James Kauffman, who is charged in his wife April's 2012 murder, died Friday in jail in an apparent suicide, officials said.
Kauffman was found dead at 9:20 a.m. Friday at the county jail in Kearny, Hudson County, Hudson County spokesman James Kennelly said.
The Hudson County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing and investigating Kauffman's death, the office said.
Sources said Kauffman's death was “carefully planned" and Kauffman was found face-down in the cell with a torn piece of bed sheet twisted into a wire-tight rope that was looped around his neck and around the bunk.
A long suicide note also was left near his bed, sources said.
Kauffman, 68, of Linwood, was charged Jan. 9 with leading an opioid drug ring out of his medical office and with the 2012 murder-for-hire of his wife, radio talk show host April Kauffman.
After the Jan. 9 charges were announced, Kauffman was moved Jan. 11 from the Atlantic County jail to the Hudson County jail.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said the move was for Kauffman's safety, as alleged drug-ring co-conspirator and Pagans motorcycle club leader Ferdinand Augello, who allegedly plotted to kill Kauffman, was lodged in the Atlantic County jail.
Sources said Friday that Kauffman was not on suicide watch at the jail, but was held in maximum security because of the murder charge.
"I've not heard anything directly from the warden, who is calling me back," said Kauffman's attorney Ed Jacobs. He said he was unsure of where the suicide information was coming from and did not have any further information to add.
Tyner released a statement Friday regarding the death of Kauffman, saying he "died in an apparent suicide."
"The investigation is continuing and we will have no further comment at this time," Tyner said in a statement.
“I feel bad for his widow. I think all the things that occurred in the last five years took a toll on Jim,” which he suspected led to Kauffman's death, Jacobs said.
Jacobs was referring to Kauffman's most recent wife, Carole Weintraub.
April Kauffman's daughter, Kim Pack, declined to comment Friday afternoon. Her attorney, Patrick D'Arcy, said she was too distraught to answer questions.
In 2014, Pack accused her stepfather of killing her mother after he tried to collect on her mother's life insurance policy.
“Obviously, it’s an emotional day, and I think, quite frankly, she’s still coming to grips with her own emotions on what occurred today,” D’Arcy said from his law offices Friday afternoon. “It’s been a long journey and she’s sad right now.”
Kauffman has been in jail since his arrest in June on weapons and obstruction charges after he pulled a gun and threatened to kill himself as police attempted to execute a search warrant at his Egg Harbor Township endocrinology practice. Kauffman has since had his medical license suspended.
At the time, Jacobs said he took issue with the police description of his client “brandishing” a gun during the standoff, and that Kauffman did not point the weapon at police — he pointed the weapon to himself.
D’Arcy said Friday that questions about the case moving forward should be directed to Tyner, but he expects more details will emerge as the investigation continues.
“I think that Dr. Kauffman realized he’d been found out,” D’Arcy said. "The gig was up.”
With regard to the insurance policy case, D'Arcy said its future has yet to be determined.
As of last week, Kauffman was being held in “close custody” in Hudson County, or housing that’s in a single cell, Kennelly said. He declined to comment whether Kauffman was on suicide watch.
Kauffman would be held there for 30 days pending a “further classification review,” Kennelly said, which would dictate his housing assignment.
In the jail, he was permitted to have one weekly visit and unlimited professional visits, the spokesman said.
Professor Christine Tartaro, who teaches criminal justice at Stockton University, said the risk of suicide rises for inmates facing the death penalty. Tartaro, who wrote the 2010 book “Suicide and Self-Harm in Prisons and Jails,” said death by suicide can happen very fast.
She said a person who attempts death by asphyxiation can lose consciousness in 30 seconds and experience organ failure four minutes later.
“If he was not on suicide watch, that would mean that he would only be supervised intermittently,” she said.
According to Tartaro, whether Kauffman would have been on suicide watch would depend on the diagnosis of a doctor. While at the time of his initial arrest, he likely would have, she said his status could have changed.
“It depends with what has been going on lately,” Tartaro said. “It has been a very long time and his mood and his feelings might have changed since then, warranting removal from suicide watch.”
Tartaro said that would not be information typically released to the public.
Kauffman's last public appearance was in Atlantic County Superior Court in Mays Landing for a detention hearing on the murder charge.
After Kauffman’s detention hearing, Tyner commented on Kauffman’s deteriorated appearance. Prior to his arrest in June, Kauffman maintained dark hair and a clean shave. By the fall, his hair had gone completely white. He had white facial hair and walked hunched over to his seat in the courtroom for his detention hearing.
“I would imagine that being incarcerated since June for a man of his age, those conditions are much different than spending time at his Arizona retreat house,” Tyner said. “So, not having access to Grecian Formula and things of that nature, that could pose an issue for someone that cares about their appearance."
Asked at the time about Kauffman’s mental state, Tyner said, “I have no idea.”
D'Arcy said he expects more information about Kauffman's death to emerge as the investigation continues.
“Jail took a toll on him," D'Arcy said. "When you saw him in that last court appearance, he seemed almost broken. But I could be wrong."
— Staff Writers Claire Lowe, Erin Serpico and Waldy Diez contributed to this report