Husband guilty of murder - obsession with stripper led to strangulation

NORRISTOWN, Pa.

A young widower confessed Thursday that he strangled his wife while pursuing a fascination with an expensive stripper, telling a stunned courtroom he had lost his ability to tell right from wrong.

As his trial began, Craig Rabinowitz, 34, pleaded guilty to charges of murdering his wife, Stefanie, for her $1.8 million in life insurance. He also pleaded guilty to theft by deception and deceptive business practices. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Stopping at times to regain his composure, Rabinowitz said he decided to spare family and friends the anguish of a trial. "I made the decision based on what I believe to be the two most important factors. Number one is my guilt, that I am guilty of these charges and I am ready to accept full responsibility for my wife Stefanie's death," he said.

"I cannot and will not subject my daughter, Haley, my wife's family, my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law, my family and our friends, I will not subject them to what most assuredly would be a very painful trial, one that I am sure would bring much sadness and anguish to all of those involved," he said.  "I have brought enough heartache and devastation to all of these people and so many others as well."

Rabinowitz's mother and mother-in-law both shook with silent sobs as he expressed remorse for murdering the mother of his daughter, now 17 months.

Until Thursday, Rabinowitz had alleged that someone who left no signs of entering their house in Lower Merion Township strangled his wife in a bathtub April 29, three days before their baby's first birthday. But police determined Rabinowitz was deep in debt, partially from an obsession with Philadelphia stripper Shannon Reinhart, nicknamed Summer. Rabinowitz spent at least $100,000 on Reinhart after they met a year ago, tipping her heavily during his frequent visits to Delilah's Den.

Police also determined that his career as a latex salesman was a sham and that he cheated friends of $223,000 in a pyramid scheme by selling shares in the bogus company. 

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Bruce L. Castor submitted a synopsis of the case he had planned to present, including a document he called "the smoking gun," a ledger Rabinowitz wrote two weeks before the murder detailing his $671,000 in debts and the $2.1 million he could get from his wife's life insurance, stock and sale of the house.

Police found the piece of paper stashed in Mrs. Rabinowitz's closet. Thursday, Castor displayed a poster-sized enlargement of it, with a photo of Rabinowitz's favorite stripper attached.

Castor said evidence showed Rabinowitz slipped sleeping medicine into his wife's drink so she could not defend herself, then "choked the life out of her." The autopsy showed Mrs. Rabinowitz died at least two hours before her husband called the police, Castor said.

Castor said there was no evidence that Mrs. Rabinowitz, who worked part time as a lawyer, knew of her husband's debts, nor of his obsession with Reinhart.

Source: The Times Herald-Record

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