CORTLANDT - The 67-year-old husband of a Cortlandt mother of two missing for nearly a month told investigators he killed her as the couple headed through divorce proceedings, state police said yesterday.
The husband, Werner Lippe, a high-end jeweler with a taste for skiing and European luxury cars, was arraigned yesterday morning in Town Court on a charge of second-degree murder in the slaying of Faith Lippe, 49, a nutritional consultant for the Ossining schools. The couple's children, a 12-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, have been taken into protective custody.
State police Capt. Keith Corlett would not say how Faith Lippe was killed or how her body was disposed of. The body had not been recovered despite numerous searches by police canine units and helicopters, but investigators said dogs found three locations on the property at 9 Little Lake Road where the smell of death was present.
A team of park rangers and search-and-rescue specialists - with at least one cadaver dog - could be seen leaving the property yesterday afternoon in a small caravan of vehicles.
Police say Lippe killed his wife the night before concocting a story that she voluntarily climbed into the car of a stranger near their home in an affluent neighborhood in Cortlandt. The only thing missing from the house, he said, was a pair of earrings worth $10,000 to $15,000.
Werner Lippe, who is a native of Austria, reported her missing Oct. 4 and later told newspaper reporters that he was distraught over her sudden disappearance.
Corlett said Faith Lippe's disappearance was never treated as a missing-person case, noting that investigators typically suspect foul play when a spouse unexpectedly disappears. That, coupled with Werner Lippe's contradictory statements to police, including three conflicting accounts of her disappearance, turned their attention on him.
"I can say that from the beginning we were focused on this as a homicide investigation," Corlett said. The couple had been married 18 years but had initiated divorce proceedings, he said.
During questioning Thursday, Lippe made incriminating statements that suggested he disposed of his wife's body in a manner that would make it difficult for police to locate, state police said. Corlett would not elaborate. As to a motive, Werner Lippe provided a reason for killing her, state police said, but Corlett would not say what it was.
Following yesterday's court appearance, Werner Lippe was taken to Westchester County jail in Valhalla without bail and is due Monday morning in Town Court.
People who knew the couple described a sense of eerie disquiet following Faith Lippe's disappearance along with suspicions about her husband. Neighbors expressed dismay and concern yesterday over the news of the murder charge, along with some relief that the case had been possibly resolved with an arrest.
"We were concerned some weirdo was on the loose. It's a relief they found the person," Katherine Savige said.
Speaking of Werner Lippe, Savige said, "He was very friendly, very chatty. I guess anyone can be a murderer. I'm a little shocked."
Another friend and neighbor, Cindy Marino, spoke of the sadness of Faith Lippe's death.
"My thoughts are with the children. She was a wonderful woman, a Girl Scout mom, she did a nutrition book for the Ossining schools," she said. Marino said she feared her neighbor had been killed after she disappeared. "I thought about every possible scenario, but I just hoped she'd return safely."
David Weinberger, a local eye doctor, said there were suspicions involving Werner Lippe and his wife's death.
"She was extremely protective of her kids," Weinberger said. "When she disappeared, we were all shocked. She would never leave Stephanie or Andrew. And she left without her phone or pocketbook. It seemed bizarre."
He said the neighborhood had been the subject of intense police activity since the disappearance.
"They've been here a half-dozen times, the bloodhounds were here at least twice - and the helicopters going over," he said.
Weinberger said he encountered Werner Lippe on the street about a week ago.
"He said he couldn't imagine what happened," Weinberger said. "He said he'd let the cops in anytime, let them do whatever they wanted. It was hard to get a read on him. He seemed distraught. But I was surprised he didn't have pictures plastered everywhere (seeking public assistance in finding his wife). It seemed odd."
Corlett said Lippe had been cooperative throughout the investigation, calling investigators one to three times daily offering help. That made it easy to bring him in for the questioning that led to his arrest.
"He appeared that he needed to talk to someone, so we became that vehicle for him," Corlett said.
A legal guardian has been assigned to the couple's children, Andrew, 14 and Stephanie, 12. The guardian and Child Protective Services are responsible for the children's care.
Werner Lippe was said to be an avid skier who was building a ski home in Utah. He ran a jewelry business in Manhattan and drove a late-model Audi.
Faith Lippe stayed fit with regular "power" walks in the neighborhood. She was a nutritional consultant for the Ossining school district since 2004, chairing the district's Wellness Committee and helping select a food-service provider. In a statement, district officials expressed sadness at her death.
The Lippes' sizable modern home near the Ossining town border lies along a remote side street graced by a picturesque pond, tall trees and large lots. Police and media vans clustered in the entrance of the neighborhood yesterday.
Staff writer Rob Ryser contributed to this report.
Reach Robert Marchant at email@example.com or 914-666-6578.
Link with Video -My two cents..
Tell me when .. when is the system going to be changed so that it is no longer beneficial for them to feed off the Divorce and Child Protective Services ..
When will it be safe to divorce or have a child again in this world?
I am sick of reading stories like this.. I am sick of the destruction of the tax paying americans using their own taxes.. funneled through two industries Divorce and Child Protective Services ..
Don't believe me.. research Title IV Federal Funding for yourself.. links on the right of this blog.