A retired NYPD detective hired by the family of alleged strangling victim Shele Covlin said Wednesday that he would have protected the integrity of the crime scene, which police investigators overlooked.
Michael Swain, who became a private investigator after retiring from the department, was asked on cross-examination at the second-degree murder trial of Shele’s estranged husband Roderick Covlin about his own investigative inclinations regarding the discovery of Shele’s body on Dec. 31, 2009.
Shele’s death in her Upper West Side apartment was initially ruled an accident, and she was buried immediately without an autopsy per the wishes of her family.
A lawyer for Covlin asked Swain if “as a fundamental principle” he would “agree it’s important to preserve and prevent any contamination of the crime scene as quickly as possible.”
“Yes, yes. That’s correct,” the witness said.
He agreed that he wouldn’t permit anyone who isn’t a law enforcement investigator “to have access to the scene” — the W. 68th St. apartment which he was allowed to survey weeks after the woman’s death.
Evidence previously introduced at the trial shows that Shele’s family was allowed to enter the apartment, and a self-described rabbi went in unsupervised to clean bodily fluids from the bathroom where Shele was found on Jan. 1, 2010, only a day after her death.
In Jewish orthodoxy, a person must be buried immediately and without an autopsy unless there’s a crime committed.But days later, Swain was hired as the family’s doubts mounted.“(The family was) concerned it was not an accidental death anymore,” Swain testified.
Lawyers for Roderick argue the initial findings were right and that Shele died from a freak fall in the bathtub.