true crime

Rod Covlin murdered his wife in cold blood. Then he tried to frame their 9-year-old daughter.

It started out as a whirlwind romance.

When Shele Danishefsky, 36, locked eyes with Rod Covlin, 25, across a crowded, Jewish singles party in a New York bar, she was smitten.

The couple decided to elope to Las Vegas that very night but were talked out of it by Shele’s sister, Eve.

Instead, they got married just a few months later, unfazed by the 11 year age gap. Two years later they had a daughter, Anna, followed by a son, Myles.

But after the children were born, things began to sour.

While Shele was a successful executive at an investment bank, Rod was a failed stockbroker who seemed more interested in practising martial arts and playing backgammon than finding another job.

In an interview with US TV show, Dateline, Shele’s sister Eve later recalled: “She [Shele] said, ‘He doesn’t get a job. He goes to the gym twice a day, and he’s just hanging around the house.’ It was frustrating her.”

The New York Times reported Shele had also confided in friends about Rod’s ‘erratic’ and ‘abusive’ behaviour. In January 2009, in a message to Eve, Shele wrote that she was “very scared that at some point in the future all his anger and rage may result in something bad happening — he really can’t control his temper.”

Then, on their 10th wedding anniversary, Rod asked Shele to consider an open marriage, the Daily Mail reported.

Disgusted, Shele rejected the idea flat out. Instead, she filed for divorce. Rod moved into an apartment across the hall so he could still have access to the kids.

The split got ugly, fast.

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Rod, desperate for a share of his wife’s $7.4million fortune and custody of the kids, tried to discredit Shele, accusing her sexually abusing their son and taking drugs.

Shele removed Rod as a beneficiary of her retirement fund and planned to remove him from her will.

But the day before she was due to sign the papers – on New Year’s Eve 2009 – Shele was found dead.

Her daughter, Anna, then nine, discovered her mum’s lifeless body in the bathtub in the early hours of the morning.

She had a wound to her head and the water in the tub was red with her blood.

Anna ran to get Rod from his apartment and he attempted CPR before calling emergency services but it was too late. Rod told police Shele must have slipped in the bathtub and banged her head.

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For religious reasons her Orthodox Jewish family objected to an autopsy and she was buried two days later.

But the police had their suspicions about Rod. For one thing, he’d told them he’d dragged Shele from the bathtub yet his clothing was bone dry.

For another, the day of her death, Shele’s hairdresser had come over to give her a straightening treatment and instructed her to keep her hair dry for 72 hours afterwards, as reported by the Daily Mail.

Why would she have decided to have a bath?

Eventually, as suspicions mounted, Shele’s family agreed that her body should be exhumed so an autopsy could be performed. The examination revealed she had in fact been strangled.

Shele’s family filed a wrongful death suit, freezing her estate so Rod couldn’t get his hands on her cash.

Meanwhile, prosecutors gathered circumstantial evidence and witness testimonies.

They spoke to Debra Oles, who had been dating Rod Covlin before his wife’s death. She said Rod had told her his wife’s death was an accident.

“My very first thought was, that’s a really weird coincidence that basically solves all his problems,” Debra recalled.

Then police discovered an Apple note on Anna’s computer.

It read: ‘All of these years I have been so incredibly afraid and guilty about the night my mum died.

‘I lied. She didn’t just slip. That day we got into a fight about her dating … I got mad so I pushed her, but it couldn’t have been that hard!

‘I didn’t mean to hurt her! I swear! But she fell and I heard a terrible noise and the water started turning red and I tried to pull her head up but she remained still…’

Anna hadn’t written the note – Rod accessed her computer and typed it out, in an attempt to frame his then nine-year-old daughter for her mother’s murder.

In 2015, six years after Shele died, Rod Covlin was charged with her murder, which he denied, maintaining it was an accident.

The court heard he had let himself into her apartment with the spare key, had put her in a chokehold, before strangling her and dumping her in the bath to make it look like an accidental drowning.

“His primary motive for killing his wife was pure, unadulterated greed,” the prosecutor said.

Rod Covlin was found guilty and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Despite his attempts to frame her, Anna stood by her father.

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