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Man who took care of Kauffman’s birds testifies about finding ‘Miss April’ dead

Tabitha Chapman, Joseph Drinhouser and Glenn Seeler (being cross-examined by Omar Aquilar) testified against Ferdinand Augello on Tuesday.

Billy Gonzalez loved working for April Kauffman, taking care of her birds and doing any jobs she had for him, he testified Tuesday at the trial of the man accused of plotting her murder. Everything Thursday, Gonzalez same to the Linwood home. Usually, “Miss April” would greet him. But not on Thursday, May 10, 2012. Instead, he walked in the unlocked door and got to work. At 9:30 a.m., Dr. James Kauffman called Gonzalez’s cell, asking if Miss April was up yet, Gonzalez recalled. He told him she wasn’t. The doctor had only called him about four times in the six years Gonzalez had worked there. And he never asked to check on his wife. But two hours later, the doctor called again, and asked just that. Gonzalez stayed on the line with Kauffman as he went upstairs to his boss’ bedroom. But as he rounded the corner, he saw April Kauffman lying on the ground in her bedroom. The door opened. “She was lying on the floor, not moving,” he said. “Not answering. Nothing.” He told the doctor who said to hang and call 911. James Kauffman would arrive soon, running up the stairs and hitting his knees upon seeing his wife. He didn’t go toward her, Gonzalez said. He didn’t check to see if she was OK. Instead, he said, “She’s dead.”

Dr. Kauffman came running upstairs. “He dropped to his knees in the hallway. He didn’t got to the room. He didn’t go to her body. He said, ‘Oh my God, she’s dead.’” — Lynda Cohen (@LyndaCohen) September 25, 2018

Outside, Kauffman would go to his knees again. “He started puking,” Gonzalez said. A picture of a grieving widower, the doctor had long-planned the killing and offered several people thousands to carry it out, according to testimony at the trial of the man who allegedly helped him. As several former co-defendants have taken the stand against Ferdinand “Freddy” Augello, it’s clear that it was no secret that the doctor wanted his wife dead. But whether Augello was involved is for the jury to decide. Since the disgraced doctor’s apparent suicide inside his Hudson County jail cell, Augello is the only person facing charges in the local veterans advocate’s killing. His former co-defendants Glenn Seeler and Tabitha Chapman, along with fellow Pagan Joseph Drinhouser took the stand against him Tuesday, talking about the alleged drug ring he controlled. In cross-examination, defense attorney Omar Aguillar questioned former them about how much investigators pushed to have them name Augello. “Everything’s gonna be Fred,” informant Andrew Glick is heard saying in a recorded conversation with Seeler in December. Aguillar asked if that was Glick instructed him to put the blame on Augello so they “could walk free together.”

“There’s no reason to kill a woman,” Drinhouser said.

Drinhouser testified Augello had told him about a doctor who wanted his wife killed. He was willing to pay $10,000, Drinhouser was told, as he said Augello drove him by the Linwood home with orange garage doors. But Drinhouser said he wouldn’t do it. “There’s no reason to kill a woman.”

Seeler told investigators he was referred to doctor by his wife’s sister. He says that was the story he was going to go with. He tried different ways to get out of everything but “they knew it all…” — Lynda Cohen (@LyndaCohen) September 25, 2018

Seeler said he also was offered $20,000 by the doctor to commit the crime. But he stuck to the drug ring, he said. Going to the doctor for $100 a visit and getting his 120 pills. He would keep half and give the rest to Augello. He had pain from a back injury, he said, and Augello told him “we had a doctor in our back pocket,” he testified. Since Seeler medically needed the pills, that wasn’t really illegal, Aguillar tried to get him to admit on cross-examination. “He was prescribing your pills for your chronic back pain,” Aguilar said. “He was prescribing me the pills because I was giving him $100 for the pills,” Seeler responded. Chapman said she didn’t know she had done anything wrong when investigators started questioning her last year. She had gone to Kauffman at the behest of Augello, who was dating her mother at the time. He knew she suffered pain from a previous car accident, and that she couldn’t get a doctor without insurance. He told her Kauffman would see her.

At Dr. Kauffman’s, they questioned her on insurance … until she said Fred refered her — Lynda Cohen (@LyndaCohen) September 25, 2018

Tabitha Chapman

Chapman said Augello would hold on to the pills and she would earn them back by giving him massages. After about a month on the Oxys she said she was addicted. — Lynda Cohen (@LyndaCohen) September 25, 2018

She would give Augello half her pills, which she would “earn back” through massages she would give him, she testified. Chapman said she knew no one else in the alleged ring. She pleaded guilty to a third-degree conspiracy to obtain a controlled dangerous substance, and her application for pretrial intervention has been submitted. If accepted, she would avoid conviction by completing a program. The state is expected to continue its case Wednesday with the pathologist expected to go. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy told the judge he wasn’t fully sure of the lineup, since they had to make calls. But he expected a full day of testimony. The defense also may call a witness out of order. John Zarych, who was Glick’s attorney, is expected to testify. Before that, the prosecution has requested a hearing outside of the jury to decide what can be presented to them.

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