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NY doctor charged in wife's 2012 death

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - A well-known obstetrician who said his wife died after falling in the shower two years ago has been charged with her murder.

Dr. Robert Neulander, 62, faces charges of second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence. He pleaded not guilty Monday during his arraignment in Onondaga County Court and was freed on $100,000 bail.

Neulander's 61-year-old wife, Leslie Neulander, was found dead in the family home in the Syracuse suburb of Fayetteville in September 2012. The county medical examiner's office initially ruled the death an accident after Neulander told police his wife slipped and fell in the shower.

District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said at a press conference Monday that Leslie Neulander's body was found in a prone position 60 feet from the shower by emergency personnel. He said she had obvious blunt trauma to the side of her head and there is evidence indicating Robert Neulander moved his wife's body and changed the sheets to hide physical evidence, reports CBS affiliate WTVH.

Fitzpatrick said the Neulanders, who were prominent in the community and in charity work, were divorcing when she was found dead. He said they had been sleeping in separate bedrooms.

Police said the death was treated as suspicious when it happened.

The Neulanders are well known in the Syracuse area for their philanthropy and generosity to charities in the Jewish community. He was the chairman of the 2013 campaign for the Jewish Federation of Central New York, which was conducted in memory of his late wife.

Robert Neulander's defense attorney said the case appears to be entirely circumstantial and "not much more than a dark guess." According to WTVH, he also says the Neulanders were not going through divorce proceedings at the time of Leslie Neulander's death.

"He is widely known and widely loved in this community, and the suggestion that he committed this crime is literally inconceivable to the many people who know him and know of him," attorney Edward Menkin said.

"In 40 years of criminal practice, I've never had a client whose innocence I believe in more firmly than him. And besides all that, he's simply a good guy and a great friend and we're going to see this trough," Menkin told WTVH.

The couple's daughter, Jenna Neulander, who reported the death, was asked to testify before a grand jury last week but couldn't because she was unavailable and reportedly out of the country, DA Fitzpatrick said. She attended Monday's arraignment.

Last year, the couple's four children released a statement supporting their father "undeniably and with unconditional love."

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