Rabbi serving murder sentence, dies in prison

The assembly of the world's largest Menorah concludes in celebration of Hanukkah in New York City in 2018. A New Jersey rabbi convicted of killing his wife has died in prison. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

April 21 (UPI) -- A New Jersey rabbi who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for hiring a pair of hitmen to kill his wife has been found dead in a prison infirmary, officials said late Friday.

Fred Neulander, 82, was found unresponsive by correctional officers inside the New Jersey State Prison on Wednesday, according to NBC 10. Staff members who found Neulander performed CPR before he was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m. The cause of his death has not been released, a report said.

Neulander was convicted and sentenced to prison in 2002, a year after his first trial ended in a hung jury, for paying the two men $30,000 to kill his wife and mother of the couple's three children, 52-year-old Carol Neulander, in 1994. The killers beat Carol Neulander to death in the family's Cherry Hill home, bludgeoning her to death with a metal pipe, court documents showed.

Fred Neulander was the senior rabbi of a Cherry Hill synagogue at the time, and Carol was the co-founder of Cherry Hill's Classic Cake bakery, a boutique shop in town.

During Neulander's murder trial, one of the hitmen testified that Fred Neulander wanted his wife dead so that he could carry on an affair with a Philadelphia radio personality.

The murder plan entailed creating the impression that there had been a robbery in the home, but investigators said then that nearly nothing inside the house had been distributed, which they said at the time seemed unusual.

A police report said Carol Neulander was talking on the phone with the couple's daughter Rebecca Neulander Rockoff when the hitmen entered the family home.

A state appeals court rejected a request to overturn Fred Neulander's sentence in 2016.

Neulander was the founding rabbi of Congregation M'kor Shalom, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Cherry Hill. That synagogue closed in 2022 after merging with another synagogue.

Neulander had served 22 of his 30-year prison sentence at the time of his death.

The case gripped the Philadelphia area and gained a popular following on cable television, inspired docu-dramas, was featured on crime shows, and even inspired a musical.

The Neulander family, former congregants, and synagogue officials protested the show before the production was eventually suspended.