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Crime News Mastermind Of Murder

Man Coerces Daughter To Help Him Kill His Ex-Wife And Stage Crime As A Suicide

An investigation into Michele Neurauter's apparent suicide led to the discovery of a family conspiracy and a dad’s diabolical ultimatum.

By Joe Dziemianowicz

In Corning, New York, detectives faced a twisted family plot while investigating a woman’s apparent suicide.

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Catch up on Mastermind of Murder on Peacock or the Oxygen App.

The case began on August 28, 2017 with a 911 call from a neighbor. He told the dispatcher Michele Neurauter, a 46-year-old mother of three, was standing motionless at the bottom of a stairway in her house.

New York State police forced their way into the residence, where they discovered “a gruesome scene,” Mark Procopio, a retired detective with the New York State Police, told “Mastermind of Murder,” airing Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen. 

A cord around Michele’s neck was tied to a railing.

“She had been hung. There is no question about that,” said Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker. “It looked like a suicide.”

Divorced after 25 years of marriage, Michele was starting life over with renewed vigor. She had her children, faith, work, personal interests, and community. Friends rejected the idea of suicide. 

As detectives tried to track down Michele’s 14-year-old daughter, Charlotte, who lived with her mom, the forensics team discovered suspicious ligature marks and scratches on the victim’s face. 

“Perhaps it was a last minute panic where she didn’t want to kill herself,” said Allison Regan, a retired detective with the New York State Police.

The autopsy revealed that Michele died on the night of August 26 or the next morning. The case of death was asphyxia, while the manner of death was undetermined. 

Efforts to reach Lloyd Neurauter, Michele’s ex-husband, failed. But the couple’s daughter, Karrie, 19, then a student at Rochester Institute of Technology, called police. She said she learned of her mom’s death from friends and that Charlotte was with her.

Karrie explained she had driven back to Corning late Saturday night to spend one last night in her bedroom at home. Her mother freaked out and accused her of always taking her dad’s side, CBS News reported. Karrie took Charlotte, who’d been sleeping, back to her dorm room with her. Charlotte confirmed her sister’s account.

“Karrie described the relationship between her mother and father as having been a crummy marriage, followed by a bitter divorce, followed by a long legal battle,” said Procopio. 

Lloyd lived in New Jersey and was trying to get custody of Charlotte. Could that ongoing battle be tied to Michele’s death?

Karrie said her father was in California and shared his cell phone number with police. Over the phone, Lloyd told detectives he had been in upstate New York on the night of August 26 and the next morning, saying he had been at a hotel in Rochester to visit Karrie. After that, he drove home to New Jersey and flew to California.

Lloyd and Karrie Neurauter featured in Mastermind of Murder

Lloyd told authorities that his daughters said Michele was prone to “escalating outbursts.”

When Lloyd returned to the East Coast he met with investigators, where he claimed his ex-wife had violent and out-of-control “tantrums.” He offered receipts for his whereabouts and movements on August 26 to 28. Using cell phone records, detectives confirmed Lloyd's alibi. 

Weeks passed with little movement in the case. But when investigators reviewed photos of the crime scene, they observed that Michele’s bed was pushed out of place and a faint mark was on a wall. That mark was a smear of Michele’s blood.

Investigators got a second opinion on Michele’s death, and a medical examiner in Albany County ruled out suicide. Damage to her throat was unique to manual strangulation, so her death was determined to be a homicide. 

Detectives dug deeper into the family dynamics. According to Michele’s friend and attorney Susan Betzjitomir, Michele’s relationship with her kids was good until Lloyd “started to poison them against her.” 

Over time Karrie got to a point, Betzjitomir said, where “she hated her mother.”

Investigators turned to phone records. Karrie had told them she was at her mom’s house for about 15 minutes the night she fled with Charlotte. Evidence showed she was actually in Corning for two hours — time enough to commit murder.

But the theory raised more questions. Could Karrie have overpowered her mom by herself? Did she have help? Was it Charlotte? Lloyd? An outsider?

Detectives turned to a basic question: Why would someone kill Michele? They found that Lloyd was $100,000 in debt. Much of that was due to child support and alimony. They also learned that Charlotte was the beneficiary of Michele’s $200,000 life insurance policy. 

Surveillance cameras at  the hotel in Rochester where Lloyd stayed revealed that Lloyd wasn’t in the hotel at the time the murder took place. Detectives also noted that his phone wasn’t used that night.

“We realized that his phone was in Rochester all night,” according to investigators. “He wasn’t.”

A new theory emerged: Lloyd and Karrie teamed up to kill Michele.

They decided to wire the pairs' phones. Five months after the murder, detectives questioned Karrie and Lloyd separately. In New Jersey, Lloyd denied traveling to Corning to murder his ex-wife. When he learned that Karrie was a suspect, he failed to come to her defense, according to “Mastermind of Murder.”

In Rochester, Karrie emphasized her mom’s instability in a way that seemed “rehearsed,” according to investigators. But eventually, Karrie cracked. She said her father insisted he was broke and delivered an ultimatum.

"He said, 'I’m either going to kill myself or I gotta kill your mother,'” Baker told "Mastermind Of Murder."

In the taped interview, Karrie said: “I had to choose.” She chose her father.

Lloyd gained control of his daughter years ago in part by alienating her from her mother, investigators believed. 

Instead of arresting Karrie, they let her leave the interview. As expected, she called her father. He asked her how things were going, and she said not great. The conversation then went dead. 

In a shocking turn of events, Lloyd went to the roof of a parking garage and threatened to jump to his death. He was eventually subdued. In Rochester, Karrie was found safe at her apartment, ruling out the idea of a father-daughter suicide pact.

On January 24, 2018, Lloyd and Karrie Neurauter were charged with Michele’s murder. Karrie pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Lloyd. 

She told investigators what happened the night of the murder after she was forced to make that terrible life-and-death choice. Karrie said her mother was shocked that Lloyd was in her house. After he choked Michele, she helped her father stage the body to look like a suicide. 

DNA evidence confirmed that Lloyd had contact with his wife and her clothing.

Karrie said Charlotte didn’t know her father had hidden in the trunk when they drove to Rochester that night.

In December 2018, Lloyd Neurauter was sentenced to life in prison without parole, the Star Gazette reported. The same month Karrie was sentenced to one to three years for second degree manslaughter. She was granted parole in January 2020.

To learn more about the case including how the Corning community has honored Michele Neurauter, watch “Mastermind of Murder,” airing Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen or stream episodes here.

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