Bail set in alleged murder plot

Relates to:
Date: 2007-09-05

Randall Clark
Today's Sunbeam

SALEM - A judge set bail Tuesday at $75,000 full cash for a 75-year-old woman who was allegedly involved in a murder-for-hire plot intended to eliminate a witness against her incarcerated son-in-law.

Mildred Cullinan, of Hagerville Road in Elsinboro, and James Lindorff, 58, a Lower Alloways Creek resident who is currently serving a 364-day sentence at the Salem County Correctional Facility, were both charged last Thursday with conspiracy to commit murder, a first-degree crime, authorities said.

Superior Court Judge William Forester had Cullinan jailed over the Labor Day weekend with no bail option. Forester set Lindorff's bail at $250,000, also with no 10 percent option.

Lindorff began his prison sentence on July 24 after pleading guilty May 18 in Salem County Superior Court to endangering the welfare of a child and contempt of a judicial order. According to Salem County Prosecutor John T. Lenahan, less than five weeks after his incarceration began, Lindorff allegedly began a murder plot designed for the unnamed witness, a person willing to testify that Lindorff had abused one or more of his six adopted Russian children, one of whom died in 2001. The witness' knowledge of the alleged abuse apparently played a pivotal role in James Lindorff's decision to plead guilty.

Lenahan said that the investigation of Cullinan and Lindorff began when police learned that shortly after he was sent to jail, Lindorff allegedly began to seek through his mother-in-law a way to eliminate the witness.

"He was actively soliciting the murder of the Salem County witness and was offering to pay and provide a weapon for the potential murder," Lenahan said.

Cullinan, Lindorff's mother-in-law, provided a link to the outside in the plot.

Willing to pay what officials said was approximately $5,000 for the murder, Cullinan met with an Atlantic County undercover detective posing as a would-be assassin at the King Chicken eatery on Yorke Street in Salem City, authorities said. The Aug. 30 rendezvous established probable cause, leading to the arrests. At no point was the witness in any danger, according to Lenahan.

"The intended victim had been notified of the alleged plot prior to the Thursday arrests and had been placed under protective custody by members of the Salem County Prosecutor's Office Detective Division," he said.

Officials said that the search of a residence on New Bridge Road in Lower Alloways Creek that belonged to a relative of Cullinan revealed a handgun intended to be the murder weapon. As of Friday no charges have been filed against the owner of the house, officials said.

James Lindorff and his wife, Heather Lindorff, the daughter of Cullinan, are both serving prison sentences stemming from the death of one of their six adopted children from Russia. In 2000 the Lindorffs took custody of three girls and in 2001 they took in three boys, who ranged in ages from 5-years-old to 16-years-old when they came to live with the Lindorffs.

On Dec. 14, 2001, 5-year-old Jacob Lindorff died from what medical examiners determined was blunt force trauma to the head, which police said was delivered by his mother. The boy also had second-degree burns on his feet and hemorrhaging in one eye. Heather Lindorff is currently serving a six-year prison sentence for child endangerment at the Edna Mahon Correctional Facility for Women in Hunterdon County. As a result of the case, Lindorff was given probation after being convicted of fourth-degree child abuse.

After the 2003 conviction, custody of the children was handed over to Cullinan, with specific orders that visits by the Lindorffs had to be supervised and could not be overnight. County investigators determined that the Lindorffs defied the order, and all three were charged with disobeying the judge's order. At that time Heather Lindorff was released from jail while awaiting an appeal, though violating the judge's order sent her back.

In 2006 new charges of child neglect were lodged against the couple in Salem County, leading to Lindorff's eventual guilty plea. They allegedly failed to provide medical treatment and left malnourished at least one of the children, a boy who at 12 years old weighed just 61 pounds.


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