The public’s interest in certain crimes never seems to subside, and the victim’s tragic story lives on.
This is especially true in cases of murder when the victim is well known, respected and loved.
Such is the case of April Kauffman, a vivacious and attractive New Jersey radio personality and veterans’ advocate who was beloved by her listeners and the veterans she championed. In May of 2012, she was found murdered in the bedroom of her home in Linwood, New Jersey, an affluent community outside of Atlantic City. She had been shot to death.
As the story emerged, law enforcement and the public learned that some months prior to her murder, April Kauffman had discovered a series of criminal conspiracies involving her husband, Dr. James Kauffman. She learned that Kauffman, a respected and successful endocrinologist, lied about being a Green Beret in Vietnam, and she suspected that he was involved with members of an outlaw motorcycle gang. April Kauffman told people she feared her husband was going to kill her.
After her murder, her husband became the number one suspect, although it took some years and multiple investigations to charge him with hiring someone to murder his wife.
I recently read and enjoyed Annie McCormick’s account of the case in her book, “The Doctor, the Hitman, and the Motorcycle Gang: The True Story of One of New Jersey’s Most Notorious Murder for Hire Plots.”
But I always had this feeling that the story was going to be much bigger.– Annie McCormick
I knew of McCormick from her reporting on Channel 6’s Actions News, and I reached out and asked her why she wrote the book.
“I started covering the story a year in after it happened,” she replied.
“I started at Channel 6 a couple of months after April’s murder, but I’d seen it on the news. I really clicked with her daughter, Kim Pack, on the one-year anniversary of the murder. Kim could not say a lot, but there was a lot between the lines. That initially piqued my interest.”
McCormick said most of the people in the New Jersey community seemed to be pointing their fingers at the husband.
“Kim was really trying to put her faith in the prosecutors’ office. They didn’t want her to speak at all. I think just seeing the cast of characters that came to the one-year vigil, seeing how many people loved April, and learning how she had made such an impact on so many people, I decided to pursue the story.”
McCormick told Kim Pack to keep in touch with her. Many other people reached out to the reporter.
“Suddenly, people are talking about the Pagans and pill mills. Whoa, this is not all what I initially thought this story was going to be about,” McCormick recalled.
Things started to pick up in 2014 when Pack was brought into the life insurance policy lawsuit. McCormack said that twice she almost did a story on Action News in regard to James Kauffman’s “Stolen Valor.” But, as she noted, there has to be a profit made from someone lying about their military service in order for the lie to be a crime.
“He told stories about serving in Vietnam, but there wasn’t enough of a hook on it to do a story on him, and people were too scared to talk,” McCormick said.
“I was intrigued to learn how terrified people were about Jim Kauffman. It was such a small town down there. Everybody knows everybody.”
I thought this train has left the station and it is not stopping.– Annie McCormick
She began to do research doggedly behind the scenes. She visited Franklin and Marshall College, Kauffman’s school. She went through yearbooks to see if he had been in ROTC. She said she wondered if she was wasting her time as she was running into dead ends.
“But I always had this feeling that the story was going to be much bigger,” McCormick said.
“Every year I would submit to the prosecutors’ office that I wanted to do an interview on the anniversary of April’s murder, as I promised her daughter I would do that. Every year they said no. Then in 2017, I got an email that said they had a new prosecutor, Damon Tyner, and he would be more than happy to do an interview. When I was there, he dropped a big bombshell and said they were requesting a DNA sample from Jim Kauffman.”
She learned later that the civil attorneys for Kim Pack had laid out the case before Tyner.
“I thought this train has left the station and it is not stopping.”
Note: This story is the first of a two-part series. In part two, McCormick encounters Dr. Kauffman, interviews the outlaw biker convicted of planning the murder of April Kauffman in prison, and sees the case come to fruition.
Paul Davis’ Crime Beat column appears here each week. He can be contacted via pauldavisoncrime.com.