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An unemployed stockbroker found guilty of killing his wealthy wife just one day before she planned to cut him out of the will has appealed his conviction, alleging misconduct by the prosecutor.
Roderick Covlin, was convicted of murdering his estranged wife Shele Danishefsky in 2019—a decade after her lifeless body was discovered in a bloody bathtub at her apartment on New Year’s Eve 2009.
Covlin has now asked the Appellate Division, First Department to throw out the murder conviction, alleging that Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bogdanos discussed a new theory of the crime in his closing arguments that hadn’t been mentioned during trial, according to The New York Daily News.
“The People had presented no evidence to prove that (Covlin) was ever in (Danishefsky’s) apartment at any time during the evening of December 30, 2009 before 7:04 a.m.,” the appeal obtained by the newspaper said. “To deal with this flaw, ADA Bogdanos abandoned his original theory and created a new theory which he revealed for the first time on his summation.”
It took the jury two days of deliberations to Covlin, an avid backgammon player, of killing his wife amid a bitter divorce and custody battle involving the couple’s two children.
The death was initially believed to be an accident and Danishefsky's Orthodox family declined to have an autopsy conducted for religion reasons; but her body was later exhumed after suspicions about her death began to grow, according to local station WNBC.
After an autopsy, the medical examiner determined she had been strangled and ruled her death a homicide.
Covlin said the couple’s daughter, who was 9 years old at the time, discovered her body in the tub on the morning of Dec. 31, 2009, The New York Post reports. Covlin had been living across the hall from Danishefsky at the time of her death and told authorities he performed CPR in an unsuccessful attempt to revive her.
Danishefsky, a senior vice president of investment bank UBS, had been planning to remove her estranged husband as a beneficiary of her $5.2 million fortune the day after she died.
Prosecutors had argued that Covlin wanted to get rid of his wife before she had a chance to remove him from the will.
Bogdanos suggested toward the end of the trial that Covlin may have entered the apartment a second time to clean up blood spatter on some bedsheets using seltzer he had purchased and pointed to a wet stain he said appeared to be in the photos.
“Why is it wet right here on the bed?” he asked at the time, according to The New York Daily News. “You have that photo, blow it up. Don’t take my word for it. Look for the wet stain right on the bed.”
Covlin’s attorneys have argued in the recent appellate filings that Bogdanos had not suggested this theory during trial and did not acknowledge that investigators had not found any blood stains on the sheets.
“Bogdanos claimed for the first time on summation that appellant had attacked (Danishefsky) while she was on her bed, hitting her in the face and causing her to bleed into the sheet, comforter and blanket. He then alleged that appellant, while administering the choke hold, dragged Ms. Covlin, who was bleeding and struggling, to the bathroom and placed only her face into the tub,” the filing stated.
Covlin received the maximum sentence of 25 years to life despite the pleas of his children, who had begged for leniency.
“Please give him a light sentence so I have him back in my life,” his son Myles told the judge, according to The New York Post. “I love him so much.”
But Danishefsky’s family members had a vastly different perspective of Covlin, calling him an “evil predator” and “menace to society.”
“He’s a killer, he’s a terrorist. … He must rot there never to see the light of day,” the victim's younger brother Philip Danishefsky told the judge, according to the outlet.
While Danishefsky was alive, Covlin had allegedly called her employer and falsely accused her of a substance abuse problem and also filed a false claim of child sexual abuse amid the couple’s heated custody battle, according to a statement from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
“Shele Danishefsky Covlin had a soaring career, two adoring children, and the love and respect of her many friends, colleagues, and relatives. But Ms. Danishefsky also had a devastating secret: she was being psychologically tortured by Roderick Covlin,” District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said shortly after Covlin's conviction.
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