Husband Kills Wife, 2 Children in Cross River Murder-Suicide

As the unfathomable hits a quiet neighborhood, an investigation details a brutal slaying.

CROSS RIVER, N.Y.—Investigators have uncovered the weapons, a 12-gauge shotgun and a rolling pin used as a tool to bludgeon. They have established a timeline of events. They have described the crime scene in their reports and to reporters.

But they may never know what really happened inside 2 Lambert Ridge Road.

Police discovered four lifeless bodies inside the stately gray three-story home in Cross River, N.Y. Tuesday afternoon: Amy and Samuel Friedlander and their two children, Molly, 10, and Gregory, 8, both students at Lewisboro Elementary School.

Samuel Friedlander had taken that 12-gauge shotgun, shot each of his children in their beds and bludgeoned his wife to death. Then he went down into the basement and shot himself, police said.

Even seasoned state police investigators were unprepared for what they found inside.

State police Maj. Michael Kopy, who has been in law enforcement for a quarter century, said this about the case: "There is no way to characterize it."

The couple were expected to be in divorce court Thursday.

Police were first alerted something was wrong when Amy Friedlander's business partner Debbie Bernstein called 911 Tuesday afternoon, around 3:40.

She had become worried that she hadn't heard from Amy, with whom she had started a tutoring and college preparatory business. She went over to the home off Route 35 and met a state police trooper there. The trooper went in first.

There was no question the couple's relationship was rocky. Their impending divorce was well-known to friends and family. But aside from the revelation by police on Wednesday that Samuel had begun acting differently in recent weeks there was no sense that acts of unspeakable violence were about to unfold.

State police said the only issue that drew their attention to Samuel Friedlander in the past was a 2006 domestic incident at the residence which stemmed from a fight over the kids. They described it as "minor." 

Other possible stressors have emerged as police piece together what happened to the Friedlanders.

They were trying to sell the house they purchased in January 2002, asking $799,000. The couple was still living together but did not share a bedroom. A friend of Amy's who did not want to be identified said it was common knowledge that Amy wanted to get out of the house and was trying to get her husband out.

But there were plenty of signs of optimism as well.

In a June feature with Bedford-Katonah Patch, Amy Friedlander, 46, shared the story behind John Jay Prep, her business with Bernstein. Appearing equal parts cheerleader and necessary taskmaster, the sense was that Amy's satisfaction came not from her own success, but those of her students.

The friend also saw a spark of a brighter future for Amy, a "warm, bright person who was quick to laugh and poke fun at herself," she said.

"No matter how busy she was she found time to look after others," the friend said. "I knew her to be going through a rough time at home but she always asked about how I was—she had such great perspective, and shrugged off my concern about her by saying everyone had problems to deal with. She found time to volunteer at school. She coordinated enrichment programs for children. She was passionate about her work and looked forward to her business growing. She was fastidious about exercising and had many friends at the Saw Mill Club and at LES (Lewisboro Elementary School) and in the community."

The Friedlanders were married in 2000. The New York Times wedding announcement spotlights two successful individuals. Amy Friedlander graduated cum laude from Cornell University and held an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Sam Friedlander, 50, graduated from Skidmore College and received a law degree magna cum laude from Western New England College. At the time of the wedding announcement, he was an associate counsel of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners but had since started his own law firm in Bedford Hills.

More than a dozen state troopers responded to the incident Tuesday evening, combing through the home and property as neighbors looked on apprehensively.

In a note to all LES parents late Tuesday night, the district noted school will run at regular hours, but asked that children not be dropped off early. "Our staff requires adequate time to prepare and respond during this difficult time. Also, please know that social workers and psychologists will be available for students, staff and families," wrote Superintendent Paul Kreutzer.

Parents at the children's school struggled to make sense of the news and how to break it to their children Wednesday.

Many opted to drive their children to school.

Kreutzer and School Board president Mark Lipton greeted children and parents at the door. Parents were told their children would hear age-appropriate messages in class and additional counselors were available for the day. Kreutzer said there were many student absences reported and it would mean an additional day of working through counseling and the start of a long healing process.

Wednesday, at 10 a.m., a light drizzle had set in on Lambert Ridge Road. Just two state troopers remained in front. Caution tape that had sealed off the driveway had fallen, lying now in a puddle.

The front porch light was the only one on the street still left on. 

Editor's Note: This story has been revised from its original version to reflect new developments and to make minor clarifications. One significant difference is that police originally believed that Sam Friedlander killed his wife with a broken off piece of furniture. They later realized it was a wooden rolling pin. 

Suzanne Spinelli October 20, 2011 at 03:57 AM
Konrad, not sure. A lot of women just want some semblence of caring. Some women marry a guy and figure things will be ok, but they aren't. Some women marry guys with some sort of mental abuse thing where they abuse their wives. Its bad. I know it from experience. So its not always the woman wanting perfection. Some of us just want "normal" in all its imperfection. Just not with the PTSD that comes from being emotionally and mentally abused by the husband.
Shirley Cummings October 20, 2011 at 03:57 AM
The only people in this story who do not get to make wrong or right choices in their lives is the children. I for one am so tried of (We) adults damaging them before they even start their lives. Instead of all of us just being shocked and sadden that this happen we are trying to be the one who is right, because of what we are feeling and assuming on what went on with this family. This is why this happened in the first place. We all seem to need the power to control what another person does when it does not mesh with what we want at the time. She wanted to leave the marriage and he did not agree with that. The children did not have a choice and from his actions neither did she. Let's not think about what was going on between the husband and wife and just ask yourself: What was he did right or wrong?
zari October 20, 2011 at 03:58 AM
I know someone who was married 3 times before their current marriage. Their current marriage is lasting and they seem to be doing well.
Stephen Camasso October 20, 2011 at 04:05 AM
I heard a psychiatrist on TV once try to explain what goes thru someones mind in cases like this. He said that the man kills his wife because he hates her for taking his kids and lifestyle away from him and that when he kills his kids, in the fathers mind he believes that it is a mercy killing to kill his kids so that they will not have to suffer in life without their parents. Then he kills himself to avoid prison or public execution.
Suzanne Spinelli October 20, 2011 at 04:09 AM
The article says they were going to see a lawyer about a divorce, not that everything was all finalized, unless I misread it.
marikay Kingston October 20, 2011 at 04:12 AM
My mom was a victim of abuse @ the hands of my dad, a wealthy dentist and she thought, if he was arrested , he'd lose his patients & we would suffer financially. As a teacher, her salary couldn't support us. Scary Thinking. Right! Obviously she wasn't thinking rationally. 1 night she got scared enough to put sleeping medicine in his meal and we escaped , my siblings and I to an airport, we flew across the country 2 stay w/ family. If she hadn't mustered the courage 2 leave, we all would have died . My dad got help and my mom left him. She lived in a big busy apartment with a security system after that w/ therapy. She realized it was time to leave him when I almost died in a car accident and she had no feelings @ my injuries She had turned off her emotions. 20 years later we r alive,because of her bravery and a priest's help. If anyone thinks "Aww, he didn't mean it , we'll be ok tomorrow/ he will change, he's sorry." You're ill 2. People sadly are sick. Pray 4 acceptance. The partner who makes excuses to stay, will always regret it. I am a child of a family like this from Ct. I was lucky . GET HELP !GET OUT! Contact your friends/ priests.... think creatively JUST GET OUT . I pray for this poor family and their families. CONTACT WEAVE : Women Escaping A Violent Environment . developed from my mother's experience. Good luck to everyone affected by domestic violence it is becoming more common now than ever. Report it if you suspect it
Suzanne Spinelli October 20, 2011 at 04:13 AM
counseling can be faked. you can force a person to go but you can't force them to get anything out of it, so i don't hold much stock in the idea of counseling. :/
Suzanne Spinelli October 20, 2011 at 04:14 AM
Oh yeah and I forgot to add, emotional and mental abuse are JUST as bad as physical abuse. Joey didn't mention that. Emotional abuse is worse because you cannot see the wounds. But you can see the effects of them. :/
Suzanne Spinelli October 20, 2011 at 04:19 AM
And, Joey, most women (that I know anyway) Do NOT take divorce lightly. When they finally get to that point that they want one, its often after years and years of abuse, and many years of agonizing over it before they make that first step. So, pretty much, I disagree with the majority of your comment. A woman's self esteem is important and leaving a bad situation is far better than sticking it out (and harming oneself in the process) "for the kids." Studies were done. Children of divorced parents end up just as good as other kids. I really disagree with your comment, and all the facets and pieces of of it. I am wondering if ..never mind. I am not going to say it. If there are any women out there that are feeling like they are going mad, try reading the book "why does he do that?" by lundy bancroft... It will clear up a lot of what you have been feeling. really..seriously...
Suzanne Spinelli October 20, 2011 at 04:22 AM
Lora, thank you for your comment.
May October 20, 2011 at 05:07 AM
First, leave the state-don't matter if your poor, you can do it. Second, do not contact him in anyway-get full custody of the kids. Third, he will probably try anything to find you guys. My dad got a job at UPS and tracked us down that way. Not to mention hiring people to stalk us. Be prepared for things like that. Fourth, get a dog or two if you can. Preferably a hunting dog. Fifth, do not take something like this lightly. This isn't a game. Think about your kids first. Do not ponder about this. Leave the state now. Might as well, cause he ain't leaving anytime soon.
Anita Martinez October 20, 2011 at 05:16 AM
Anita Martinez... It is very sad to hear about the deaths. there is no one to blame for this tragedy. this life is full of obstacles to over come. no matter what we face, whether its marriage problems, financial or what ever else seem unliveable. taking our lives or the lives of others is not the answer. For life after death may not be as pleasing. All we can do and keep doing is pray to God to stop these terrible inncidents. May we pray to God for the souls that were hurt, that they may not hurt no more. May God bless you all. Thank you for your time.
sherryeieio October 20, 2011 at 05:23 AM
i saw in some of the posts that readers misread and thought it was the children's elementary school who called 911, it was the business partner of the woman who was slain, when she could not make contact with her she called 911. Here is the excerpt from the above article (Police were first alerted something was wrong when Amy Friedlander's business partner Debbie Bernstein called 911 Tuesday afternoon, around 3:40. She had become worried that she hadn't heard from Amy, with whom she had started a tutoring and college preparatory business. She went over to the home off Route 35 and met a state police trooper there. The trooper went in first.)
Emma October 20, 2011 at 05:38 AM
I'm a daughter and my parents did get divorced, I thank and respect my dad for the way he handled things. Too many times its about financial and not about what's best for the kids. My mom cheated on my dad and my dad was going to forgive her but she wanted the divorce. My mom got more then half plus my dad had to pay child support. My dad went without and I did not know it until a few years ago. I'm 32 now and married. I have a close relationship with my dad who is happy and remarried. I thank him and respect him for the way he put me first. Love you dad!! I'm so sorry to hear about the story in NYC. Very sad situation. I'm sure there were issues but whatever they were it does not matter when kids are involved.
Karen October 20, 2011 at 05:39 AM
God has a place for all of us; we each are created in HIS image and yes HE does have the power over 'self will' but we each have that choice and this unfortunate event like the one in California knows no understanding on earth. One of my five daughters was killed on July 25, 2011 I thought when my father died (he my role model) I knew no pain and suffering as that loss. The loss of a child is one hundred times worse. There is no fault in this world there is only knowledge that we are God's children and now each day heinous murders occur in families. The recent death of the Jewish child in his own neighborhood where another of his own faith performed murder in decapitation. We think how can any human being do this? As a professional nurse I have seen people so enraged or depressed that they know no reason at all. They lose all sense of morality and feel as if they instead are hated, despised and that no human being will accept them. I read of the home being sold for close to $800,000; with this economy and the weight of loss so powerful due to a poor situation in our presidential seat thousands are losing their sense of security and well being. I read of a psychiatrist in Maryland taking the life of her special needs son. Her note read that she could not financially survive and then took her own life. God forgive us all and bless the many who do not understand. There is no reason or fault; God knows and is all loving may we follow HIM.
Tami Hunter October 20, 2011 at 05:57 AM
Gosh. Yet another lunatic man killing his wife and kids. I'm beginning to think it would be more healthy to stay single and go to a sperm bank. And they call US desperate.
Mr.LarryRussellFisher October 20, 2011 at 06:03 AM
God: Thou Shalt Not Kill. Jesus: Only in self-defense.
Michael October 20, 2011 at 06:04 AM
Years ago divoice was unheard of. Maybe the muslims have the right idea, by keeping thier woman suppressed. When woman were aloud to burn thier bras, it was the ruination of this country.. I read these post, and more and more of them every day, and think this was unheard of back in the day. You have to ask Is more and more men going off the deep end? Or has modern day society failed us? Total family break down, because 9 times out of 10 there is no one to run and keep a family together. Call me a sexest, but in every one of these post I read its always the mans fault.. Where is the root of the problem?
Lynette October 20, 2011 at 06:14 AM
Please pray for the wife and innocent children. sooooooo very sad. All women contemplating separation and divorce, should seek a support group and therapy. Do yoga to stay calm and pray for serenity. Most importantly GET OUT of your husbands vicinity and let the court decide. keep close to family and friends. May they rest in peace and pray for the grandparents and family and friends
Dave October 20, 2011 at 06:15 AM
I could not agree more! Why get a better job. The more I make, the more she will take. What is my motivation to make more money? My TWINS are 4. And I live in California. Triple whammy! Text messages and Facebook led to the end of a 5 year marriage. I hope this helps others considering marriage because this state doesn't give the guy a leg to stand on if it doesn't work out.
Ed October 20, 2011 at 07:07 AM
Remember the movie War of the Roses,
buckeyejack October 20, 2011 at 07:53 AM
If you want to kill yourself go ahead but don't take the kids, for that fact don't take the wife. Just go to the basement and do your thing. You can't be much of a man if you are so unhappy that you have to take some one else with you.
nyshark3012 October 20, 2011 at 08:04 AM
Being outside of US (I stay in China), i often read/hear these extreme happenings, mostly done by extremists in the States. Oh, my God, how could all this happen in the US? You have many social problems indeed. It's hard to cure, as intellectuals can be more destructive when they are put into extremely bad situations. A good option will be to take away all guns from the public, and make it illegal for any gun owning.
nyshark3012 October 20, 2011 at 08:04 AM
Being outside of US (I stay in China), i often read/hear these extreme happenings, mostly done by extremists in the States. Oh, my God, how could all this happen in the US? You have many social problems indeed. It's hard to cure, as intellectuals can be more destructive when they are put into extremely bad situations. A good option will be to take away all guns from the public, and make it illegal for any gun owning.
Anthony Abelardo October 20, 2011 at 08:06 AM
exactly, this is what I was looking for I kept thinking this isn't right.. it can't be just one sided.. what u said on the last sentence of ur paragraph said it all, exactly
Anthony Abelardo October 20, 2011 at 08:23 AM
I replied but I need to leave to put some of my cents on the table I feel divorcing a serious adultery.. I know in humanity especially in the United States divorcing is very common.. from what I read from a previous post.. by some Stephen guy.. he explained it really well.. when there is a divorce and the guy gets kicked out he will live with hell on earth while the girl lives rich.. .. people can say the guy who gets divorced should just move on.. it's his fault if he does anything wrong but the fact is u people who point the fingers dont know what its like for that person, well hopefully u people can elaborate my thought seed further from what I said ..
Anthony Abelardo October 20, 2011 at 08:24 AM
.. in ur own mind
Anthony Abelardo October 20, 2011 at 08:28 AM
reality is if we r living fine and dandy and when people go nuts we should all say wow those people r crazy, they should go to hell, they should be locked up but imo they rn't doing it on purpose.. from what I've read with people who kill and torture and torment on purpose.. dracula guy.. nazis.. etc.. those r the people who deserve to go to hell and get locked up but these people I feel r on a different level.. not vertical but horizontal.. it's not really for us to speculate what happens when people die.. but for us to speculate our future on earth which quite possibly makes what happens after our death
Anthony Abelardo October 20, 2011 at 08:29 AM
only way to understand what just happen is to analzye it from their shoes.. not from ur own or it won't make any sense
Shelia October 20, 2011 at 10:21 AM
I, too, was a victim of domestic violence during my marriage. I took out a restraining order against my husband, but he still broke into our home during the night, asking," where's your boyfriend?" I had no boyfriend, and was home alone, and thank God no children was born of this marriage. I called the local Sheriff's Dept. where the restraining order was supposedly on file. The Sheriff's Dept. told me they had no restraining order against my husband, as I held the copy in my hand while speaking to the local Sheriff. Where is the justice in this matter? I feel the law enforcement was bought off, since my husband was well known in our town, and contributed to the community,supporting local sports clubs with donations. I have no fear in naming who was to blame in this matter... Tazewell County Sheriff's Dept. in Virginia. I then packed my belongings and left the house, divorced the man, and haven't seen him or looked back in 12 years. I blame the justice system in not protecting me. Or is it call..A Justice System..NO !!


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