When Manhattan resident and mother of two, Shele Danishefsky, was found dead inside her bathtub in December 2009, the police believed it to be a natural demise. However, about six months after the incident, suspicions made her family exhume her body, and the autopsy triggered a homicide investigation. ’20/20 New Year’s Evil’ chronicles the heinous murder and follows the lengthy process that finally managed to bring the perpetrator to justice several years after Shele’s death. Let’s delve into the crime’s details and find out more, shall we?
How Did Shele Danishefsky Die?
A resident of New York City, Shele Danishefsky owned an apartment in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Although she was estranged from her husband, Rod Covlin, he resided in the same complex, and the two were embroiled in a custody battle for their two children, Anna and Myles. People who knew Shele described her as a loving and caring mother who always put her children over everyone else. Moreover, while she was an incredibly successful investment banker with a net worth of a few million dollars, she never hesitated to extend a helping hand and was friendly with everyone she met. Hence, her sudden and tragic death came as a shock to most.
On December 31, 2009, Anna entered the bathroom of their apartment and noticed her mother’s unconscious body floating facedown in the bathtub. The water around the body was completely red from blood, and a cabinet right above the bathtub had its door pulled off from the hinge. Shocked and scared, the young girl immediately fetched her father, who reportedly tried CPR, hoping to resuscitate Shele. But since she appeared completely unresponsive, they soon called 911 and reported the incident.
When first responders reached the site, they checked Shele for her pulse and declared her dead. Surprisingly, an initial medical examination did not indicate anything fishy, and considering how nothing seemed stolen from the apartment, the police ruled out external involvement. On top of it, the broken closet door and the body’s position hinted towards an accident. Detectives eventually determined that Shele had slipped before hitting her head on the side of the tub, which killed her immediately.
Since the death was ruled an accident, Shele’s family cited their religious beliefs and asked the cops not to go ahead with an autopsy. Thus, the case of death remained undetermined at that time. As months passed, suspicions swirled around her shocking and sudden death, making her family believe that someone was responsible for it. Therefore, they petitioned to have her body exhumed, and once authorities performed an autopsy, they determined that the investment banker was strangled to death before being placed in the bathtub.
The autopsy also specified that the victim was strangled with such force that her hyoid bone broke, causing her right eye to bleed and turning the water in the tub red. In light of such findings, law enforcement officers had no other option but to start a homicide investigation into Shele’s death.
Who Killed Shele Danishefsky?
The initial investigation into Shele’s murder was extremely challenging as there were no leads or witnesses to work with. Since the death was initially classified as an accident, the police neither sent the body for an autopsy nor conducted a thorough search of the crime scene. On top of it, reports claim that the police also allowed the bathroom to be scrubbed clean with chemicals, which removed the DNA evidence. However, while interviewing Shele’s family, detectives learned about her rocky relationship with her estranged husband, Roderick “Rod” Covlin.
For starters, members of Shele’s family claimed that Rod was physically and verbally abusive to the victim. She had even talked about her estranged husband’s temper and mentioned how she feared for her safety. On top of it, the babysitter stated that she often heard Rod loudly berating Shele while he even pushed her down to the floor on one occasion. Eventually, in May 2009, the investment banker filed for divorce, much to her spouse’s disapproval.
Since Rod did not have a specific profession and mainly lived off his then-wife’s income, he feared she might cut him out completely. Furthermore, he claimed he could not pay child support at one point and blamed Shele for ruining him financially. Albeit, prosecutors contended that Rod eventually lost control of himself when she mentioned that she would cut him out of his will. At that time, he was embroiled in a bitter divorce and custody battle with Shele.
Yet, Rod did not waste any time gaining access to the investment banker’s apartment with his own key and strangling her to death in the bathtub. Eventually, he failed to win the custody battle, and the kids were handed over to Rod’s parents. Both children were set to receive millions from Shele’s fortune, and Rod was determined to get his hands on that money. On top of it, the victim’s family froze her assets once her death was determined to be a homicide, further angering him.
Hence, reports claim that Rod physically abused his parents and even asked his daughter to accuse her grandfather of rape. Additionally, prosecutors accused him of trying to kidnap Anna to marry her off in Mexico and accusing her of being responsible for Shele’s murder. Yet, neither of Rod’s plans worked, and once the police had enough circumstantial evidence against him, they arrested him for murdering his estranged wife.
When presented in court, Rod insisted on his innocence and pled not guilty, but the jury believed otherwise and convicted him of second-degree murder. As a result, Rod was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in 2019 and remains incarcerated at the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York.
Read More: Debra Oles: Where is Rod Covlin’s Ex-Girlfriend Today?