Werner Lippe does not look like the same man he did two years ago, when he allegedly knocked his wife unconscious and pushed her body into a backyard burn barrel, a state police detective testified today.
“He was bigger, more husky then,” said David Atkins, the lead investigator in the case. “He definitely looks more (like a) fragile, older man now.”
Atkins remarks came as Westchester County prosecutors try for a second time to convict Lippe, a 68-year-old jeweler, of second-degree murder in the death of his 49-year-old wife, Faith Lippe, with whom he was locked in a contentious divorce.
Lippe told police he last saw his wife leave their house with a manilla envelope at 1:45 p.m. Oct. 3, 2008 and be whisked away by a dark-colored vehicle. He reported her missing the next afternoon, after returning from lunch with a friend in Connecticut.
But, weeks later, Lippe told a friend — who was wearing a police wire — that he knocked his wife unconscious on Oct. 3, put her body in a drum and incinerated her. He repeated that story to police Oct. 30, 2008 and was arrested. He has been held without bail at the county jail in Valhalla since then.
Lippe’s lawyer argues that his client, fueled by fear and paranoia, gave a false confession in a misguided attempt to be left alone. He repeated it to police so they would let him see a judge, who he thought would instantly see how ridiculous the story was.
Lippe’s first trial earlier this year ended with a hung jury, which voted seven to five for an acquittal.
Lippe’s state of mind in the days and weeks after his wife’s disappearance — which Rubin claims was so crazed that he concocted the confession — was a theme Rubin revisited with Atkins. During cross-examination, Atkins confirmed that Lippe told police that he was under stress and “having a lot of crazy thoughts.” He also said an incoherent Lippe called state police at least once. He acknowledged joking with Learnihan that “it takes a nut to catch a nut,” but he said the remark was just an icebreaker.
Atkins said he wasn’t necessarily looking for incriminating evidence against Lippe, but suspected Lippe knew more than what he was telling police. Once Lippe emerged as the prime suspect, Atkins said, state police investigators questioned New York City police to see if Lippe was known to have underworld connections through his jewelry business that could have helped him carry out her murder.
They found none and contend that he acted alone.
“Besides Werner Lippe, were there any other suspects in this case?” Rubin asked.
Atkins never had to answer. Assistant District Attorney Christine O’Connor objected to the question, and county Judge Barbara Zambelli sustained the objection.
A theory that Faith Lippe, on the day she vanished, may have been en route to pay a hit man to kill her husband was “so far-fetched that it didn’t make sense,” Atkins said.
The trial will continue on Wednesday.