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Unsolved killing of radio host vexes Shore

LINWOOD, N.J. - There's "Breaking News" on the website of James M. Kauffman, board-certified endocrinologist, but it is not the news all of Linwood seems to be expecting.

April Kauffman had a show on 1400 AM.
April Kauffman had a show on 1400 AM.Read more

LINWOOD, N.J. - There's "Breaking News" on the website of James M. Kauffman, board-certified endocrinologist, but it is not the news all of Linwood seems to be expecting.

"Now accepting Tricare. New patients welcome," according to the site.

One year after his wife, Shore radio personality and veterans advocate April Kauffman, 47, was found shot to death in the bedroom of their home in this leafy community just over the bridge from Margate - a year after the prosecutor at the time confidently suggested the case would be solved - there has been no arrest, no breaking news.

Even as friends, neighbors, and others in the community openly run through lists of suspects and exchange rumors, Kauffman has gone back to his busy practice on Ocean Heights Avenue in Egg Harbor Township. He is, among other things, one of the few endocrinologists at the Shore.

He still lives in the 7,000-square-foot house on Woodstock Drive, friends say, just off the Linwood Bike Path across from Mainland Regional High School. He has told friends he sleeps on the opposite side of the house from where his wife was found shot multiple times May 10, 2012.

She was discovered by the bird feeder, who was called by her husband, who said he was unable to reach her by phone.

One year later, the new acting Atlantic County prosecutor, Jim McClain, insists the case is not cold but says little else. "The case remains active and under investigation," spokeswoman Haleigh Walz said.

After the slaying, Kauffman told neighbors his wife was asleep with a pillow over her head when he left at 5:30 a.m. After her body was found, he paced the cul-de-sac in front of cameras, gave a tearful eulogy at the funeral, retained noted criminal defense attorney Ed Jacobs, and gave a statement to police.

Jacobs did not respond to messages to talk about the case. Kauffman also has declined interviews. A neighbor recalled him being distraught that day, quoting Kauffman as saying, "Why now?"

A vigil is planned for 7 p.m. Friday at the bike path near the Kauffman home to underscore the unfinished one-year quest of a group that calls itself "Justice for April."

Also incomplete is April Kauffman's grave in Rodef Sholom Cemetery along the fence on the Black Horse Pike. It still lacks a gravestone - to the dismay of her daughter from her first marriage, Kimberly Pack, 30.

Pack, raised Catholic, has marked the grave with mementos, a toy Harley and a Corvette, American flags, and a flier with her mother's photo. She said a small gathering would say the traditional one-year Jewish unveiling prayers Friday at the grave though there's no stone.

Pack says she does not speak to Kauffman. "He is not worth my time" is all she will say. He is not among those who will gather, she said.

The last year has been devastating, she said.

"I can't even describe how terrible it is," said Pack, who lives in Linwood with her husband and two sons. "I've lived this numb existence. I've been hoping and praying someone will be brought to justice. My mom was so strong and vivacious and talented. She never took no for an answer. She was the life of the party but was very strict with me."

Her mother - just 17 years older than she, raised by a grandmother, with siblings in foster care, who had once run a salon and a cafe - was at a peak moment in her work, having received a Governor's Award for her veterans' advocacy.

"I think my mom was always searching for something," Pack said.

April Kauffman was behind an effort to get Shore Memorial Hospital to take veterans' Tricare coverage, eliminating their need to travel to Wilmington. She hosted Thanksgivings for Coast Guard recruits in a banquet-room addition. She had a vast network: U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo was at her funeral.

A woman in a particularly ascendant moment in her exterior life, slain on the home front, "she had been approached to run for politics," Pack said. "To be honest, in her professional and charitable endeavors, I'd never seen her so happy."

A veterans group at Richard Stockton College has named an award for her. This week, LoBiondo called April Kauffman a "special, persuasive woman" dedicated to veterans. He said he hoped for "answers and closure" soon.

Arthur "King Arthur" Gropper, who cohosted a weekly show with her on WIBG in Ocean City, including the day before her slaying, said police did not seek him out to interview; he called to tell them where April Kauffman went after that last show the day before she was found dead. He and Pack both declined to say where that was. Pack also declined to say if her mother had told her of any fear.

"That day, I'm on the radio screaming to turn yourself in and here's the phone number," Gropper recalled of the day of the murder. "And here we are a year later, and there's no justice at all."

"Linwood is a modern-day Peyton Place," said former Prosecutor Ted Housel, who oversaw the initial investigation. "Gossip is just that. Gossip. She needs to rest in peace."

For a year, the gossip has been steady and unavoidable in this Mainland community of doctors, lawyers, casino executives, and their families; unbearable for her daughter. April and James Kauffman were both on their third marriages. There are obsessively spread rumors of infidelities, names whispered down the line in Pilates classes.

"They ask me: 'You hear anything, you hear anything? Somebody told me this,' " said neighbor Lou Tate. "You know what? I just don't know."

Is the lack of an arrest because there are people who don't want a country club full of secrets to come out in a courtroom? Was the murder somehow related to her radio broadcasts, her advocacy, the way she pushed buttons? Was it domestic violence? What about the woman who turned up dead in a nearby pool? The Cape May County cop who killed himself? Who was angry with her? Who is getting away with murder?

"I believe I know who did it," said radio personality Harry Hurley, who also worked with April Kauffman, though he doesn't volunteer a name.

Still, without an arrest, who really knows? "Everybody had access to her home," said a neighbor. "She gave out keys and code numbers like candy."

Hurley maintains the investigation was "botched from the very beginning." He has more confidence in McClain, a career prosecutor who has been closing old cases at a steady clip.

Little is public: how many gunshots, time of death, weapon used. She was sending e-mail at 2 a.m., dead by 11:30 a.m. The couple owned weapons and had reported a gun missing in 2009.

Housel, the former prosecutor, said he is confident the new prosecutor is doing due diligence.

In Linwood, there is unease. Said a Mainland parent: "The day of the murder, the kids were dismissed and saw the yellow crime tape and a slew of police cars. We were told the police didn't see an imminent threat because they supposedly knew who they were looking for. That was wrong then, to not better protect the kids and community."

Housel insists he never said an arrest was imminent. He would not say why he felt there was no wider risk, no need for a school lockdown. "I didn't imply anything," he said.

Housel, like many in the small community, knew April Kauffman; he was her lawyer in a minor traffic case that he recalled was dismissed. He had run into her at a couple of social gatherings since then, he said. He had not seen any need to recuse himself.

at 609-823-0453 or Follow on Twitter @amysrosenberg.