COLONEL’S DEATH IN NEW JERSEY IN ‘63 IS CALLED MURDER BY GRAND JURY
FREEHOLD, New Jersey, July 22, 1966 – A murder indictment has been returned in the death of a 52-year-old retired Army Colonel whose body was exhumed from Arlington National Cemetery after the mysterious death of the woman physician who signed his death certificate.
The indictment returned yesterday by a Monmouth County Grand Jury, charges an unnamed defendant with murdering Colonel William E. Farber at his home in Middletown Township on July 30, 1963.Prosecutor Vincent P. Keuper said the name of the defendant would not be made public until the person was in custody.
The indictment came after testimony before the grand jury in an inquiry prompted by Florida authorities investigating the death of Dr. Carmela Coppolino. She signed Colonel Farber’s death certificate in 1963, listing the cause as a coronary occlusion.
At the time of his death, Dr. Carmela Coppolino and her husband, Dr. Carl Coppolino, were neighbors of Colonel Farber and his wife in an area of $25,000 to $25,000 houses in Middletown Township.
After the death of her husband, Mrs. Farber moved to Sarasota, Florida. The Coppolinos moved to Sarasota shortly afterward and took a house near Mrs. Farber.
In August 1965, Dr. Carmela Coppolino, who was 32 years, died in Sarasota of a reported heart attack. Her husband married a Florida woman 28 days later, authorities said.
Last December, the Florida police ordered an autopsy on the body of Dr. Carmela Coppolino, who was buried in Morris County, New Jersey, where her family resides. The results of that autopsy have not been released and the Florida investigation is still continuing.
One witness heard by the grand jury during the investigation here was Marjorie Cullen Farber, the Colonel’s widow. Authorities said she came voluntarily from Florida to testify two weeks ago.
An autopsy on Colonel Farber’s body wad performed in New York City last Saturday by Dr. C. Malcolm B. Gilman, the Monmouth County Medical Examiner and Dr. Milton Helpern, Chief Medical Examiner of New York City.
Yesterday the jury heard testimony from Dr. Gilman and Dr. Julius A. Toren, who was County Medical Examiner at the time of Colonel Farber’s death. It also heard testimony from Mrs. Dorothy Jeffers of Long Branch, a former maid for the Coppolinos.
DOCTOR IS ARRESTED IN FLORIDA IN DEATH OF NEW JERSEY NEIGHBOR
SARASOTA, Florida, July 23, 1966 – A physician was arrested tonight and charged with the three-year-old murder of an Army officer in New Jersey.
Authorities, acting on a warrant from New Jersey, arrested Dr. Carl A. Coppolino on a charge of having slain Colonel William E. Farber. However the doctor was rushed to Sarasota Memorial Hospital with an “extreme coronary condition.”
On Thursday, a grand jury in Monmouth County, New Jersey, handed down a sealed indictment charging Dr. Coppolino with Colonel Farber’s murder three years ago. Dr. and Mrs. Coppolino were living in Middletown Township, New Jersey, when Colonel Farber – a friend – died. Mrs. Coppolino, a physician too, signed the Colonel’s death certificate, stating that he had died of a heart attack.
Shortly after the death, both the Coppolinos and Colonel Farber’s widow and three children moved to Sarasota. Mrs. Coppolino died last August and her husband remarried.
Colonel Farber’s body was recently exhumed from Arlington National Cemetery in Washington and an autopsy was performed. Mrs. Coppolino’s body was also exhumed.
On Friday the Sarasota County Grand Jury held a seven-hour session to investigate the death of Mrs. Coppolino. Her death was attributed to a heart attack.
The grand jury made no statement and recessed until August 2. Eight witnesses testified before the grand jury, including Mrs. Farber.
“I am shocked at this situation,” Mrs. Farber said. “It’s hard enough when you lose someone, but then when you find out how they died..”
PHYSICIAN IS HELD IN OFFICER’S DEATH
Indictment Charges He Slew New Jersey Man in 1963
July 25, 1966 – The Monmouth County, New Jersey, prosecutor said yesterday that ht would make public today an indictment charging a 34-year-old physician with the murder in 1963 of a retired Army Colonel.
The doctor, Carl Coppolino, was arrested at his home in Sarasota, Florida, Saturday night and shortly afterward complained of chest pains. He has a history of heart trouble, and was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital where he was reported in fair condition.
Dr. Coppolino, an anesthesiologist, was arrested on a fugitive warrant after a grand jury in Monmouth County issued an indictment Thursday in the death of Colonel William E. Farber at his home in Middletown Township, New Jersey, on July 30, 1963.
Dr. Coppolino, who is under 24-hour guard, told the Sarasota Sheriff’s office that he would confer with his lawyer before deciding whether to fight extradition to return voluntarily to New Jersey. The lawyer was not named.
The investigation into the death of Colonel Farber began last November after Dr. Coppolino’s wife, Carmella, 32, died in Sarasota of a reported heart attack. Her husband married a Florida woman 28 days later, according to authorities.
The Farbers and the Coppolinos had been neighbors on Middletown in 1963. After the death of her 52-year-old husband, also of a reported heart attack, Marjorie Cullen Farber moved to Sarasota. The Coppolinos soon moved near them.
When Mrs. Coppolino died, Sarasota officials directed inquiries to New Jersey authorities. The Florida officials ordered an autopsy on Mrs. Coppolino, who had been a licenses physician although not practicing. The results of the autopsy have not been released but a grand jury had been convened to investigate.
The body of Colonel Farber was exhumed from Arlington National Cemetery and an autopsy performed at Bellevue Hospital last Saturday by Dr. Milton Helpern, Chief Medical Examiner. The results have been reported to the Monmouth County Grand Jury but have not been made public.
Prosecutor Vincent Keuper said that he would ask the Superior Court in Freehold to release the indictment today. But he would not comment on the case. Other New Jersey sources said that medical investigations had shown that Colonel Farber was under the influence of a drug at the time of his death.
One witness heard by the New Jersey grand jury was Mrs. Farber, who came from Florida voluntarily to testify two weeks ago.
Dr. Coppolino was on the staff of Riverview Hospital in Red Bank, New Jersey, before going to Sarasota. He reportedly left his medical practice because of a heart condition and turned to writing and lecturing.
His most recent book came out last November. It was entitled, “The Billion Dollar Hangover,” a study of the problem of alcoholism in industry. His previous books included “Freedom from Fat” and “Hypnosis in the Practice of Anesthesiology.” He has also written more than two dozen scientific papers and articles of medical journals.
Dr. Coppolino and his wife both were graduated from the State University’s New York Downstate medical Center in 1958. They had two daughters. Dr. Coppolino’s present wife, the former Mary Gibson, has two daughters by a previous marriage.
NEW JERSEY AND FLORIDA CONTEND FOR MURDER TRIAL OF PHYSICIAN
July 27, 1966 – New Jersey authorities sought last night to extradite Dr. Carl A. Coppolino from Florida on a charge of having strangled a retired Army Colonel. Florida officials, meanwhile, prepared to arraign the physician this morning on a charge that he had murdered his first wife.
A Monmouth County grand jury indicted Dr. Coppolino last Thursday, charging that he strangled Colonel William E. Farber at the victim’s home in Middletown Township on July 30, 1963.
The tall, lanky doctor, who was arrested but Sarasota authorities Sunday night, is scheduled to be arraigned at 11 A.M. today in Sarasota Circuit Court on a Sarasota grand jury indictment that was handed down Monday. It charges that Dr. Coppolino murdered his first wife, Dr. Carmela Coppolino, last August 28.
Dr. Coppolino, who was taken after his arrest to Sarasota Memorial Hospital complaining of chest pains, was returned to the County Jail last Monday night after a hospital examination had indicated that he had not suffered a heart attack.
Colonel Farber, 52 years old, and Mrs. Coppolino, 32, had been thought to have died of natural causes. An investigation that began shortly after the latter’s death led to the indictments of Coppolino.
Law enforcement officials in Florida and New Jersey reported yesterday that Mrs. Coppolino, who also was a physician, was believed to have had no connection with the murder of Colonel Farber, even though she signed his death certificate. The certificate said that the Colonel had died of a coronary thrombosis. The officials pictured the dead woman as an “innocent dupe” who had been used by her husband and who had been killed by an overdose of a relaxant drug he is charged with having administered.
The police said that the doctor’s arrest had resulted from several, independent investigations, including:
An investigation inspired by the persistent doubt of the slain woman’s father, Dr. Carmello Musetta, a Boonton, New Jersey, physician, who could not believe that his daughter had died of a heart attack, as listed on her death certificate.
An earlier inquiry into Dr. Coppolino in New Jersey by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The sharp questions raised by two insurance companies that had issued large insurance policies on Mrs. Coppolino’s life listing her husband as the beneficiary.
Nearly seven months of intensive investigation in detecting the drug that it alleged to have killed Mrs. Coppolino, but which is difficult to trace in the body.
On the basis of these investigations and questions, Mrs. Coppolino’s body was exhumed last December and the body of the Colonel was brought from Arlington National Cemetery this month.
Autopsies performed in New York by Dr. Milton Helpern, the city’s Chief Medical Examiner, and Dr. C. Malcolm B. Gilman, the Monmouth County Medical examiner, showed that the Colonel had died of a fractured windpipe caused by manual strangulation with the hands, and that Mrs. Coppolino ha apparently died from an overdose of succinyl choline, a drug commonly used by anesthesiologists to relax the muscles of patients undergoing surgery.
Dr. Coppolino was an anesthesiologist at Riverview Hospital in Red Bank, New Jersey, before he retired from active practice in 1963. His wife was a medical researcher at a New Jersey drug company.
A key factor in the autopsies and the medical investigations that followed was that Dr. Helpern and Dr. Gilman apparently knew what to look for. This is because a police informant was said to have reported seeing a white crystalline powder resembling succinyl choline in the Farber home in Middletown.
Another clue was the disclosure in laboratory experiments that the drug, even in a dose large enough to be fatal, would leave almost no trace in the body. However, a massive overdose could not be broken down chemically by the body before causing death, and would thus leave traceable amounts in the body after death.
In one of the many efforts to determine whether the drug had been used, Dr. Gilman injected varying amounts of it into rabbits and bullfrogs at his home in Colts Neck, New Jersey, following the autopsy on the body of Mrs. Coppolino.
Researchers at Dr. Helper’s New York laboratory are waiting for the final chemical and spectroscopic analyses made during the autopsy on Colonel Farber’s body to determine whether, as they suspect, he had been drugged with succinyl choline before he was strangled three years ago.
The Coppolinos lives in a fashionable section of Middletown and were neighbors and friends of Colonel Farber and his wife, Marjorie. Shortly after the Colonel’s death, the Coppolinos moved to Longboat Key, outside of Sarasota, and Mrs. Farber purchased a home next door.
The friendship of the Coppolinos with Mrs. Farber continued until the death of Mrs. Coppolino last August and the subsequent marriage of Dr. Coppolino less than a month later to the former Mrs. Mary Poellnitz Gibson.
Vincent P. Keuper, Monmouth Country prosecutor, said that New Jersey’s move to extradite Dr. Coppolino would probably have to wait until Florida tried him for his wife’s death. Nevertheless, the prosecutor says he was going through the mechanics of extradition to insure that the ground is laid for the doctor’s eventual return.
Mr. Keuper also said yesterday that he was “still puzzled” over motivation for the two killings.
Officials in both states reported that Dr. Coppolino left the staff of Riverview Hospital in 1962 after an FBI investigation of threatening letters sent to Miss Lucy Trichine, a staff nurse and anesthetist. The hospital and the Newark FBI officer had no comment on the investigation. Miss. Trichine was said to have left the state some time ago.
Florida officials also reported that Dr. Coppolino filed a suit in January to force the Professional Lie and Casualty Company of Chicago to make a $25,000 payment on the policy of his dead wife. The officials reported that the New York Life Insurance Company had already paid the doctor $40,000 on another policy.
WIDOW TELLS SLAYING ATTEMPT
Doctor Finished Job on Mate, She Says
FREEHOLD, New Jersey, October 20, 1966 – The widow of a retired Army officer allegedly murdered by Dr. Carl A. Coppolino told authorities in a statement disclosed today that she tried to kill her husband with a drug but Coppolino finished the job while she watched.
“I tried to kill my husband but Coppolino came in and did kill him and I watched,” Mrs. Margery Farber was quoted as saying in a statement purportedly given to a Monmouth County detective, Frank Muzzi, last December.
She said that after he attempt, Coppolino, her neighbor and close friend, stood behind Colonel William E. Farber and smothered him with a pillow pressed over his face in the Farber home in Middletown Township on July 30, 1963.
The sensational disclosure was brought our by defense attorney F. Lee Bailey at a bail hearing for Coppolino in the Monmouth County courthouse. Judge Elvin R. Simmill continued the hearing indefinitely at the request of the defense.
Coppolino, 34, an anesthelogist, author and hypnotist, is scheduled to go on trial here next month in the Farber case. He also is under indictment in Florida in the 1965 murder of his first wife, Dr. Carmela Coppolino.
Bailey referred to Mrs. Farber’s statement while questioning Dr. C. Malcolm Gilman, Monmouth County Physician, who said the autopsy on Farber’s body indicated he was strangled – possibly with a pillow thrust against his throat.
Gilman acknowledged that he had seen the statement, dated December 6, 1965, and that Mrs. Farber had made the allegations regarding her husband’s death in it.
A former maid of the Coppolinos testified earlier that the defendant was at home when Mrs. Farber telephoned the Coppolino home to disclose that he husband was dead. The Coppolinos lived three doors from the Farbers in the exclusive Fox Run section of Middletown Township.
In a detailed chronology of the events of the day Farber dies, Miss Dorothy Jeffrees of Long Branch, New Jersey, said Mrs. Coppolino left for work at 7:30 a.m. and that Coppolino left the house between 10 and 10:30 a.m.
Later Coppolino returned with Mrs. Farber and spent 30 to 45 minute in his home talking and drinking gin. Mrs. Farber left before Mrs. Coppolino returned from work about 6 p.m., the maid said.
Half an hour later, Mrs. Farber called and spoke to Mrs. Coppolino. “Mrs. Coppolino told me, ‘the Colonel has died.’ I almost choked on a hamburger,” the maid said. At this moment, she said, Coppolino was only 25 feet from her in another room.
Mrs. Coppolino left immediately for the Farber home with a stethoscope, the maid said. “She came back in about 30 minutes and said the Colonel was all blue on one side. She said he had been dead for quite some time.”
WIDOW SAYS SHE SAW COPPOLINO SMOTHER COLONEL
Witness Acts Out Death Scene for Jury, Asserting She Was In Hypnotic State
FREEHOLD, New Jersey, December 9, 1966 – Mrs. Marjorie C. Farber told a jury here today that she watched Dr. Carl A. Coppolino smother her drugged and unconscious husband.
Stepping down from the witness chair, she acted out the scene, saying: “He pulled this pillow from beneath my husband’s head and put it over him, just put it over him, and he leaned his full weight right down on him like this and I just stood there and watched.”
Alternately sobbing and speaking with poise, the chestnut-haired, 52-year-old witness for the prosecution detailed a relationship with Dr. Coppolino that, she said, led to the slaying of Colonel William E. Farber in the Farbers’ bedroom in nearby Middletown on July 30, 1963.
Mrs. Farber declared that she was under a hypnotic trance imposed by the doctor at the time of her husband’s death.
“I don’t know how to describe the feeling,” she said. “I was doing this thing. I couldn’t stop myself. I was absolutely beyond my free will.”
She said that a “large magnet had pulled me in there and that’s the only way to express it.”
Mrs. Farber testifies that before Dr. Coppolino had finally killed the retired Army officer with the pillow, she had prevented him from smothering her husband with a plastic dry cleaning bag on the night preceding the Colonel’s death.
She said that as the 34-year-old physician held the pillow over the suffocating Colonel’s head he said: “He’s a hard one. He’s taking along time.” Mrs. Farber, who said that she had first tried to kill her husband, was warned by Judge Elvin Eimmill that she might be incriminating herself. She said she had tried to kill her husband three days before his actual death by trying to inject him with a deadly relaxant drug.
But she said she couldn’t o it and threw the drug away. She said Dr. Coppolino had given her the drug, which is called succinycylcholine chloride. It is deadly when given in an overdose.
“I got rid of it. I didn’t want – I just – I, I – this was very objectionable,” she said. “I just couldn’t do this thing, so I threw it out.”
But on the eve of the Colonel’s death, she said she had filled a small syringe with a potion she mixed herself and had injected it into her slumbering husband’s exposed thigh.
She cried from the witness stand that he husband had jumped up and complained of a “charley horse” and had groped his way to the bathroom where he became ill.
That was near midnight, she said. The next day, near noon, she said, Dr. Coppolino came over and finished him off.
F. Lee Bailey, the defense attorney for Dr. Coppolino, who is charged with murder in the Colonel’s death, contended that Mrs. Farber’s story was nothing more than a cruel hoax.
He said the motive for the slaying was jealousy and that the accused had decided on a love plan that included placing Mrs. Farber, his major witness, in a hypnotic trance.
Mrs. Farber told her entire version of the events that led up to her husband’s death.
She said that she and her husband became friendly with the Coppolinos late in 1962. She said her relationship with the doctor had begun when he used hypnosis to break her from smoking cigarettes.
After several sessions in her home, she said she finally felt a “strong feeling to be close to him.” In the next session “we were in each other’s arms, kissing.”
Mrs. Farber said just before Dr. Coppolino had gone into the bedroom to kill her husband, his “eyes were popping out of his head.”
Then as she described the killing, she halted, choked by tears. When she regained her composure, she re-enacted the scene by stepping down from the witness stand. She bent over a nearby table, and said:
“As he pulled the pillow out, my husband’s head sort of turned over that way.”
Mr. Keuper asked, “Was he dead?”
Mrs. Farber replied that the doctor “opened my husband’s eye and he said, ‘He is dead.’”
At the end of the day, Mr. Bailey introduced a statement allegedly written by Dr. Coppolino and admittedly signed by Mrs. Farber, which read in part:
“I hereby release Carl Coppolino from all responsibility for my husband because Colonel Farber would not go to the hospital and he was having a coronary.”
The defense insists that the Colonel was not murdered but rather that he died of a coronary thrombosis.
Mrs. Farber said she never saw the statement before in her life.
“That’s my signature and that’s Carl’s handwriting, but I’ve never seem it before.”
Mrs. Farber also testified that she had cooked a hamburger for her teenage daughter, Victoria, a few hours after witnessing the doctor’s alleged murder in the bedroom.
But she said the trance had not prevented her from stopping the doctor from smothering her husband the night before, even though she quoted Dr. Coppolino as remarking repeatedly: “This bastard’s got to go; he’s got to die.”
Mrs. Farber was the trial’s first witness and she spent the entire day on the stand.
In his cross-examination, Mr. Bailey attacked the story of Mrs. Farber’s self-described hypnotic trance and the credibility of her earlier testimony to the jury.
“Until Carl Coppolino brushed you aside, then, for the first time, you thought about the death of your husband as a killing, isn’t that true?” Mr. Bailey asked the witness.
Mr. Bailey also asked her, “You remember trying to kill him?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“Now, when did the affection you had for your husband dissipate to the point where you could bring yourself to put the needle in?” he asked. “I didn’t want him to die,” she said.
“But at some point you were overcome, and you took this needle and injected it into his body.”
“So you’re here now to protect the present Mrs. Coppolino?” Mr. Bailey asked.
“Yes and maybe even myself,” she said.
At this, however, the present Mrs. Coppolino, who was sitting about 25 feet behind her husband, smiled to herself.
But Mr. Bailey pointed out that Mrs. Farber’s fear of the defendant had not prevented her from building a house on a plot adjacent to the one owned by Dr. Coppolino on Long Boar Key, just outside Sarasota, after the Colonel’s death.
Moreover, he said, and Mrs. Farber admitted, that she chose the defendant and his first wife, Carmela, to be the godparents of her two daughters at their conversion to Roman Catholicism less that a year after the Colonel’s death.
Mr. Bailey then went up close to Mrs. Farber and asked: “Do you want us to believe that notwithstanding that he (Dr. Coppolino) killed your husband, you still made him the godfather of your children.”
MATE CHOKED BY COPPOLINO SHE TESTIFIES
FREEHOLD, New Jersey, December 9, 1966 – Mrs. Marjorie Farber, the state’s star witness in the Coppolino murder case, testified today that Dr. Carl A. Coppolino strangled her husband out of jealousy when she was unable to obey his “hypnotic” command to kill him herself.
The state opened its case against Coppolino by calling the 52-year-old brunette, once the 34-year-old doctor’s paramour, to the stand for hours of sensational testimony and cross-examination. Defense Counsel F. Lee Bailey had described her in his opening statement to the Superior Court as a woman “who drips from venom on the inside.”
Because Coppolino cast her aside and married his present wife, Bailey said, “She would sit on his (Coppolino’s) lad in the electric chair just to see someone pull the switch to see that he dies. This is a monumental and shameful demonstration that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
The widow was sobbing and gasping as she told how Coppolino, her lover of six months, injected a death-dealing drug into her ailing husband, retired Army Colonel William E. Farber on July 30, 1963, but became impatient.
“He’s a hard one to kill. He’s taking a long time to die,” she quoted Coppolino as saying. “He (Coppolino) grabbed a pillow from under his head; put it over his face and chest. He pressed his full weight, like this. And I just stood there and looked at him.”
At this point Mrs. Farber’s hear went down on her knees and the courtroom was a silent as a tomb. She revived after an attendant brought her a glad of water, then continued her tale of adultery, jealousy, and murder which all began, she said, when she went to Coppolino to hypnotic treatments to break the smoking habit.
“From that time I would say I was in constant, what they call a walking trance,” she said, adding that she felt “a sort of magnetic pull” toward Coppolino. For days before the murder, she said, Coppolino had told her “over and over that Bill had to go.”
She said the doctor gave her a drug and syringe on July 27 but she threw the solution out because “I just couldn’t to this thing.”
Two nights later she went to her husband’s bedroom while he was asleep – “like a large magnet pulled me there, absolutely over and beyond my own free will” and managed to get the needle into his leg.
“S started to push down and I froze. I couldn’t do it.” She said her husband had some reaction and collapsed on the bathroom floor. She said she called Coppolino who put a plastic bag over Farber’s head. When she begged the doctor to stop it he left and returned the next afternoon to give the Colonel a sedative which made him “groggy,” she testified.
Mrs. Farber said she heard the men arguing and Coppolino came into the room where she was waiting and said, “That bastard’s got to go, he has threatened me and my family. Nobody is going to talk to me like that.”
It was then that Coppolino returned to the bedroom and gave Farber an injection, she testified. She described the doctor as so angry his eyes “were popping out of his head.” She said be became inpatient when Farber, who was by then unconscious, continue to breathe. She acted out Coppolino’s movements as he smothered Farber with the pillow and said the doctor suggested that they turn Farber over to “he’ll look like he died in his sleep.”
Bailey suggested in his cross-examination that the whole story might have been made up or that it was “all a bad dream.” He prodded Mrs. Farber incessantly for an answer as to why it was necessary to formulate any plan to get the Colonel out of the way since “Carl could have you any time he wanted.”
Mrs. Farber said she could only presume Coppolino was jealous.
Bailey asked Mrs. Farber if Coppolino hadn’t told her he was going to break off as her husband’s doctor if he refused to follow Dr. Coppolino’s advice to enter the hospital.
She replied that “Carl did not say anything like that.”
“Do you swear to that?” Bailey asked, his voice rising.
She said she did and Bailey whipped out a piece of paper and said: “Is this your signature, Mrs. Farber?”
She said it was, “and the handwriting is Carl’s – but I don’t have any memory of signing this piece of paper.” She said she never saw the paper before.
The paper was a statement saying that she was releasing Dr. Coppolino from all responsibility in her husband’s case because be refused to be hospitalized even thought he might be suffering a heart attack. It was dated at 1 p.m., July 30, 1963. The Colonel was found dead early that evening.
The defense contends he died of natural causes. Mrs. Farber testified Coppolino killed him some time after 1 p.m.
Farber’s death has been ascribed officially after an autopsy on the exhumed body to a broken cartilage in the throat. Bailey indicated in the course of questioning prospective jurors that the throat was damaged when Farber’s coffin collapsed in the course of two and a half years of interment.
Before she testified, Judge Elvin R. Simmill explained to Mrs. Farber that her testimony could incriminate her and “consequences might flow from this testimony you may give.” She said she was fully aware of it.
In his opening statement, Prosecutor Vincent P. Keuper said Coppolino “not only took the wife of William E. Farber but the life of William E. Farber.” He said the doctor didn’t want Farber “in the same bed with his wife – he was jealous and that was the motive for the destruction of Farber.”
Coppolino has been indicted in Sarasota, Florida, for his drug slaying of his first wife, Dr. Carmela Coppolino, in 1965. The Coppolinos and Mrs. Farber and her children had moved to Sarasota after Farber’s death. Coppolino married his present wife, Mary, a wealthy divorcee, 28 days after his first wife’s death.
COPPOLINO ACQUITTED OF MURDER
But Still Faces Trial in Death of First Wife
FREEHOLD, New Jersey, December 15, 1966 – Dr. Carl A. Coppolino was acquitted today on the charge that he murdered Colonel William E. Farber.
The verdict caused a sharp uproar in the courtroom here, and the pale, 34-year-old defendant broke into tears.
As Judge Elvin Simmill warned from the bench: “There will be no demonstration,” the doctor’s 39-year-old wife, Mary, and his mother, Anna, clutching a rosary, rushed forward into his arms.
“My prayers have saved you, my poor boy,” the doctor’s mother sobbed.
The defendant and his wife, tears streaming down their cheeks, held each other tightly. Then to each other they said, “I love you.”
Despite the verdict, Dr. Coppolino did not go free tonight. He has been indicted for murder in the death of his first wife, Carmela, who died in Sarasota, Florida, on August 28, 1965.
Dr. Coppolino was accused here of strangling Colonel Farber, his friend and neighbor in nearby Middletown, on July 30, 1963.
Governor Richard J. Hughes of New Jersey, in gaining the doctor’s extradition to stand trial here, promised Governor Haydon Burns of Florida to return the anesthesiologist and hypnotist for a trial in Sarasota.
Since Sarasota authorities have already accepted a $15,000 bond for Dr. Coppolino’s freedom, the doctor is expected to be released on bail when he returns there. Even Judge Simmill said he agreed that F. Lee Bailey, Dr. Coppolino’s defense lawyer, had presented good reasons for freeing the doctor now. These would include his acquittal here and his bond in Florida.
The judge said, however, that he was bound by the agreement between the two Governors.
“What happens to him in Florida, I don’t know,” the judge said.
John Gawler, Chief of Country Detectives here, said tonight that he would take Dr. Coppolino under guard to Florida tomorrow.
Frank Schaub, a Florida State Attorney who attended the trial here as an observer, said that Dr. Coppolino would definitely go on trial in Sarasota.
Mrs. Marjorie Farber, 52-year-old widow of the Colonel and the prosecutions’ star witness, was not in the courtroom when the verdict was intoned at 4:33 P.M. by General Phillips, the jury foreman.
The jury, which spent just short of four and one half hours in deliberation, had filed back into the courtroom after knocking on the door of the room 11 minutes earlier to signify that they had reached a verdict.
Mrs. Philipps asked by the clerk if the jurors ha reached a unanimous verdict, stood and declared: “We find Dr. Carl Coppolino not guilty.” The foreman was the juror who admitted to Mr. Bailey last week that he could sympathize with the defendant’s indiscretion and that even he “had stepped out of line once in a while himself.”
Judge Simmill gave the following instructions to the jurors: “I strongly suggest to you that if someone tries to talk to you, merely tell that you do not care to discuss the matter.”
After the verdict, one of the jurors said that in their initial vote, eight members felt there was no murder, three others thought there had been a murder and one was undecided.
Then, in five successive ballots, the three who thought there had been a murder and undecided juror apparently fell into line with the majority. On the fifth ballot the jurors were unanimous in deciding the doctor was not guilty.
Judge Simmill forbade reporters to talk to members of the jury. In a memorandum signed by him, he said:
“All members of the news media are directed not to take any photos whatsoever and not to engage in any conversation with any member of the jury, including the two who were not selected to decided the case, at any time, including after they are discharged by the court.”
The judge could not be reached to explain why he had issued the memorandum.
After the verdict was announced, Mr. Bailey made his unsuccessful attempt to win immediate freedom for his client.
When the doctor was returned to the Monmouth County Jail a few blocks away, Mr. Bailey joined the doctor’s wife and mother for a celebration at the American Hotel.
Last month, Mr. Bailey won acquittal in Cleveland for Samuel H. Sheppard, whose 1954 murder conviction had been reversed by the United States Supreme Court last July.
After today’s verdict, Mrs. Mary Coppolino, her face radiant in the glare of flashbulbs and television lights emerged from the courthouse and said, “It’s a big, big, beautiful world.”
A few minutes later, Vincent P. Keuper, the Monmouth Prosecutor, was asked by reporters: “Does Mrs. Coppolino have any chance of spending any time tonight with her husband.”
“Not unless she breaks into the jail,” the prosecutor replied with a smile.
Mr. Keuper was asked what he was going to do about Mrs. Farber, who testified that she attempted to murder her husband. Mr. Keuper said, his hands spread in a questioning gesture, “I don’t know.”
In his instructions to the jury this morning, just before it went out at 11:58 A.M., Judge Simmill warned that it must not be influenced by the Florida murder indictment against the doctor. He said the “first clash” in this case was whether the Colonel’s death was natural or whether he was murdered. The prosecution, he said, did not have to prove there was a motive. The judge also said that when the jurors were weighing Mrs. Farber’s testimony, they could consider whether she had a “special interest in the outcome,” and whether she was motivated by a spirit of “revenge or reprisal against Dr. Coppolino.
Then Judge Simmill told the jurors that they had the following choices: find the defendant guilty of first-degree murder with a mandatory sentence of death; find him guilty of first-degree murder, but recommend life imprisonment; find him guilty of second-degree murder, which is not pre-meditated and which carried a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison; or acquittal.
In any event, the judge said, the verdict must be unanimous.
Then, two of the 14 jurors who heard the case were eliminated in a drawing, and the clerk read the names of the remaining 12, who filed into the jury room.
When they left the courtroom, Judge Simmill, who seemed visibly to relax on the bench, thanked the opposing lawyers and newsmen for “your cooperation.”
In his closing statement to the jury, Mr. Bailey described the charge against the defendant as nothing more than a “reprisal!” by Mrs. Farber.
It was Mrs. Farber’s accusation that led to Dr. Coppolino’s indictment for murder here last July in the Colonel’s death.
Mrs. Farber testified at the nine-day trial that the defendant strangled her husband with a pillow on July 30, 1963, after she, while in a hypnotic trance induced by Dr. Coppolino, tried to kill her husband with what she thought was a deadly drug. She said that she and the doctor had been lovers.
Mr. Bailey described the feeling between the defendant and Mrs. Farber as a “love that turned to hatred,” and said her accusation was the “preposterous tale of a sick and malicious woman.”
“Maybe she snuffed him out,” he said. “I wonder if she just let him die in spite.”
Stalking back and forth before the jury, his hand trailing lightly along the jury rail, Mr. Bailey described Mrs. Farber as a “Sarah Bernhardt, a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”
Leaning over the rail, Mr. Bailey, his face red and his hands quivering slightly, declared, “There is nothing to connect the defendant with a homicide, indeed if there ever was one.”
Referring to Mr. Bailey’s attack on Mrs. Farber, the prosecutor threw up his arms and told the jury: “Marjorie Farber is not on trial here. I hold no brief for Marjorie Farber. Her acts were disgusting, deplorable and disgraceful.”
Mr. Keuper told the jury that it might shrink from sending the defendant to the electric chair. “But,” he said, “under no circumstances can you let him walk out of his courtroom a free man.”
Mr. Bailey spoke for nearly an hour. Mr. Keuper for half that time.
The defense lawyer said that after Dr. Coppolino had married his present wife, ollowing the death of his first wife, Mrs. Farber decided: “If I can’t have him, nobody can.”
From her initital dissclosures to Florida authorites, Mr. Bailey said, “Mrs. Farber rode with the waves, the fanned out and caused the indictment here. Then into the picture sails Dr. Milton Helpern, a take-over sort of guy, a man given to ungenerous and dangerous opinions,” the defense attorney said.
Dr. Helpern, New York City’s Chief Medical Examiner, testified that the Colonel had died of a “homicidal” double fracture of the cricoids cartilage in the larynx.
Mr. Bailey said that Dr. Helpern’s contention “tumbled down and was meaningless” because two pathologists who testified for the defense said that the Colonel probably died of a heart attack as Dr. Coppolino testified yesterday. The doctor had pictured himself as a frustrated physician prevented from treating the heart attack.
Mr. Keuper said today that even though two medical hypnotists had testified for the defense that a person cannot be made to do something morally against his will, Mrs. Farber had had a latent homicidal urge against her husband, and that Dr. Coppolino had simply unleashed it.
Mrs. Marjorie Farber refused to comment today on the jury’s acquittal of Dr. Coppolino on charges that he had murdered her husband.
After returning to her home here from dinner with friends, Mrs. Farber said: “I simply don’t think I should comment on the trial since it is now finished. Friends are wonderful to have at a time like this,” she said.
DR. COPPOLINO STARTS SUIT FOR $1,275,000 AGAINST MRS. FARBER
SARASOTA, Florida, February 20, 1967 – Dr. Carl Coppolino filed a $1,275,000 suit for damaged today against Marjorie C. Farber, widow of the man Dr. Coppolino was found not guilty of murdering.
The Circuit Court suit alleged that Mrs. Farber gave a false statement to Sheriff Ross E. Boyer of Sarasota County accusing Dr. Coppolino of the 1963 murder of her husband in Monmouth County, New Jersey.
The suit contends that the statement resulted in a grand jury indictment charging Dr. Coppolino with first degree murder in the death of William E. Farber, a retired Army Colonel.
It asks $525,000 in compensatory damaged and $750,000 in punitive damaged, charging that the statements were false and that Mrs. Farber “acted maliciously and was guilty of a wanton disregard of the rights and feelings of” Dr. Coppolino.
The suit says Dr. Coppolino suffered great distress and damage of body and mind that he was “brought into public scandal, infamy and disgrace and incurred great financial expense in conducting his defense.”
Dr. Coppolino was arrested in July 1966 in the Farber case and was held without bail until his acquittal in New Jersey last December.
COPPOLINO REJECTED WIFE, MRS. FARBER TESTIFIED
NAPLES, Florida, April 19, 1967 – Mrs. Marjorie Farber, the jilted mistress of Dr. Carl A. Coppolino, testified at his murder trial today that he had returned to his wife, Carmela, on the ninth anniversary of their marriage to tell her – 10 days before her sudden death – that he no longer loved her.
A few hours later, Carmela’s father, Dr. Carmelo A. Musetto, testified that Dr. Coppolino informed him by telephone on the night of her death that an autopsy had just been performed, confirming his earlier report that Carmela had died of a massive heart attack.
Actually there was no autopsy until months later when suspicion fell on Dr. Coppolino, and the body of Carmela was exhumed.
The state contends that Dr. Coppolino, a 34-year-old anesthesiologist, murdered his wife by giving here a lethal injection of a paralyzing drug, and that his motive was to collect on her $65,000 life insurance policies and then marry a wealthy divorcee, Mary Gibson. He did marry Mrs. Gibson less than six weeks after his wife’s death.
The present Mrs. Coppolino, sitting near her husband, rose and exchanged icy stated with Mrs. Farber when defense counsel F. Lee Bailey told her to stand and be recognized by the witness.
Mrs. Farber had testified last December in the first Coppolino murder trial in New Jersey, when the defendant was acquitted of the murder of her husband, Colonel William E. Farber, in New Jersey, that Dr. Coppolino had put her under a hypnotic spell when they plotted together to murder her husband in 1963.
She testified then that on instructions from Dr. Coppolino she had tried to give her husband an injection of succinyl choline, the same drug the state of Florida now contends was used in the murder of Mrs. Coppolino on August 28, 1965. When Colonel Farber awoke, she testified, Dr. Coppolino smothered him with a pillow.
No reference to that case had been permitted in this trial. Mrs. Farber’s testimony was limited to a brief reference to her affair with the defendant and to what she knew of his activities after they moved from Middletown, New Jersey, to Sarasota, Florida, in 1965.
Five times during her testimony, Mr. Bailey jumped up to ask for a mistrial on the grounds of irrelevance and prejudice, and five times Judge Lynn Silvertooth denied the motion.
Mrs. Farber said she had met Dr. Coppolino in 1962. They went off on trips together, she said, to Miami Beach, twice to Puerto Rico, to Atlantic City and finally to Sarasota, soon after the death of Colonel Farber, at which time they bought adjacent home sites.
Mrs. Farber testifies that on the eve of Carmela Coppolino’s death she saw Dr. Coppolino sitting in an automobile with Mary Gibson. She said she went over to the car to remind Dr. Coppolino that Carmela was supposed to pick up her daughter, Monica, who was visiting Mrs. Farber’s daughter that afternoon.
Later, she said, she received a telephone call from Dr. Coppolino.
“What did he say?” Frank Schaub, the prosecutor asked.
A. He was very agitated. He said there was a black cloud over his head. He didn’t appreciate my “Gestapo methods” and said that I was spying on him.
Q. Did he sound disturbed?
A. Yes he did.
On the next day, after Carmela’s death, they met at the house of Mr. and Mrs. George Thompson, neighbors of the Coppolinos. Later, at the Coppolino house, she said she had overheard a telephone conversation.
“I heard him say, ‘They’ve already started the arterial work. That won’t show anything,” she went on. “Then I asked him what he meant. He said it meant there was no autopsy.”
“Arterial work” was an apparent reference to the first stage of embalming.
A week later, she testified, Dr. Coppolino told her of breaking the news to his wife, on their wedding anniversary, August 28, that he no longer loved her.
Mr. Bailey, on cross examination, tried to portray Mrs. Farber as a woman consumed by jealousy who, when she saw Dr. Coppolino with another woman, set out to destroy him.
Dr. Musetto testified that in two long distance calls to Dr. Coppolino on the night of his daughter’s death, his son-in-law had told him that Carmela had died of a “massive coronary occlusion” and, in the later call, that Dr. Millard White, Medical Examiner of Sarasota County, had performed an autopsy and found a “severe heart condition.”
He also told the jury that Dr. Coppolino had for some years shown a devouring curiosity about a massive heart attack Dr. Musetto had once suffered. “He wanted it in minute detail,” the witness said.
FARBER, WILLIAM E
- COL. U.S.A.
- DATE OF BIRTH: 04/20/1911
- DATE OF DEATH: 07/30/1963
- BURIED AT: SECTION 6 SITE 5008-2
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Read our general and most popular articles
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard