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NY Attorney Who Killed Wife and Kids Left Letter in Law Office Suggesting Suicide, Not Slayings

Posted Nov 1, 2011 5:00 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Before killing his wife, their two children and himself on Oct. 16 or 17 at their upscale home in suburban New York City, attorney Samuel Friedlander left a letter in his law office and sent two others to a family member suggesting suicide.

While the 50-year-old lawyer bought a shotgun and ammunition in April, apparently legally, that he seems to have used for no other purpose, police say the slayings of his family don't appear premeditated in the letters, reports the Journal News. Friedlander bought the gun after losing custody of his children in a court ruling.

He reportedly killed himself and the children with the gun; he beat his wife to death with a wooden rolling pin, perhaps from the family kitchen, that authorities initially mistook for a furniture leg. He had been on medication for a decade and was being treated for depression and anxiety at the time of his death.

Relying on anonymous sources, a Fox News affiliate in New York reported that police believe Friedlander sedated his children beforehand. They hence did not awaken as he killed their mother and he shot them to death afterward in their sleep, authorities theorize.

The letters provided for Friedlander's belongings to go to a brother after his death.

Although it's not uncommon for couples to live in the same home, as the Friedlanders did, for months during a divorce, observers have wondered whether the tragedy might have been averted if the parents had physically separated, reports the Daily Comet.

Divorcing couples may choose to stay either for financial reasons, because it's less expensive, or because there's often a perception that legally the parent who leaves the home may be at a disadvantage, especially in winning custody, or because they're fighting for control of the home. However, proximity obviously can be problematic for spouses in acrimonious or abusive relationships.

”The thing that I hope lawyers remember is that when it is a hostile situation for a live-in divorce, especially when there’s a history of domestic violence, safety is paramount,” said attorney Jane Aoyama-Martin. She serves as executive director of the Women’s Justice Center at Pace University School of Law.

Last year, New York became the 50th state to pass a no-fault divorce law, the Daily Comet notes. It is possible the pressure on couples not to abandon their home and children, as a court might see it, could change as the new law is implemented in daily practice.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "NY Lawyer Who Killed Self, Wife and 2 Kids Bought Shotgun 6 Months Earlier; Was Crime Spree Planned?"

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