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South Jersey

November 3,1994
Wife of Cherry Hill rabbi found bludgeoned to death

Courier-Post staff

CHERRY HILL -- A local businesswoman, the wife of a Cherry Hill rabbi, was bludgeoned to death Tuesday night, according to authorities, who say they have "substantial leads" in the grisly crime that has stunned neighbors.

Carol Neulander, 52, was found dead inside her home in the 200 block of High Gate Lane in the Wexford Leas development at about 9:20 p.m. Tuesday, Camden County Prosecutor Edward F. Borden said at a press conference Wednesday.

Her husband, Rabbi Fred J. Neulander, found her body when he came home from Congregation M'Kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, where he is senior rabbi.

The victim, known as a straight-talking woman who spoke her mind, was found lying face down in a pool of blood in the living room of the couple's two-story home. She was pronounced dead at the scene by the county medical examiner's office.

Borden said Mrs. Neulander, a woman of medium build who was just over 5 feet tall, had been beaten on the head numerous times with an unknown blunt object. The autopsy concluded she died from "multiple incidents of blunt trauma to the head." Authorities know how many times she was struck, but Borden would not disclose the number of blows.

The prosecutor said there was no sign of forced entry into the home and no murder weapon was found. There were signs of a struggle, but the prosecutor declined to describe them.

Both Borden and Cherry Hill Police Chief William Moffett said authorities want to contact two brothers who live in the area, Daniel and Frank Spanolia, in connection with the crime. The two were paroled from state prison about two months ago for a series of burglaries committed in the area several years ago.

"They are on intensive supervisory probation. We've been alerted by neighbors about them. Attention to them is part of the investigation. I wouldn't classify them as particular targets of investigation," Borden said.

Police and prosecutor's investigators were at the scene Wednesday, interviewing neighbors and conducting an extensive search for evidence that had them combing through leaves on the heavily wooded lot and picking through the family's recycling bucket. They borrowed ladders from a Cherry Hill firetruck to check the roof for clues.

"Given the fact that our investigation is just about 14 hours old, it appears that robbery may have been the motive. We have some very substantial leads to follow up," Borden said at a mid-morning press conference Wednesday at the Cherry Hill municipal building. He wouldn't elaborate on those leads.

Borden did say Mrs. Neulander had been taking home the day's receipts from the Classic Cake Co., which she managed, since the bakery's Voorhees outlet was robbed Oct. 3. She was the founder of the Classic Cake Co. of Audubon and Voorhees. She sold the bakery several years ago, but still worked as its wholesale manager.

Borden declined to say if Mrs. Neulander had any receipts from the Eagle Plaza bakery with her Tuesday night. Authorities were still trying to determine if anything was taken from the home.

Sources close to the investigation said Mrs. Neulander's purse was missing. Other sources said police have determined the crime was committed during a period of roughly two hours between 7 p.m. to shortly after 9 p.m.

That determination was pieced together from interviews with the family, neighbors and bakery employees.

Renee Stockman, retail manager at the Voorhees store, said Mrs. Neulander was still at work when she left at about 5 p.m. Tuesday, which she described as a normal working day. Neighbors say Mrs. Neulander had not arrived home by 6 p.m. They saw her husband and son in the house around that time. The family members said they left the house by 7 p.m., Mr. Neulander to return to the synagogue, and their son Matthew to go to work. Mr. Neulander's emergency call to police was recorded at 9:20 p.m.

Cherry Hill police arrived at the scene at 9:22 p.m., followed by the ambulance squad from the Ashland Ambulance Squad. The Neulanders' son Matthew -- an emergency medical technician there -- was at work when the call came in for an injured person at his home.

His unit and another from Deer Park responded. When he arrived, police -- knowing his mother lay dead inside -- kept him outside.

The family has not been allowed to return to the home since the killing so that officials can preserve the crime scene, Borden said. There's no indication when they will be allowed to return.

The Neulanders had lived in this upscale neighborhood of well-kept homes since 1975. They have three children. Only Matthew lives at home. Son Benjamin, who attends the University of Michigan, flew home Wednesday. Daughter Rebecca lives in Philadelphia.

Bakery retail manager Stockman recalled Mrs. Neulander as "a wonderful person who was always encouraging, supportive and behind the business 100 percent. We will miss her."

Cherry Hill Mayor Susan Bass Levin, who knows the family, was called to the house Tuesday night.

"The entire community mourns their loss. The Neulanders are a close family. I'm sure they are pulling together in this time of need," Levin said. "She was very active in both the neighborhood community and the temple's community."

Mrs. Neulander served as a volunteer on the Camden County Child Placement Review Board and was active in her neighborhood and with M'Kor Shalom.

"She was a very caring and giving person," the mayor said. This is "a terrible tragedy."

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