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Man On Trial For Murdering Wife Encouraged His Son To Falsely Claim She'd Molested Him, Prosecutor Says

An ex-girlfriend of Roderick Covlin's also took the stand to tearfully recount a "psychotic" exchange she had with him, where she claims he told her he wanted to kill his wife, Shele Danishefsky.

By Jill Sederstrom
Roderick Covlin

A man on trial for killing his wealthy wife encouraged the couple’s young son, who was just 2 years old at the time, to falsely accuse his mother of molesting him just months before she was found dead in a bathtub, prosecutors say.

Roderick Covlin, 45, is accused of killing his wife and mother of his two children, Shele Danishefsky, on Dec. 31, 2009 and then staging the scene to make it appear like an accident in an attempt to gain access to her $5.4 million fortune.

But prosecutors believe Covlin’s alleged schemes began before months before the wealth manager was found dead.

They claim Covlin coached his 2-year-old son Myles to say Danishefsky had been molesting him then took the young boy to Columbia Presbyterian hospital to report the supposed abuse on July 8, 2009, failing to return Myles and his older sister Anna to their mother at the end of his scheduled custody time, The New York Post reports.

When Covlin failed to show up with the children at 8 p.m. that night, Danishefsky frantically called police.

“She threw herself into my arms, hugged me and began to weep uncontrollably,” New York City Police Deparment Sgt. Crystallee Vargas testified in the trial. “She was pale, I remember her staring at me and just crying and shaking.”

Vargas said that she was so worried for the woman she later returned to check on her a second time, The New York Daily News reports.

“I just felt nervous. I felt worried for her,” she said.

After doctors and the Administration for Children’s Services investigated the allegations, they concluded the claims of abuse were unfounded and the children were eventually returned to their mother around 5:30 a.m., the Post reports.

Prosecutors contend just a month after the bogus molestation claim, Covlin also allegedly confessed his desire to kill his wife to a woman he was dating at the time.

Patricia Swensen took the stand Monday to recount a romantic weekend gone bad to jurors. She said she went out of town with Covlin, whom she had met online, to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in August 2009 but the trip took a dark turn when he allegedly told her his estranged wife had looted all their money and that he wanted her dead.

“I told him he needed to go to a psychiatrist,” Swensen said through tears, according to The New York Post. “He was getting so mad at me, more and more angry. He said, ‘Mind your own business!’ and was talking really loud.”

She also told jurors Covlin had also talked about killing his father-in-law, who he claimed controlled all the money.

“His face, his eyes — they were like glossy … [he was] like almost like psychotic, the way he’s talking,” she said, according to the Daily News.

She was reportedly so terrified by their exchange that she made up an excuse to skip out on the rest of the weekend and head home early.

On cross examination, the defense questioned Swenson, an admitted alcoholic, about her drinking and asked whether she’d ever blacked out or had a hangover.

“The only time I felt like a zombie was the next morning after my date with your client!,” she said, according to The Post. “I believe he drugged and raped me!”

After the explosive claim, Swensen began to sob in court and the judge ordered the jury to disregard the accusation.

Defense attorney Robert Gottlieb also asked Swensen whether she remembered telling Covlin that she knew someone in the mafia who had offered to “off your husband,” who she was going through a contentious divorce with at the time.

“Oh my God, no, Jesus Christ, no!,” she vehemently said. “That’s a lie! Unbelievable! Wow.”

[Photo: Getty Images]

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