SYRACUSE, N.Y. - A prominent central New York physician has been sentenced to 20 years to life in prison for killing his estranged wife in their mansion and trying to cover up the crime.
Sixty-three-year-old Dr. Robert Neulander was sentenced Thursday in Onondaga County Court. The judge says he didn't impose the maximum sentence of 25 years to life because of pleas for leniency by the victim's children and siblings.
Neulander had been found guilty in April of second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence.
Onondaga County prosecutors say the obstetrician-gynecologist killed 61-year-old Leslie Neulander in a fit of rage inside their home in suburban Syracuse in September 2012.
During the sentencing hearing Thursday, Robert Neulander took the opportunity to speak and denied having any involvement in his wife's death.
"As I will one day be in front of God to be judged, I would not and did not take a life," he said, according to Syracuse.com. "I love my wife Leslie everyday, and I mourn her now and forever."
Prosecutors said the Neulanders were getting divorced at the time Leslie Neulander was killed, but still lived together in their mansion.
When police arrived, they found the couple's bedroom splattered with blood. Robert Neulander told investigators his wife had slipped in the shower and he had carried her into the bedroom.
District Attorney William Fitzpatrick suggested during the trial the severe injuries Leslie Neulander suffered to her head and face were likely caused by Robert Neulander slamming her head into a shower bench. Robert Neulander's attorney, however, maintained that she suffered the fatal injuries when she fell backward onto the bench while taking a shower.
The couple's 25-year-old daughter, Jenna, lived at her parents' home and was there on the morning of Sept. 17, 2012, when her father told her to call 911 because her mother was on the floor. On a recording of the call played during the trial, Jenna Neulander can be heard screaming, "Oh my God, there is blood everywhere!"
Leslie Neulander's death initially ruled an accident by the county medical examiner, but police were suspicious from the start because so much blood was found splattered on the bedroom and bathroom walls and floors. Fitzpatrick later brought the case before a grand jury, which indicted the physician last June on murder and tampering charges.
Robert Neulander's attorney has indicated he'll appeal the guilty verdict.