In my column last week, I interviewed Action News reporter Annie McCormick about how she chased the story of a murder-for-hire in South Jersey.
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,” is about the 2012 murder of April Kauffman, a popular radio personality and veterans advocate.
McCormick is an award-winning reporter who has covered crime in the Philadelphia area extensively for 6abc since 2012. Her book covers the sensational case of a wife who was murdered, and her husband, Dr. Jim Kauffman, who was later charged with hiring someone to kill her. Kauffman, a noted endocrinologist, was also suspected of Medicare fraud and of operating a “pill mill” with outlaw bikers.
McCormick told me that in 2017, a new prosecutor had taken another look at the lingering case and had asked for a DNA sample from Jim Kauffman.
“This was four years after I got involved in the story,” McCormick said.
“I felt that for some reason I was supposed to be writing about it.”
Two months after the new prosecutor began his review of the case, FBI and local law enforcement officers attempted to execute a search warrant on the doctor’s office. Kauffman brandished a gun and threatened to kill himself. He was eventually disarmed, arrested, and jailed.
April was beautiful. She’s glamorous. She was outspoken, and people adored and loved her.
“Once people knew that he was in jail, people came out right and left with new information. April Kauffman’s daughter, Kim Pack, told me that what it came down to is that this was a story about a woman who was in the safest place in her home, her bedroom, and was shot and killed,” McCormick said.
“Kim said her mother had helped so many people and she didn’t want her to be forgotten.”
I asked McCormick why she thought this crime, a domestic murder on the surface, was such a compelling story that years afterward people remain interested in it.
“April was beautiful. She’s glamorous. She was outspoken, and people adored and loved her,” McCormick said.
“People wondered who could possibly do this?”
Many people, she noted, wondered how April, whom they knew from the radio, from her hair salon and her catering events, could be murdered by the Pagans. It seemed like two different worlds. And the two worlds collided.
“A weird thing happened in 2014 when I was in Dr. Kauffman’s office. We were told he wasn’t going to be in the office that day and I was just going to a little standup, which is pre-taped,” McCormick recalled.
“My photographer went out to get a light and I turned around and there is Dr. Kauffman. He just said, ‘No, no, no,’ and he pushed the door open and ran inside. That was the only interaction I had with him.”
Kauffman was being held in the Hudson County Correctional Facility when McCormick called the public information officer to request an interview with him. The corrections officer seemed taken aback that she was calling.
“Four hours later, I got a phone call from the PIO who said Jim Kauffman had killed himself this morning.”
Kauffman hanged himself in his cell.
“I had a couple of conversations with FBI Special Agent Dan Garrabrant and he said Kauffman was a textbook sociopath. The sense that I got was he was always wanting more. He wanted more money and flashier things.”
McCormick covered the trial of Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello, known in Pagan circles as “Miserable.” Augello was the outlaw biker who was convicted of plotting April Kauffman’s murder. Andrew Glick, one of the Pagans who was involved with Kauffman’s pill mill, became a cooperating witness and wore a wire that secretly recorded Augello. Those recordings helped convict Augello. According to the prosecutors, Augello arranged for Francis Mulholland to murder April Kauffman. Mulholland later died of a drug overdose and was never charged.
McCormick later interviewed Augello in prison.
“I spent a couple of hours with him in the course of a couple of interviews. He’s really charming. He comes across as a guy who doesn’t do drugs and he is careful about what he eats. He is very health conscious.
“If you talk to other people, including the people who testified against him, he’s terrifying and a master manipulator. Joe Mulholland, (no relation to Francis Mulholland), the man who drove the alleged hitman, is a massive guy. He said on the stand that he was terrified of Fred Augello because of his mind games.”
Augello was sentenced to life in prison for his role in leading the pill mill drug ring and 30 years for murder.
McCormick’s “The Doctor, the Hitman and the Motorcycle Gang…” is an interesting true crime book that reads like a thriller.
Paul Davis’ Crime Beat column appears here each week. He can be contacted via pauldavisoncrime.com.