"48 Hours" preview: When a murder suspect has an identical twin, solving the case can be doubly tricky

From left, Adam and Lina Kaufman on their wedding day, with Adam's twin brother, Seth.
Kaufman family
Adam and Lina Kaufman on their wedding day, with Adam's twin brother, Seth.
From left, Adam and Lina Kaufman on their wedding day, with Adam's twin brother, Seth.
Kaufman family

(CBS) When 33-year-old Lina Kaufman died suddenly in her suburban Miami home in the early morning hours of November 7, 2007, her husband Adam immediately came under suspicion. 

Watch a sneak peek of "48 Hours: Lina's Heart"

Young, seemingly healthy women rarely collapse and die, so it was natural that investigators would look at her husband as a possible assailant. But they didn't count on one complicating factor: Adam Kaufman's twin brother, Seth.

It all started with what Adam was wearing the night his wife died. One of the first responders on the scene said Adam was in his underwear, but others reported that Adam, who said he woke to find his wife unconscious in the bathroom, was already fully dressed and even wearing cologne when they arrived. Why, they wondered, would a man who found his wife dying in a bathroom take the time to get dressed?

The confusion over what he was wearing that morning was just one of the reasons that, 18 months after the death of Lina Kaufman, prosecutors filed criminal charges against Adam Kaufman. In April 2009, he was charged with strangling his wife and thrown in jail. 

There is just one significant detail missing from those police reports: none of the officers who were in the Kaufman home that fateful morning mentioned seeing Seth, Adam Kaufman's identical twin.

Seth, who lives minutes away from Adam, rushed over when he heard Lina had collapsed. Emergency personnel may have seen Seth, who arrived dressed in shorts; Adam has always said that he was wearing the clothing he slept in, boxer shorts, when he called 911 and then later hurriedly pulled on jeans.

The mix-up was an inexcusable error, but still, understandable. Adam and Seth Kaufman are identical twins. They are so alike that even some family members have difficulty telling them apart. In fact, during a bond proceeding, a judge ordered both men to take off their shirts because Adam has a tattoo on his upper left arm, Seth does not, and the judge wanted to be sure he had the right man before placing an electronic monitoring device on Adam.

What's more, when Adam was granted bond and allowed to go home, he wasn't the only who had to surrender his passport. So did Seth!

There is something both fascinating and unsettling about the idea of two individuals who have the same genetic make-up. Just under 50,000 identical twins are born in the United States every year. Writers, including Shakespeare, have long used identical twins to explore the good and evil sides of human nature. Twins are always asked questions about their relationships: can they read each other's minds? Do they feel each other's pain? The fact that Adam Kaufman was an identical twin played a subtle, but significant part in the investigation into Lina's death. To begin with, authorities wondered how Seth Kaufman had arrived so quickly at Adam's house. 

Did Adam call Seth even before he called 911 to get help for his wife? Was Seth covering for his twin, hiding information? There was no evidence that Seth had done anything other than what a loving brother would do, but investigators seemed to distrust the unusual closeness between the two.

And they are close. The brothers consult with each other each morning before they decide what they will eat for breakfast. They finish each other's sentences and often use the same phrases. But if being a twin complicated the investigation into his wife's death, that relationship also helped Adam get through the ordeal of losing his wife and standing trial. Whenever Adam had a court hearing, Seth was in the courtroom. Seth says he felt Adam's pain as if it was his own. Seth spoke to reporters on his brother's behalf and testified for him at trial. And when the jury announced its verdict, Seth stood right behind his twin and cried.

  • Erin Moriarty

    Correspondent, "48 Hours"