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Originally published Friday, February 19, 2010 at 12:15 PM

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Mistrial for NY jeweler accused of killing wife

A judge declared a mistrial Friday after a jury deadlocked in the trial of a 68-year-old jeweler accused of killing his wife and incinerating her body in an oil drum.

Associated Press Writer


A judge declared a mistrial Friday after a jury deadlocked in the trial of a 68-year-old jeweler accused of killing his wife and incinerating her body in an oil drum.

Relatives of the missing woman, Faith Lippe, gasped and burst into tears in the gallery when Westchester County Judge Barbara Zambelli announced the mistrial.

The jurors, seven women and five men, had announced they were split Thursday night over the fate of defendant Werner Lippe. The judge asked them to keep trying Friday, but they sent her a note midafternoon that said, "We are convinced that we are hopelessly deadlocked." It was their fourth day of deliberations.

The jurors were not polled, and it was not known how many favored conviction or acquittal or what the key issue was. They had asked questions about corroborating evidence, involuntary confessions and whether they can assume that Faith Lippe is dead.

After the mistrial was announced, the jurors were escorted away from reporters.

Lippe had confessed three times to the grisly killing and burning of his 49-year-old wife, and the jurors heard each of the confessions at least once.

"I hit her in the head with a piece of wood," Lippe said on one tape. "I dumped her in the barrel and burned her." Police never found the oil drum.

When Lippe testified, he said he made up the story to get investigators off his back until he could make a case to a judge. He claimed it was impossible to burn a body and leave no trace evidence. He said the last time he saw his wife - Oct. 3, 2008 - she was being driven away from their suburban home in Cortlandt, about 40 miles north of Manhattan, in an SUV he didn't recognize.

Prosecutors were hampered by the lack of any forensic evidence: no body, no bone fragments, no DNA. They said Lippe, who had acids and torches at his home jewelry workshop, was an expert who committed "almost a perfect murder."

Lippe testified that when his mother died in 2006, he asked a mortician, "By the way, how do you burn people?"

The district attorney's office said Lippe would be retried, and prosecutor John O'Rourke said he could be ready by next week, although preparations for a second trial are likely to delay it into next month at least.

Defense attorney Andrew Rubin said the trial had been "a long and difficult procedure," but he and Lippe would also be ready for a retrial.


Lippe, who remains in custody, showed no outward reaction when the mistrial was declared.

Faith Lippe's sister, Dawn Faigle, said outside the courthouse, "I'm extremely disappointed, but we are ready to do this again."

Shari Caradonna, Faith Lippe's cousin, said, "We will be back, and we will make sure Werner Lippe stays behind bars."

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