A New York man identified as a suspect in the murder of his estranged wife initially insisted that she be buried in Israel, which her rabbi says would have thwarted her exhumation and a resulting autopsy ruling that said she was strangled, sources said.
The rabbi and the brother-in-law of slain Shele Danishefsky also accused her husband, Rod Covlin, of pouring salt into her grieving family's wounds by placing a stone marker on her grave reading "Beloved mother and wife" -- despite the fact she had obtained a religious divorce, or get, from him before her 2009 slaying.
"Oh, no, he did it!" Danishefsky's sister, Eve Karstaedt, screamed Jan. 8 after seeing her sibling's grave marker for the first time in a Westchester County cemetery, according to her husband, Marc Karstaedt.
"Eve wept hysterically, and I tried to comfort her, but there were no words," Marc Karstaedt said.
He noted that Covlin had placed a stone that made no mention of Danishefsky's parents or siblings, as they had wanted and asked him to allow them to do for more than a year.
Rabbi Shaul Robinson, a confidante of the dead woman, said of the grave marker, "I knew that was absolutely not what Shele would have wanted on her grave. I cannot tell you how strongly she didn't want to have anything to do with [Covlin]."
Robinson added, "It was very wrong to maintain or imply that there was a loving marital relationship when she died, because there was not."
The revelations came after a recent series of events that ratcheted up pressure on Covlin, an unemployed backgammon whiz who remains the focus of a murder probe by the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
Covlin's high-powered lawyer, Robert Gottlieb, strongly denies that his 38-year-old client killed Danishefsky.
Danishefsky, 47, was found dead by her and Covlin's then-nine-year-old daughter, Anna, on New Year's Eve 2009 in the bathroom of her West 68th Street apartment -- just across the hall from Covlin's apartment. The mother of two, who was suing Covlin for civil divorce and had a restraining order against him, was scheduled to meet the next day with her lawyer to remove him from her will.
As Danishefsky's devastated family gathered at her home that day, Covlin "began talking about that his wife had always expressed an interest in being buried in Israel," according to Robinson, who was there. "He insisted that was her wish."
"I was surprised by it," Robinson said, noting that he knew Danishefsky and Covlin had twin girls who died at birth and were buried in the Hawthorne, N.Y., cemetery plot where Danishefsky was eventually buried -- and that neither Anna nor the couple's son, Myles, would be able to visit her grave if she was buried in Israel.
Robinson also said that if Danishefsky had been buried in Israel, religious law there would have almost certainly have barred any exhumation. And even if an autopsy would have been allowed, it would have been "even more difficult" because corpses there are buried in a shroud, without a coffin that would slow the effects of decomposition.