Lina Kaufman: Was Her Death a Tragic Accident or Murder?

CBS News’ ’48 Hours: The Doctor’s Daughter’ tries to unravel the mysterious death of a 32-year-old mother of two, Lina Kaufman, as she breathed her last in her wealthy suburban home in Aventura, Florida, in November 2007. The prosecution charged a perpetrator with second-degree murder in Lina’s death, but the court acquitted them in 2012. Lina’s death remains a mystery, and the episode interviews various family members and people associated with the investigation to provide a clear view of the case.

How Did Lina Kaufman Die?

Eleonora “Lina” Kaufman was born to Frida Aizman on November 11, 1974. Frida raised her daughter and son in five countries before Lina settled in Florida. She described her daughter as a “brilliant and beautiful woman.” Frida said, “I miss her affection. I miss her smell. …Her humor… Yes, I miss her a lot.” Lina’s husband of seven years, Adam Kaufman, was also “in awe” of his wife. He recalled, “She (Lina) spoke Russian, English, Danish, Flemish, and Hebrew. A little bit of Italian.” Moreover, Adam described Lina to be very sophisticated and pretty.

Lina and Adam met at a party in the late 90s and dated for three years before tying the knot in early 2000. By November 2007, the young couple was parents to two lovely children — 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old Jake. Lina and Adam hailed from affluent families, with the latter, then 34, being a successful Real Estate Developer in South Florida. His wife, 32, worked at her family’s upscale furniture business. They and their two children resided in a wealthy neighborhood in Aventura — a premier suburb of Miami, Florida.

Frida recalled seeing her daughter for the last time at their furniture business showroom on November 6, 2007. She recounted, “I said, ‘You look so beautiful, so classical.’ And she said, ‘Are you proud of me?’ I said, ‘Of course.'” The mother described her daughter’s mood to be “very, very, very happy” and saw no signs that concerned her about something being wrong. Lina and Adam lived right around the corner from his identical twin brother, Seth, and the latter’s bride-to-be, Raquel.

According to the show, the Kaufmans were very excited since Seth’s wedding was knocking on the door. Adam recalled, “She (Lina) was looking forward to it. She was — one of Raquel’s bridesmaids. I was Seth’s best man. She was her happiest.” Reports stated Lina got her first spray tan on the evening of November 6 to prepare for the upcoming matrimonial ceremony. On the way home, she visited a friend to show off her tan and have some wine and a quick bite. Meanwhile, Adam was at home, taking care of the young children.

On the show, Adam stated he saw his wife coming home around 11:00 PM when he was watching television in bed. He even saw her tan as she undressed and noted, “And you could tell she was spray-tanned. It just seemed a lot to me.” They went to bed, and Adam claimed he woke around 5:00 AM to find Lina not beside him. He said, “And I figured, OK, you know, she’s with the baby. She’s not in bed. She’s with the baby.” However, Adam knew something was wrong when he could not find her still when he woke up again an hour later.

Adam added, “Right around 6 o’clock, I woke up again. She wasn’t there. That’s when I got a pit in my stomach. … I remember calling. No response. I remember walking into the bathroom and seeing her there … slumped over onto the magazine rack.” A hysterical Adam called 911 and started giving CPR to his wife on being instructed by the operator. A fire rescue team reached the residence within 16 minutes and performed emergency measures before rushing her to an Aventura hospital, where she was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Was Lina Kaufman Killed?

Dr. Chester Gwen, the erstwhile Associate Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner, conducted the autopsy and found injuries on Lina’s upper back and bruises on her chin, neck, left shoulder, and chest. The forensic pathologist also noticed hemorrhages in her interior neck muscles and declared her cause and manner of death “undetermined.” As a result, the case went cold for 18 months before Miami-Dade County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Bruce A. Hyma concluded she died of mechanical asphyxiation in May 2009.

Adam was charged with second-degree murder, and a SWAT team arrested him from his family home at gunpoint in April 2009. He was released on a $500,000 bond after wearing a court-mandated electronic ankle monitor. Adam’s trial commenced on May 7, 2012, in Miami, Florida. Due to the whole case hinging on whether Lina was killed or died of natural causes, it became apparent that significant testimony would be medico-legal. The defense and prosecution presented experts providing professional medical opinions regarding the death.

While the prosecution built a case surrounding Adam strangling his wife to death, his defense counsel tried to prove Lina died of natural causes. His lawyers claimed she suffered from a heart attack caused by a severe infection due to a spray-on tanning substance and fell forward with her neck hitting the bar of the magazine rack. Besides, they alleged Lina had a history of fainting spells. To everyone’s surprise, her mother, Frida, took the stand in Adam’s defense and testified her daughter complained of headaches in the weeks leading up to her death.

Frida claimed Lina was feeling weak and had even tried yoga to relieve her headaches. On the other hand, the prosecution asserted the Kaufmans had marital issues, alleging Adam got into a physical relationship within a couple of months of his wife’s death. Yet, the defense presented one witness after another who stated that he and Lina were happily married, and they did not know anything that caused a severe rift in their marriage. With no witnesses, motive, or physical evidence tying Adam to the alleged murder, the prosecution’s case fell apart.

Adam’s defense counsel alleged gross incompetency and negligence on the part of the investigators and even stated the prosecution pressurized the coroner to declare Lina’s death a homicide. They further provided evidence of a prior affair between the detectives handling the case, raising questions regarding the probe’s credibility. On June 5, 2012, the jury returned with a not-guilty verdict, and Adam was acquitted of all charges. To date, Lina’s death remains a mystery, with public opinion shifting between various testimonies.

Read More: Adam Kaufman: Where is Lina Kaufman’s Husband Now?