Police: Father Brainwashed Daughter Into Helping Kill Her Mother
A week before Karrie Neurauter's mother was murdered in 2017, her father came to her with an unfathomable ultimatum.
Karrie, a then 19-year-old university student, was at home in upstate New York when Lloyd Neurauter came to her in an apparent state.
"She says that dad came to her ... and says, 'I can't afford to pay your mother. There's no way out ... I have to kill myself. ... I'm sorry, you guys have to go without me," District Attorney for Steuben County Brooks Baker told 48 Hours.
"... or, I've got a plan B here."
"So basically, he was gonna kill himself, um, or there was this way to … so he wouldn't kill himself .... which was killing my mum," Karrie at one point told investigators.
"And ... I had to choose."
Karrie told investigators her father then laid out his plan to stage her mother's death to look like a suicide.
The CBS documentary casts light on how a father in a bitter custody battle swayed a teenager to help him murder her mother, leading police in a direction they couldn't have predicted.
On August 28, 2017, police in New York were called to the home of Michele Neurauter where they found the 46-year-old mother-of-three dead from an apparent suicide.
But Police Chief Jeff Spaulding had his doubts, and found a rope mark on Michele's chin"unsettling".
The woman's mother, Jeanne Laundy, thought she was murdered and pointed the finger at her ex-husband, despite him being more than 4000 kilometres away on a job interview in California when Michele was found dead.
"I think it's more than likely Lloyd killed her," Laundy told 48 Hours.
Michele and her ex-husband had been embroiled in a bitter custody battle for five years, through which Michele accused him of turning their daughters against her.
On the day police found Michele, Karrie -- who was at university in the city of Rochester -- told investigators her father helped her move into her apartment over the weekend. She said he had spent all night at a hotel.
But when police checked the hotel video, they found Lloyd getting into Karrie's car with her after she visited him. Lloyd doesn't return until the next morning.
Police soon began listening in on phone calls between the father and daughter, before the investigation took an unpredictable turn.
"We just don't have cases like this, where this level of pervasive evil trickles through an entire life and then ends in such a horrific event," Baker said.
A Broken Family
Michele married Lloyd in 1991, after meeting two years earlier when she was 16. She gave birth to her first daughter, and Karrie two years later.
The family settled in the upstate New York community of Corning. Michele had a third child, home-schooled the kids and would later teach at a local college.
But people started observing how strict Lloyd was with his daughters.
"There were times when I'd call my mum and tell her that I was worried about how strict of a disciplinarian he was, for really, really small things," said Mina Raj, who met Karrie in ballet class.
"It was sort of like you never knew when he would snap."
In 2007, around the time of Thanksgiving, Michele suddenly cut ties with her parents. Her mother believed Lloyd was behind the rift, but then he left the following year, taking a new job in New Jersey and leaving Michele and the children behind.
In 2013, after the couple had divorced, Michele and the girls moved into a new house. At that point, Lloyd wanted sole custody.
"Lloyd was relentless in using the legal system to harass Michele. … It just never ended," Susan Betzjitomir, Michele's attorney, said.
"He continually filed things making false claims against Michele … Lloyd was trying to get out of child support."
Michele accused Lloyd of trying to turn the kids against her. Karrie, their eldest, was already living with Lloyd and she had gone off to university.
But in late August that year, he failed to turn up to a court hearing regarding his petition for sole custody -- a development Michele and her lawyers found strange. The case was dismissed.
"It was very unusual. It was unthinkable, really," Betzjitomir said.
Two days later, Michele was found dead in the stairway of her home in an apparent suicide.
Michele's youngest child -- the 14 year old at the heart of the custody battle -- was nowhere to be found, about 160 kilometres away with Karrie in Rochester.
As police began a frantic search, Karrie called Lieutenant Jeff Heverly, saying she had heard of her mother's death. She claimed she had been in her mother's house two nights earlier and had taken her younger sister with her to Rochester when her mum "started freaking out".
While police were relieved that Michele's youngest was safe, Karrie's story didn't add up.
An autopsy found "undetermined causation" on Michele's death, while those who knew her best couldn't believe she'd take her own life.
Michele's mother immediately thought murder -- but Karrie told investigators Lloyd was with her in Rochester the day before, helping her move.
"I'm thinking it's more than likely Lloyd killed her, but I couldn't figure out how because he had an alibi," Laundy said.
"Karrie says that after her father helped her move into her Rochester apartment on Saturday, he spent the night in a hotel and he flew out to California the next day. He was still there when family notified him of Michele's death," Baker said.
"He flew back east and, within 36 hours, showed up at the Steuben County Family Court ... to turn off his child support and maintenance payments."
"That's the first place he went when he heard his ex-wife had committed suicide?" asked 48 Hours' Erin Moriarty.
"That's correct," replied Baker.
The Phone Taps
It was in November 2017 -- two months after Michele's death -- when investigators decided to set up a wiretap on both Lloyd and Karrie's phones.
"It had been two months, and there wasn't a lot that was being said. So, in order to kind of refresh things, we did what was called 'tickle the wire'," Baker said.
An investigator called Karrie, saying they had more questions. After hanging up with the police, she called her father.
KARRIE NEURAUTER: I'm freaking out.
LLOYD NEURAUTER: Me too.
KARRIE NEURAUTER: Oh, I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do.
"Lloyd says, 'Oh, it's probably just form, don't worry about it'. But then he says -- and this is where he sort of puts our doubts aside -- he says, 'I don't think I want you talking to them'," Baker said.
A private forensic pathologist later found Michele had been strangled to death -- at which point police went to confront the father and daughter.
"At this point, you're thinking Lloyd is the ring leader," Moriarty probed.
"No question," Baker said.
"I thought that (Karrie) would be the weak link."
On January 24, 2018, two investigators showed up at Lloyd's office in New Jersey. Two others found Karrie at her university internship she was taking at the time in Syracuse -- where she cracked.
Investigators then took Karrie to a police station. They wanted the whole story on video.
She said her father came to her a week before the murder.
KARRIE NEURAUTER [whispers]: My dad came down with me Saturday night.
INVESTIGATOR MARK PROCOPIO: … you walk in the front door of the house. You -- will you tell me at this point? Where was mum?
KARRIE NEURAUTER: She was at the top of the stairs, so she saw my dad come in and then they started arguing, so he went upstairs. And they were arguing in her room.
Karrie said her mother stopped yelling and it suddenly got very quiet. At first, she said she didn't know why. But then, this:
KARRIE NEURAUTER [sobbing]: I saw my mum.
INVESTIGATOR ALLISON REGAN: Yeah. We know you did, honey.
INVESTIGATOR MARK PROCOPIO: We know you did.
Police then took Karrie to a police station, where she admitted her father had come to her a week before her mother's murder, laying out his play to stage her suicide.
KARRIE NEURAUTER [to investigators, sobbing]: He was gonna put a towel in her mouth, so she'd be quiet, um, and then put the rope around her neck and strangle her.
When Lloyd was finished, he snuck out the back of the house, around the side, and climbed into the open rear hatch of Karrie's car.
KARRIE NEURAUTER [to investigators]: And I was like, "OK let's go." And then we went and closed the hatch. And we're on our way to Rochester.
Weeks later, in a jail cell, she admitted she had an even bigger role helping her father cover up the murder.
Karrie told investigators she helped "drag" her mother's body, before throwing her over the side of the bannister.
"She laid her hands on her mother and felt her mother's cold dead body," Spaulding said.
This is the woman that gave you life, and you maybe didn't directly take her life, but you helped the individual that did.
"I really think she was brainwashed," Baker said, adding the case cast light on 'parental alienation', whereby one parent consistently bad mouths the other in front of their children.
In this instance, Baker said it "causes them [children] to absolutely devalue them as people".
Lloyd Faces Justice
Five months after Michele's death a cold January day in 2018, Lloyd Neurauter was surrounded by local and state police on the ledge of a five-story parking garage in New Jersey.
For two hours, he kept officers at bay -- until he turned his back, and they made their move, tackling him to the ground.
Lloyd was arrested and charged with first-degree murder of his ex-wife Michele Neurauter. Karrie -- who police believed had been manipulated by Lloyd -- faced second-degree murder charges for helping her father get into the house that night.
Two weeks before his trial was set to begin, Lloyd pleaded guilty.
Ahead of his sentencing, Michele's mother wrote a statement urging the Judge to hand him a stiff sentence.
Lloyd Neurauter abused and tortured my daughter for 25 years. He coerced his own daughter into helping him kill her mother ... Karrie is now in jail, facing the possibility of years in prison. Lloyd Neurauter should never be given the opportunity to harm anyone again.Please, Your Honor, give him life without parole.
Lloyd was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in December.
But there was still the matter of Karrie, and what price should she pay for her mother's death.
Karrie initially pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, a charge that could put her in prison for 15 years. But the D.A. supported a decision allowing her to plead guilty to a lesser charge, second-degree manslaughter.
Again, Laundy wrote to the judge:
I always ask myself, "What would Michele want me to do?" I do not believe my daughter, Michele, would want a long prison sentence for her daughter. … She would want her to eventually lead a happy life.
Karrie pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and was sentenced to one to three years in state prison for her role in her mother's murder.
It's a huge relief for Laundy. With time served, her granddaughter may not be behind bars for very long.
When Karrie is released, Laundy plans to tell her and her two sisters all about their mother and just how much she loved them.
"[Michele] wanted to live a beautiful life, to have a beautiful life, and for them to be happy," she said.
Shortly after her sentencing in December 2018, Karrie's application for parole was denied. She will be eligible to reapply in February 2020.
With CBS / 48 Hours
Featured image: 48 Hours
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