was not to leave the jurisdiction, it was to protect his children,” the lawyer said.
The judge denied Covlin bail as several members of Shele’s family watched from the gallery. “Who else had the motive? Who else had opportunity?” asked Justice Bonnie Wittner. “If you credit the medical examiner’s finding and the autopsy, it’s very powerful evidence that it wasn’t an accident.”
The judge also signed an order barring Covlin from receiving any visitors in jail other than his attorney without prior approval over concerns of witness tampering.
“The past few years have been brutally painful and gut-wrenching in many respects,” said Marc Karstaedt the husband of Shele’s sister Eve.
“We’ve had these feelings of inexorable loss for our beloved Shele and her passing has left a gaping loss in each of our lives from which we’re still suffering and continue to suffer almost 6 years after she passed.”
If convicted, Covlin faces 25 years to life behind bars.