By Shayna Jacobs and Jon Schuppe
MANHATTAN — While authorities investigate the murder of Upper West Side wealth manager Shele Danishefsky Covlin in her bathtub on New Year’s Eve, a judge has ordered those involved in the custody battle over her two children to stay mum on the issue.
Supreme Court Judge Ellen Gesmer ordered the victim’s family and its lawyers not to talk to the press, or “disseminate any information in any manner” about the case unless asked to do so by law enforcement officials.
Gesmer also barred the family, including the victim's husband Ron Covlin — a prime suspect in his wife's murder — from speaking to the children about their mother’s death or about the autopsy performed when her body was exhumed weeks after her burial.
Rod Covlin, 36, appeared at the Manhattan court building with his parents and attorney on Thursday.
Danishefsky Covlin’s brother, Philip, is fighting Covlin for custody of the children. Philip Danishefsky also wants to limit Covlin’s ability to visit them.
The children, a 3-year-old boy and an 9-year-old girl, are reportedly living with their paternal grandparents in upstate New York. They have a lawyer representing them, and the daughter is seeing a therapist, according to Gesmer’s order. They are not allowed to leave the state, except for a visit last Sunday to their mother’s family in New Jersey.
The feuding family members were back in a Manhattan civil court Thursday, but did not appear before the judge in public. All their discussions were done behind closed doors, in the judge’s chambers, a court clerk said.
Danishefsky Covlin, 47, was found by her daughter in their West 68th Street bathroom on Dec. 31. Police at the time said her injuries, including lacerations on the back of her head, appeared to be “consistent with a fall.” Because she and her family were devout Jews, they refused an autopsy on religious grounds.
But members of her family, along with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, remained suspicious. At the time of her death, Danishefsky Covlin, a private wealth advisor at UBS Wealth Management, was embroiled in a bitter divorce with Covlin. She had expressed fears that her husband “intended to kill her,” according to an affidavit her brother filed in Surrogate's Court and she obtained an order of protection against him, barring him from contacting her and their children.
She was preparing to replace him as the executor of her will and she had already changed her company-sponsored insurance policy to remove her husband as her beneficiary.
Jack Meyer, director of Misaskim, a Brooklyn organization that helps Jewish families deal with the unexpected deaths of loved ones, said they offered to assist the family with a “kosher autopsy” — supervised by rabbis who prepare the examination site so that blood and body parts aren’t lost.
Autopsies “in any shape or form” are not technically kosher, but when Misaskim accompanies the medical examiner, it brings added “dignity and respect.”
But the family told him they weren’t going to do an autopsy at all.
Misaskim was cleared by police to remove some blood from Danishefsky Covlin’s bathroom about 24 hours after she was found, Meyer said.
By February, the family had dropped its religious objections and allowed the DA to obtain a court order for her body to be removed from a Hawthorne, N.Y., cemetery and studied.
The body was delivered to the Medical Examiner’s Office, and after a five-week investigation concluded she had been strangled.