Trial Starts for Man Arrested in Wife's NYC Tub Death, Attempt to Frame Daughter - NBC New York

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Trial Starts for Man Arrested in Wife's NYC Tub Death, Attempt to Frame Daughter

Authorities allege Rod Covlin tried to pin his wife's death on a fake confession from their 9-year-old

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Roderick Covlin Murder Trial Set to Begin

    The trial for Roderick Covlin is set to begin in lower Manhattan. Covlin is accused of plotting to frame his daughter for killing his wife. Tracie Strahan is outside the courthouse with the latest information.

    (Published Monday, Jan. 14, 2019)

    What to Know

    • Jury selection starts Monday in the case of Rod Covlin, who is accused of his wife's 2009 death

    • Prosecutors say Covlin killed his wife -- and later tried to frame their 9-year-old daughter for her death

    • Shele Covlin was on the verge of cutting off her ex-husband from substantial sums of money, authorities say

    For more than 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 Nov. 2015, 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 pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder at his arraignment, and on Monday jury selection will finally begin in his murder trial.

    "We have said from the beginning that Mr. Covlin has been the focus of enormous pressure to be charged with these crimes," his attorney Robert Gottlieb said in 2015. "He is not guilty of the charges."

    Trial Starts for Man Accused of Framing Daughter

    [NY] Trial Starts for Man Accused of Framing Daughter
    Tracie Strahan reports.
    (Published Monday, Jan. 14, 2019)

    Shele Covlin, 47, was a money manager at UBS, part of a finance family in which she worked alongside her brother and father. Her 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 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.

    Man Arrested for Wife's Murder Nearly 6 Years Ago

    [NY] Man Arrested for Wife's Murder Nearly 6 Years Ago
    Roderick Covlin is accused of strangling his wife Shele a day before she was going to have him cut out of her will. Lori Bordonaro reports.
    (Published Monday, Nov. 2, 2015)

    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.

    According to court papers, as part of their case prosecutors will allege that Covlin faked a confession note from his 9-year-old daughter in an app on her phone in order to throw authorities off his trail. 

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