Key detective in Neulander investigation charged with perjury in Philly case – Courier Post

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PHILADELPHIA - A detective who played a key role in one of South Jersey's most notorious murder cases has been charged with perjury and false swearing in a separate case here.

Martin Devlin is one of three retired Philadelphia Police Department homicide detectives accused of lying at a trial forAnthony Wright, a city man who served 25 years of a life term before DNA evidence led to his freedom.

In the South Jersey case, Devlin's work with the Camden County Prosecutor's Office led tothe arrest and conviction of Fred Neulander, a former Cherry Hill rabbi found to have paid two men to kill his wife, Carol, in November 1994.

Neulander, who turned 80 on Saturday, is currently serving a life sentence in a Trenton prison. He has a parole eligibility date in June 2030.

According to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, the alleged perjury and false swearing occurred "both in and out of court" during a 2016 retrial for Wright and during sworn depositions taken as part of a subsequentlawsuit against the city.

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The former detectives, includingManuel Santiago and Frank Jastrzembski, were untruthful "abouttheir on-duty roles in the investigation, interrogation and wrongful conviction of an innocent man," the DA's Office said in a statement.

It said the statute of limitations "arguably" would not allow charges against the detectives for alleged similar offenses during the initial investigation into Wright in 1991 and at a 1993 trial that resulted in his conviction and life term.

Attorneys for the detectives could not be reached for commentSaturday.

Wright was 20 years old when police accused him of the rape and murder of Louise Talley, a 77-year-old Philadelphia woman.

In its statement, the DA's Office said Wright gave a "coerced false confession" after Devlin and Santiago used "unlawful tactics to coerce" him during an interrogation.

It claims the detectives, who did not record the interrogation,told Wright he could go home if he admitted his role in the crime.

Wright "repeatedly told detectives he had no involvement or knowledge of the crime, and spent hours repeatedly crying for his mother, whom he could hear outside the interrogation room screaming for him," District Attorney Larry Krasner said in announcing the charges."

"Less than 24 hours after discovering Mrs. Talleys body, detectives Santiago and Devlin coerced Wright into initialing and signing a false confession to a crime Wright did not commit, the details of which he did not know."

He allegedWright was not allowed to read the confession before he signed it.

Krasner saidJastrzembski told jurors at Wright's first trial "about the location of clothing he falsely claimed was found during a search of Wright's bedroom, but was actually found in the victim's home."

Wright's confession stated he wore the clothing during the crime, Krasner's statement said.

ButDNA testing "decades later" showed the clothing "was actually worn by Talley, not Wright," it said.

The DNA results proved Talley's attacker was Ronnie Byrd, a man who lived near the victim's home and who had since died, according toKrasner.

Wright's initial conviction was overturned but the DA's Office, then led by Seth Williams, "incredibly … re-tried him despite irrefutable science establishing Wrights innocence," Krasner said.

At the retrial and in depositions for Wright's lawsuit, "both Devlin and Santiago repeated their false, sworn claims that Wrights 1991 confession to the crime had been given willingly and transcribed word-for-word," Krasner alleged.

The retrial ended in Wright's acquittal, with the jury deliberating for less than an hour, Krasner said.

Wright's civil suit against the City of Philadelphia was resolved with a $10 million settlement.

The charges against Devlintwo counts each of perjury and false swearing are only allegations. None of the detectives have been convicted in connection with the case.

Devlin worked for 28 years at Philadelphia's police department. He then spent 15 years with the prosecutor's office in Camden County, where he led the Major Crimes Unit.

Devlin left the Camden Countyprosecutor's office as a lieutenant after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65.

"We are aware of the indictment," the prosecutor's office said in a statement Saturday. "At this time we have no further comment."

In 2014, he was named at age 69 to help run a newly formed cold-case squad at the Camden County Police Department.

"The cold case squad was active for about a year and was disbanded soon thereafter," county spokesman Dan Keashen said Saturday.

Neulander, whose first trial ended with a hung jury in 2001, was convicted of murder after a second trial in 2002.

Authorities alleged he hired two men Len Jenoff of Collingswood and Paul Daniels of Pennsauken who fatally beat Carol Neulander, a 52-year-old businesswoman and mother of three, in a staged robbery at her Cherry Hill home.

Both of the killers have completed prison terms for aggravated manslaughter.

Neulander arranged his wife's death so he could pursue an extramarital affair with Elaine Soncini, a well-known radio host at the time, the prosecution said.

Lee Solomon, a former Camden County Prosecutor, praised the role of Devlin and other investigators in remarks before Neulander was sentenced in January 2003.

"There is no substitute for good, hard-nosed police work," said Solomon, now a state Supreme Court justice.

He noted Neulander showed his antipathy for Devlin when the rabbi "purportedly referred to (the detective) with a derogatory term" based on his ethnicity.

Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.

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Key detective in Neulander investigation charged with perjury in Philly case - Courier Post

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