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Justice for April Kauffman: A long road ahead

For friends and family who have waited more than five years for an arrest in the shooting death of April Kauffman, the recent charges against husband Dr. James Kauffman and alleged accomplices may feel like closure.

But it is really just the start of another long process, said Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner. He has said the investigation continues and more charges could come.

How long could a trial take? Criminal law expert J.C. Lore, director of trial advocacy at Rutgers Law School, said a year to two years is possible.

James Kauffman, now 68, was an endocrinologist who went to work at his Egg Harbor Township office early the morning of May 10, 2012, and soon called an employee to check on his wife at their Linwood home. That employee found April Kauffman, 47, dying of her wounds and called 911. But she died within minutes of being found.

James Kauffman returned home, talked to police, then hired the high-powered law firm Jacobs and Barbone of Atlantic City.

For five years, nothing much happened in the case, and the public was livid about it. People called and wrote to The Press, demanding answers as to why no arrest had been made.

“Every time an ‘update’ on the April Kauffman murder appears, I’m astounded at how little new information it contains,” wrote Eileen Oleksiak-Hall, of Cape May, in a June 2016 letter. “If justice continues to elude someone of her stature, it does not bode favorably for victims who are less well-connected.”

Three different prosecutors had the case, yet no action was taken.

But under Tyner, who took office in March, the case accelerated. In June, Kauffman pulled a gun and tried to barricade himself in his Egg Harbor Township medical office when FBI and police tried to execute a search warrant there.

“I’m not going to jail for this,” Kauffman yelled at officers.

Just what “this” was was unclear, which made it ripe for speculation.

On Tuesday, events went into freefall. James Kauffman was charged with murder, linked to a drug ring and the Pagans, an outlaw motorcycle gang. More bizarre details emerged in the following days, including an alleged hit Pagans Cape May Chapter President Ferdinand Augello, a co-leader of the drug ring, tried to put out on James Kauffman.

Law & Order

One of the breaks in the case may have come from a confidential informant who recorded Augello talking about the drug ring, describing the operation and the guns, cars, real estate and guitars bought with some of the proceeds.

Other defendants may have also been recorded talking, according to court documents from the Prosecutor’s Office.

Augello also is alleged to have spoken at length about trying put a hit on James Kauffman, who he was afraid would talk after his arrest in June.

Such recordings are “absolutely used as a basis for conviction all of the time,” Lore said.

The defense will undoubtedly try to learn the identity of the confidential informant to cross-examine him or her, and will likely succeed since the stakes are so high in a murder case, Lore said. The defense will also likely attack that person’s integrity and honesty and question the authenticity of the recordings.

“A confidential informant is probably not the best person in the world; that’s the reason they are able to get to (the defendants). They are known to be engaging in criminal activity themselves,” Lore said.

Sometimes the content of the recordings doesn’t live up to prosecutors’ descriptions of them, Lore said.

It may take time for attorneys to sever the cases from each other, especially if the defense is going to be vastly different for each defendant.

“In this case, somebody is likely to be pointing the finger at someone else,” he said.

While deals may be offered, Kauffman, the main target of the investigation, may not have the same opportunities to strike one, Lore suggested.

“In a case with multiple defendants, there is a strong incentive for the prosecution to get one to flip on the others” in exchange for reduced charges, Lore said. “A lot of strategy goes into that. Who is the best witness? Who is least culpable? Who do you really want to send to prison longest?”

Always a suspect

At the time of the killing, many people questioned why Mainland Regional High School wasn’t locked down to protect students from a loose shooter.

The school was just across the street from the quiet cul-de-sac where the Kauffmans lived.

Then-Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said: “Linwood residents should not feel any more threatened for their safety than before the killing, but they should always keep alert for anything suspicious.”

The seeming lack of concern spurred rumors police believed the killing was done by James Kauffman, and that he wouldn’t be a threat to others.

The first anniversary of April Kauffman’s death went by with no news.

In subsequent years, her daughter, Kimberly Pack, went public with her belief that James Kauffman was responsible for her mom’s death, and blocked him from collecting $600,000 in life insurance on her mother.

On Thursday, it was James Kauffman getting a form of life insurance, as authorities moved him from the Atlantic County jail where Augello was being held to a facility in Hudson County for his protection.

Revel casino sale not the end of Glenn Straub in Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — Just when you think you’ve seen the last of Glenn Straub, think again.

The Florida-based developer, known for his outrageous claims, now wants to be named redeveloper of the South Inlet, despite never delivering on his promise to open the former Revel Casino Resort.

Despite no longer owning one of the state’s tallest building, Straub’s company, Polo North Country Club, still owns more than 60 properties in the resort.

“Even after the sale, Polo North is still the largest non-casino property owner on the Boardwalk,” Straub said. “We will move forward and be a spark for catalyzing positive economic movement in Atlantic City.”

Polo North owns 43 properties in the South Inlet section of the city, according to state property records, with one of the largest properties being a nearly acre-sized parcel near the Boardwalk on Rhode Island Avenue. Straub purchased the open lot, once valued at $2.8 million, for $367,430 in April 2015.

On Jan. 4, Straub sold Revel to AC OCEAN WALK, a group led by Colorado-based investor Bruce Deifik, for $200 million. The property is scheduled to reopen over the summer as Ocean Resort Casino, joining Hard Rock, which will open its new property at the former Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort site.

Straub bought the $2.4 billion Revel for $82 million in bankruptcy court in August 2015 and has said it cost about $1 million a month to keep the building running.

The developer came into the city at a time when few were looking to invest in it, said Bryant Simon, a Temple University professor and author of “Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America.”

“For 70 years, Atlantic City has been on the verge of economic decline or explosion. You are always looking for this white knight,” Simon said.

While being coy about his plans, Straub said the extension of the Boardwalk to Gardner’s Basin has made the area more attractive. The area will see increased interest as Hard Rock, Ocean Resort and The Beach at South Inlet, a residential project on a grassy 4-acre lot bound by Atlantic, Pacific, New Jersey and Connecticut avenues, open.

“This used to be the end of the Boardwalk, now it’s in the middle,” Straub said Tuesday. “This is one of three areas that we want to clean up.”

Straub said he is going to ask the city to name him the redeveloper for the area, allowing him to use condemnation to acquire other properties.

Council President Marty Small said he has not spoken to Straub about the redevelopment of the area.

“We are not going to name anyone,” Small said. “If people are interested in development in the city, they are going to have to go through a process. It has nothing to do with Glenn Straub.”

In addition to being committed to redeveloping the South Inlet, Straub has expressed interest in purchasing Boardwalk Hall and Bader Field.

“We want to make Bader Field an airport again and use private planes to bring people in from Columbus, Youngstown or anywhere else where it’s an hourlong flight,” he said.

Despite failing to reopen the casino property during his two years of ownership, Straub invested when few were looking at Atlantic City, Small said.

“We thank Glenn for buying Revel and preventing it from becoming an eyesore,” Small said. “If he is still interested in Atlantic City, we are interested in him.”