7 years for man in foiled murder

Relates to:
Date: 2008-08-08
Source: nj.com

7 years for man in foiled murder

August 08, 2008
Randall Clark
rclark@sjnewsco.com

SALEM - In an otherwise empty courtroom here, bereft of the circus that seemed to follow his family's life several years ago, James Lindorff and his mother-in-law were sentenced Thursday in connection to a foiled murder-for-hire plot.

On the day before his 59th birthday, James Lindorff received a seven-year state prison term for conspiracy to commit murder, the result of a negotiated plea with prosecutors.

His in-law and co-defendant Mildred Cullinan, 76, was sentenced to 90 days in jail after pleading down to hindering an investigation. Her frail condition was taken into consideration by Superior Court Judge William Forester, who passed down the sentence.

The Lindorff family was embroiled in legal trouble with the death of one of their six adopted Russian children in 2001 in Gloucester County. The parents have since relocated to Elsinboro Township.

Cullinan and Lindorff were charged in August of last year when Lindorff was about one month into a 364-day jail sentence at the Salem County Correctional Facility.

Lodged after pleading guilty to 2006 Salem County charges of endangering the welfare of a child, Lindorff wanted a hit man to kill the witness who more or less put him there.

Officials said the person had first-hand knowledge of the alleged abuse, his willingness to testify playing a pivotal role in Lindorff's decision to plead guilty.

Cullinan had provided her son-in-law a link to the outside in his attempt to exact revenge on the witness, meeting with an undercover agent at the King Fried Chicken eatery in Salem on Aug. 30, 2007.

Prosecutors said she offered to pay approximately $5,000 for the murder and bring the would-be assassin a handgun.

"It was not as though she was delivering cookies," Forester said. "This is not a harsh sentence considering the seriousness of the matter."

Lindorff appeared gaunt and docile Thursday, his long beard and wildly growing hair unable to fully hide the pale face beneath. For him it has been a long stretch of legal battles that began with the death of his adopted son on Dec. 31, 2001.

Cullinan, who will report to jail Aug. 15, appeared the picture of grandmotherly warmth. She said she had to make arrangements for her animals.

Legal counsel for Lindorff unsuccessfully attempted to have his client's plea withdrawn, explaining he did not receive enough discovery from the prosecution when he took over for the previous counsel.

"There has been a failure so as to provide applicable discovery ... for Mr. Lindorff to make a knowing plea," argued attorney John Morris, noting prior counsel may have been ineffective.

Forester responded that Lindorff "stood there under oath and told (the court) he was satisfied with his attorney."

The quiet courtroom scene offered a stark contrast from the tearful display in Gloucester County four years ago when James Lindorff's wife Heather Lindorff - surrounded by the sobs of their five adopted children - was sentenced to six years in prison for child abuse.

The sixth child - 5-year-old Jacob Lindorff - died just six weeks after coming to live with the Lindorffs in Franklin Township, leading to the abuse charges. Heather Lindorff had been the primary caregiver.

Authorities said Jacob Lindorff suffered from a fatal blow to the head. He also sustained second-degree burns on his feet and had bruises all over his body. James Lindorff was given probation after being convicted of fourth-degree child abuse in the matter.

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