NJ doctor charged with wife’s slaying in twisted murder-for-hire plot
LINWOOD — Five years after South Jersey radio host April Kauffman was found shot to death in her home, investigators say they finally cracked the long-unsolved mystery, charging her husband with paying a hitman more than $20,000 to kill his wife.
James Kauffman, a 68-year-old doctor who remained under a cloud of suspicion for years, was one of eight people charged in connection to his wife's homicide, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said Tuesday.
According to Tyner, Kauffman spent a year plotting his wife's demise after she threatened to divorce him and expose his illegal drug practice involving the Pagan Outlaw Motorcycle Gang.
And while Kauffman and his gangster associates are facing charges, the gunman who pulled the trigger never will. Prosecutors say the hitman died of a drug overdose a year after slaying.
Kauffman called police about 11:29 a.m. on May 10, 2012, to report that he had found his wife passed out in the home. Police found her face down in her bedroom with gunshot wounds.
Years went by with no arrests, but Kauffman made headlines last year when he was arrested after a tense standoff with police on June 13. Kauffman, armed with a Ruger 9mm handgun, threatened to kill himself in an exchange recorded by police bodycams.
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After the arrest, prosecutors insisted the search warrants that police had been executing at Kauffman's home and office before the standoff were not related to his wife's death. He was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation and charged with several weapons violations and obstruction of justice.
Kauffman has continued to deny any involvement in his wife's death.
On Tuesday, prosecutors revealed further details, describing an illicit oxycontin drug ring that they say Kauffman had masterminded and continued to operate years after his wife's death.
They also revealed that Kauffman himself had been the intended target of another murder plot by the gang.
Prosecutors say Kauffman asked Ferdinand Augello, who helped him run the drug ring, to kill his wife in the summer of 2011.
Augello, 61, of Petersburg, tried to hire a number of Pagans or gang associates to carry out the murder, but was unsuccessful, officials said, until he found Francis Mullholland.
Authorities say Mullholland was dropped off at the home, where the doors had been left open, went inside, shot April Kauffman twice, and left.
Prosecutors say Mullholland had claimed that he was paid $20,000 to carry out the murder, but officials believe the amount, which may have involved drugs and cash, could have been higher. The payment and additional prescriptions were picked up the day of the shooting by Augello’s ex-wife, Beverly Augello.
Mullholland died the following year.
Kauffman is facing new charges of first-degree racketeering and murder.
Augello is charged with first-degree racketeering, murder of April Kauffman, and conspiracy to kill James Kauffman.
Beverly Augello, 47, of Summerland Keys, Florida, is charged with first-degree racketeering.
Joseph Mulholland, 52, of the Villas section of Lower Township, is charged with first-degree racketeering.
Glenn Seeler, 37, of Sanford, North Carolina, is charged with first-degree racketeering.
Paul Pagano, 61, of Egg Harbor Township, is charged with second-degree racketeering.
Tabitha Chapman, 35, Absecon, is charged with second-degree racketeering.
Cheryl Pizza, 36, of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, is charged with second degree racketeering.
New Jersey 101.5 did not know Tuesday whether Augello or the others charged had attorneys who could speak on their behalf.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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