Lippe guilty of murder in burning death of wife

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.

Jury ends day 1 of deliberations in Lippe wife-slay trial

WHITE PLAINS — A sequestered jury did not reach a verdict today in the first day of deliberations in the trial of Werner Lippe, accused of murdering his wife and burning her remains at their Cortlandt home two years ago.

The seven men and five women on the jury debated the case for nearly six hours before Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli excused them at 5 p.m.

The jury asked the court to replay Lippe’s three confessions — two to a friend wearing a police wire and one to state police — and to reshow photos from a scientific experiment showing how quickly a corpse can burn in an oil drum. They also asked to see photos of the burn barrel on Lippe’s property.

Lippe, a 68-year-old jeweler, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Faith Lippe, his wife of 18 years who was a nutritionist in the Ossining schools. She was 49 when she disappeared on Oct. 3, 2008 in the midst of a bitter divorce battle.

There is no body, no eyewitnesses and no forensic evidence in the case. Werner Lippe claims his confession was false and was the result of paranoia, fear and confusion.

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.

Lippe faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted. He has been in jail since his arrest nearly two years ago.

The jurors will resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.

Closing arguments wrap up Lippe trial

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.

Testy testimony between Lippe, ADA at wife-slay trial

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.

Lead investigator in Lippe wife-slaying trial takes the stand

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.

Lippe’s son testifies against him — again — in wife-slay trial

It’s awful to have to testify against your own father when he’s charged with murdering your mother.

Andrew Lippe has had to do it twice.

Lippe, the 16-year-old son of accused killer Werner Lippe, took the stand for the second time this year in Westchester County Court, where the elder Lippe is charged with second-degree murder in the disappearance of his 49-year-old wife, Faith.

Faith Lippe, a nutritionist for Ossining schools, was last seen alive on Oct. 3, 2008. No one has heard from her since. Her husband of 18 years allegedly knocked her unconscious with a piece of wood during an argument Oct. 3, dragged her behind their home on Little Lake Road in Cortlandt and burned her body in a 55-gallon barrel for 24 hours until her remains were nothing but ash.

He told as much to a friend and later to police but recanted his confession, saying he made up the story in a misguided attempt to be left alone. His first trial ended with a hung jury, who voted 7 to 5 for acquittal.

The teenaged Lippe was calm and composed today in front of the jury, as he was in January at his father’s first trial. He testified about the strife in the family’s home because his parents were divorcing. He said that two days after his mother vanished, his father lit a bonfire behind their home, spread new topsoil over the area when the fire went out, and sprinkled the same area with spices when police dogs showed up.

Prosecutors contend Lippe’s actions are evidence that he was trying to cover up all traces of his wife’s remains.

Under cross examination, Andrew Lippe said his mother could be controlling and that his father had problems with his eyesight — a reference to Werner Lippe’s insistence that he last saw his wife leaving the house and getting into a mysterious dark vehicle that he couldn’t describe further.

Also testifying against Lippe today was Meryl Learnihan, the wife of one of the prosecutions star witnesses, James Learnihan, who had worn a police wire that recorded Lippe’s confession. Meryl Learnihan told the jury that Faith Lippe, who she described as a devoted mother, was making “serious plans” for a new life after her divorce. She said Werner Lippe had left a message on their answering machine saying that Faith was missing and that he was felling overwhelmed by the situation.

Werner Lippe, a 68-year-old jewelry designer whose celebrity clients include Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey, has been held without bail at the county jail in Valhalla since his arrest on Oct. 30, 2008. His trial continues next week before county Judge Barbara Zambelli.

Andrew Lippe and his 14-year-old sister, Stephanie, continue to live with Andrew’s longtime tae kwon do instructor and attend school.

Lippe retrial begins in wife’s murder case

Round 2.

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.

Jury selection underway in 2nd trial of Werner Lippe

Potential jurors poured into the Westchester County courthouse this morning to learn if they will be among the 12 jurors chosen for the retrial Werner Lippe in the death of his wife, Faith, nearly two years ago.
The jury pool is huge — about 300 people, court officers said — in part because of all of the publicity the case received in February, when Lippe’s first trial ended in a hung jury.
Eight jurors were chosen today.
Lippe, 68, has been held without bail on a second-degree murder charge since October 30, 2008, when he confessed to killing his wife during a bitter divorce fight and disposing of her remains in a burn barrel behind their home in Cortlandt. Faith Lippe vanished on Oct. 3, 2008 and has never been seen or heard from since.
He confessed twice to a friend who was wearing a police wire and then once to state police. He testified at the first trial that those statements were false and were made in a misguided attempt to get his friend to leave him alone, and then to have state police take him to a judge who would see how ridiculous the confession was.
Prosecutors say Lippe incinerated his wife in a 55-gallon drum and dissolved her bones and teeth in acid he used in his jewelry-making business. The burn barrel has never been found.
The first jury was deadlocked, with seven jurors voting for acquittal and five for conviction.
Jury selection is expected to continue through the end of the week. The second trial is expected to last about three weeks. Assistant District Attorneys John O’Rourke and Christine O’Connor, who prosecuted the case, have returned for the retrial. Defense lawyer Andrew Rubin continues to represent Lippe.

Selection delayed for Lippe jury #2

werner lippeAccused wife-killer Werner Lippe will have to wait a while to return to the courtroom of Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli. Jury selection for Lippe’s second trial was supposed to start today but was pushed back in part because the judge is in pre-trial hearings for another case. He is scheduled for an appearance before acting state Supreme Court Justice Richard A. Molea tomorrow.

Lippe is charged with second-degree murder in the disappearance of his wife, Faith Lippe, in October 2008. He confessed to knocking his wife unconscious in their Cortlandt home and then incinerating her body in a backyard burn barrel. He later argued that the confession was false, and that he made up that story out of fear and paranoia.

The first trial ended with a hung jury; a second trial was ordered by prosecutors.

Meanwhile, Judge Zambelli is dealing with another homicide case, this one involving a 22-year-old Mount Vernon man accused of shooting a younger man to death during the summer of 2008. Leroi Bouche is charged with second-degree murder in the Aug. 13, 2008 slaying of Shomari Knox, 19.

Knox was found dead in his maroon van at South Ninth Avenue and West Third Street by police, who were called there on a report of shots fired. He was shot in the back and the side of the neck.tjndc5-5ni1onr3ehx117u962ks_thumbnail-1

Bouche, who has a criminal history that includes drug possession, was shot in the abdomen two weeks later in a playground at Seventh Avenue and West Fourth Street, near Levister Towers – about a block from where police said he shot Knox.

Photo of Leroi Bouche, left. Photo of Werner Lippe, upper left.

Lippe jury selection to start April 12

werner lippeWell, that was fast.

Accused wife incinerator Werner Lippe goes on trial again before Westchester County Court Judge Barbara Zambelli in mid-April, less that two months after a deadlocked jury caused a mistrial in the prosecution’s first attempt at a conviction. Click here to read the story.

The first trial got a LOT of press, so jury selection may be tougher this time around. I’m planning to pop in to see what questions they’re asking to get jurors that could be favorable to their side. Opening statements will be interesting as well, seeing if either sides change their strategy.