Man convicted of murdering his wife in 2019 wants conviction overturned

Kristin Thorne Image
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
Man convicted of murdering wife believes conviction should be overturned
Rod Covlin, the man convicted in the 2009 murder of his wife Shele Covlin on the Upper West Side, talks to Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne at Attica Prison.

UPPER WEST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A man convicted of murdering his wife on the Upper West Side in 2009 is attempting to have his murder conviction overturned and spoke in prison with Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter Kristin Thorne.

Rod Covlin said he believes the prosecutor in his case fabricated evidence and lied to the jury.

"I was convicted because of the prosecutorial misconduct," Colvin said.

Covlin was convicted of strangling his estranged wife, Shele Covlin, and dumping her body in the bathtub of her Upper West Side apartment in 2009.

Covlin was convicted in 2019 - 10 years after Shele Covlin's murder.

In June, Covlin filed a motion - called a 440 motion - to vacate his conviction based upon "egregious prosecutorial misconduct," which led to an "unjust conviction."

Covlin said he believes Shele Covlin died after slipping and falling into the bathtub, and that she may have been unsteady on her feet because she suffered from anorexia and osteoporosis.

In fact, when police first responded to the apartment on December 31, 2009, they believed Shele Covlin's death was accidental.

They did not designate the area a crime scene and people were allowed to come in and out of the apartment for months. No fingerprints were ever taken around the apartment and officers said there was no blood anywhere else in the apartment, except for the bathtub.

Eyewitness News asked the Manhattan District Attorney why Shele Covlin's apartment was not protected as a crime scene. The Manhattan DA said they would respond to each of Rod Covlin's 440 claims in court papers.

In addition, Shele Covlin's family did not request an autopsy so that she could be buried in a timely fashion keeping with Orthodox Jewish burial principals.

Shortly thereafter, her family began to suspect Rod Covlin may have been involved in her death, as the couple was going through a contentious divorce and custody battle.

In February 2010, Shele Covlin's family demanded her casket be exhumed and an autopsy performed. The medical examiner found a broken bone in Shele Covlin's neck and ruled her death a homicide.

Several years later, Covlin was arrested and charged in her murder.

Covlin and his legal team said in Covlin's 2019 trial, during closing arguments, the prosecutor showed a picture of Shele Covlin's pillow on her bed and called a dark area under the pillow a "wet spot."

Seth Zuckerman, Covlin's attorney, said the prosecutor told the jury the wet spot was evidence that Covlin had attacked Shele Covlin in her bed.

"Mind you - every NYPD officer who responded to the scene and testified at trial said the bed was not wet that morning," Zuckerman said. "There was no wet spot. It was made up." Zuckerman called the spot a "shadow."

Eyewitness News reviewed the transcripts from the prosecutor's closing arguments, and he told the jury the picture of the "wet spot" was taken in the morning; however, the officer who took pictures of the scene didn't arrive until the afternoon.

The District Attorney later acknowledged in court filings that the prosecutor "misspoke," but was not attempting to mislead the jury, as Covlin maintains.

In 2022, Covlin lost the appeal of his murder conviction.

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg issued a statement praising the appellate court's decision, saying there is overwhelming evidence that Covlin killed his wife.

To that, Covlin's daughter, Anna, who was nine years old at the time of her mother's death, wrote an open letter to Bragg saying that her father is innocent.

"I was in my mother's apartment and my father was not there until I unlocked the door in the morning," she wrote. "New York State took away my dad's freedom. My dad is not a murderer."

Covlin said he is hopeful the judge will overturn his conviction or order a new trial.

"All that is required is that a judge evaluate this fairly," he said. "I just can't believe that a judge at some point won't do the right thing."

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