A Westchester County jury took eight hours — six yesterday and two today — to find Cortlandt jewelry artist Werner Lippe guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his wife, (pictured left) a 49-year-old school nutritionist who disappeared two years ago.
Lippe had confessed to knocking his wife unconscious and burning her remains in a backyard oil drum. He testified at trial that the confession was coerced.
The 11:40 a.m. verdict unleashed a wave of emotion and relief over Faith Lippe’s family and friends. Her sister, Dawn Faigle, threw her arms around prosecutor Christine O’Connor in the District Attorney’s office upstairs and fought tears as she recalled the psychological abuse Werner Lippe inflicted on her sister. She publicly thanked O’Connor and prosecutor John O’Rourke for their hard work on the case.
“Their endless devotion sends a strong message that domestic violence will not be tolerated and these criminals will be brought to justice,” she said.
For more about the verdict and courtroom reaction, as well as background on the trial, click here.
It’s up to the jury now.
Twelve jurors listened today to more than four hours of closing arguments in the murder trial of Werner Lippe, accused of killing his wife of 18 years during a bitter divorce fight in October 2008 and disposing of her body without a trace.
Lippe, a 68-year-old jeweler, remained stoic as Assistant District Attorney Christine O’Connor urged the seven men and five women on the jury to believe that Lippe’s confession to a friend, who was wearing a police wire, had been both truthful and voluntary.
Defense lawyer Andrew Rubin argued during his closing statements that it was a false confession borne out of paranoia, fear and confusion. There is no body, no eyewitnesses and no forensic evidence in the case.
O’Connor ended her summations by playing a recording of Werner Lippe telling his friend, “She doesn’t exist. You cannot find her. It’s impossible.” As the tape played, those words appeared on a screen with a photo a smiling Faith Lippe. Her cousin, Shari Caradonna, walked out of the courtroom in tears.
Faith Lippe was a nutritionist in the Ossining schools. She was 49 when she disappeared.
Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli will instruct the jury on the law Monday morning, and deliberations will begin immediately afterwards.
Lippe faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.
This is his second trial. His first trial ended in February with a hung jury, which was unable to reach a verdict after 27 hours of deliberations. The vote was 7 to 5 for acquittal.
The murder trial of Cortlandt jeweler Werner Lippe (left) turned into a verbal sparring match this afternoon, when prosecutors pressed him to explain why he never called a hospital after his wife vanished two years ago.
“You don’t understand? Maybe I speak to you in German,” the Austria-born Lippe told Assistant District Attorney John O’Rourke. “Do you understand English?”
“Did you treat your wife the way you’re trying to treat me?” O’Rourke shot back. “Did you argue with her the way you’re arguing with me?
The heated exchange came as Lippe, 68, was cross-examined in Westchester County Court at his retrial in the death of his wife, Faith, a 49-year-old school nutritionist who disappeared on Oct. 3, 2008. SWerner Lippe is charged with second-degree murder in her death.
Lippe’s cross examination will continue tomorrow, which will be the last day of testimony. Jurors will hear closing arguments Friday and begin deliberating on Monday.
Read more about this story tomorrow in The Journal News and on LoHud.com.
The same prosecutors, same defense lawyer and same defendant returned to Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli’s second-floor courtroom today to retry Werner Lippe for the alleged murder of his wife, Faith, nearly two years ago.
Click here to read about the lawyers’ opening statements to the jury.
Lippe’s first jury was deadlocked, voted 7 to 5 for acquittal in February. This time around, jurors were specifically asked if they watched “CSI” or similar TV shows, since there is no body, no witnesses and no forensic evidence in the case.
Assistant District Attorney John O’Rourke, who gave closing arguments in Lippe’s first trial, opened for the people today. That likely will mean ADA Christine O’Connor will summarize. Veteran defense lawyer Andrew Rubin continues to represent Lippe, who is approaching his second year at the Westchester County jail, where he has been remanded since his Oct. 30 arrest.
O’Rourke, taking a piece of Rubin’s opening argument from the first trial, said Lippe didn’t have to be “Superman” to burn his 49-year-old wife’s slender body to ash on Oct. 3, 2008 and dispose of the remains without leaving a shred of evidence. Rubin countered with another image, saying Lippe was no “evil genius” and was not responsible for his wife’s disappearance.
Lippe’s confession to his wife’s murder was another point of contention between the lawyers, with O’Rourke saying it was proof of his guilt and Rubin saying it was proof that Lippe was coerced into making up an outlandish story so that an old friend, who was working with police, would leave him alone.
The trial is expected to continue Wednesday and last for three weeks. The jury consists of seven men, five women and five alternates.