(NEW YORK) — Nearly two years after UBS wealth manager and mother Shele Danishefsky Covlin was found dead in a mysterious drowning at her New York City apartment, her estranged husband was named in a wrongful death lawsuit.
In an unexpected twist, former stock trader Rod Covlin, who has never faced criminal charges, now stands accused of strangling Danishefsky Covlin to death.
The Manhattan Public Administrator, a government office that handles estate disputes, filed a wrongful death civil suit this week, alleging that Rod Covlin, who was in the midst of a bitter divorce and custody battle with Danishefsky Covlin at the time of her death, “intentionally, deliberately, willfully, wantonly, maliciously, brutally and without provocation or just cause did strangle, choke, strike, injure, assault, abuse, beat, and murder” his wife.
The civil suit, filed just before the statute of limitations was to expire, was intended to prevent Rod Covlin from inheriting a share of Danishefsky Covlin’s estate, which was estimated to be worth at least $1.5 million. Danishefsky Covlin had apparently intended to change her 2004 will, which left most of her estate to her husband, and instead leave it all to her two children, according to the New York Daily News. The public administrator was appointed executor of the estate, replacing Rod Colvin.
Rod Covlin had taken control of Danishefsky Covlin’s $1.6 million insurance policy payout that she’d intended for their children, according to the New York Post. He filed papers in Westchester County last April to become guardian of Danishefsky Covlin’s cashed-in policy, giving him the power to invest the money and apply to the court to withdraw cash on behalf of the couple’s children, Anna and Myles, who are set to inherit the money when they turn 18.
Shele Danishefsky Covlin, 47, was found dead inside her luxury Manhattan apartment on New Year’s Eve 2009. Her then-9-year-old daughter found her body face-down in the bathtub.
Police initially ruled it a case of accidental slip-and-fall, and Danishefsky Covlin’s body was buried the day after her death, in accordance with Orthodox Jewish custom. But it later came out that Danishefsky Covlin had reportedly told friends that her estranged husband had threatened to kill her, and that she feared for her life. Embroiled in a bitter custody battle, she obtained an order of protection against him.
Months later, her family had her body exhumed for an autopsy, and in July 2010, the medical examiner ruled her death a homicide by strangulation. Police opened an investigation, and while suspicion immediately fell on Rod Covlin, he was never formally charged.
Rod Covlin, who lived down the hall from Danishefsky Covlin at the time of her death, is currently living in Westchester County, N.Y., with their children. Danishefsky Covlin’s family is seeking custody.
Rod Colvin declined to comment to ABC News for this story. Danishefsky Covlin’s death remains under police investigation.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Brian Stelter, CNN
Lisa Respers France and Brian Stelter, CNN
Lisa Respers France, CNN