The Dark Tale of the Playboy Rabbi: Murder, Mystery, and a Community Shattered

The Dark Tale of the Playboy Rabbi: Murder, Mystery, and a Community Shattered

Well this one was interesting. I hope you guys enjoy the story, it is more of a ‘mom’ case I guess. I wouldn’t have even heard of it if it wasn’t for the recent news that we dug up on Headlines. However, this case has most of the eyeball grabbing features: the wealthy couple, a religious figure, a “rip off your clothes” affair, a cover-up; there’s even an alleged CIA connection. But, to me, it’s still kind of a ‘mom’ case (the case your mom would talk about to her girlfriends.)

It all started in a quiet and upscale neighborhood of Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Fred Neulander returned home late from a choir meeting at his synagogue, M’kor Shalom, where he had been helping prepare for an important end-of-year event. The congregation had grown significantly under his leadership, from a few families to over 900. Finding the front door unlocked and the house eerily silent, Neulander called out for his wife, Carol, only to discover her lifeless body on the living room floor, her face drained of blood, surrounded by the radiating spray patterns of her own blood across the room. 😱

Here’s what ol’ Freddy told the boys in blue: “When I walked into the foyer, I could see that she was lying on the floor, so I just threw my stuff, the green raincoat and a brown quilt bag and my keys ... I just threw it on the ground and then I went over to her and I just looked, and it was so repulsing and frightening to me—that’s when I called 911. I didn’t touch her. I don’t know if I was playing in your job,” Fred said to the detective, “but you don’t touch a body and, I don’t know, I just, it was very scary for me, and I didn’t know anything, I didn’t know what to do. What I really wanted to do was to get a blanket and cover her, but I didn’t."

Sweet soul 💕

Carol Neulander.

Carol Neulander was not only the "First Lady" of the M’kor Shalom congregation but also a successful entrepreneur. She had identified a niche for kosher-style cakes in the early '90s and founded Classic Cake, which quickly expanded to three locations. Despite her success, the simplicity of her home's security—a mere lock on the front door—would tragically play into the hands of her killer.

From Broken Vows by Eric Francis, Carol’s blood seemed to be everywhere throughout the room. A large pool of it was spreading out on the white carpet surrounding her head, and the whipping action of the pipe had flung even more of it outward in a series of arcs that had spattered clear across the room. The patterns of blood droplets stretched ten to fifteen feet in places across the floor, the glass coffee table, the window ledge, the walls ... even the ceiling.

The Bathroom man

The initial investigation into Carol Neulander's murder was fraught with confusion and dead ends. Fred Neulander's alibi seemed solid; he had been at the synagogue and had witnesses to corroborate his whereabouts. However, the lack of physical evidence at the crime scene and the peculiar circumstances surrounding Carol's death raised suspicions. Notably, nothing was stolen from the home, and there were no signs of sexual assault, suggesting that robbery or random violence was unlikely the motive. The case took a bizarre turn when Rebecca Neulander, the daughter of Fred and Carol, mentioned a strange encounter her mother had with a man who had previously asked to use their bathroom, dubbing him the "Bathroom Man." This clue would later become a critical piece of the puzzle in unraveling the murder.

The steamy affair

Elaine Soncini

As the investigation deepened, a shocking revelation came to light: Fred Neulander was leading a double life. Known affectionately within his congregation as the "Playboy Rabbi," Neulander was revealed to have been engaged in multiple extramarital affairs, including a year-long relationship with Elaine Soncini, a popular radio show host. These affairs, hidden beneath the veneer of his respected position in the community, would become a focal point in the motive for Carol Neulander's murder.

The Murder-for-Hire Plot

Len Jenoff, the bathroom man.

The breakthrough in the case came when Leonard Jenoff, a man with a fabricated past of espionage and heroism, confessed to the murder of Carol Neulander. Jenoff, along with his accomplice Paul Michael Daniels, was hired by Fred Neulander to carry out the hit on his wife. The motive? To free Neulander from his marriage, allowing him to pursue his affairs unencumbered. Jenoff's confession revealed the depths of deception and manipulation that Neulander was willing to engage in, betraying not only his family but his entire congregation.

The Aftermath

Fred Neulander was arrested on September 10, 1998, four years after the murder of his wife. The case against him was built on the testimonies of his accomplices and the revelation of his affairs, painting a picture of a man who was willing to go to extreme lengths to rid himself of his wife. The trial and subsequent conviction of Fred Neulander sent shockwaves through the Cherry Hill community and beyond, challenging the trust and faith many had placed in their spiritual leader.The murder of Carol Neulander is a stark reminder of the complexities and darkness that can lie beneath the surface of seemingly respectable individuals and communities. It is a tale of betrayal, murder, and the unraveling of a family, leaving an indelible mark on all those touched by the tragedy. This case, with its twists and turns, continues to fascinate and horrify, serving as a cautionary tale about the dangers of deceit and the devastating impact of one man's actions on his family and community.