exposing the dark side of adoption
Register Log in

Pair indicted in murder for hire


Randall Clark

Today's Sunbeam

SALEM - A county jail inmate here with an infamous history and his mother-in-law were indicted by a Salem County grand jury earlier this week for allegedly hatching a murder-for-hire plot last year to kill a witness against him.

James E. Lindorff, 58, and Mildred A. Cullinan, 76, both of Hagersville Road in Elsinboro, face a single count of conspiracy to commit murder, a first degree crime that carries with it the potential prison sentence of 30 years to life, prosecutors say.

It is the latest charge in a criminal saga surrounding the family that began with the violent death of James and Heather Lindorff's 5-year-old son in December of 2001, while they lived in Franklin Township.

The child was one of six adopted Russian children the couple had started to take in about a year before the death.

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

He was lodged there after pleading guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and contempt of a judicial order on May 18 in Salem County. He was sentenced on July 24.

The witness' knowledge of the alleged abuse apparently played a pivotal role in his decision to plead guilty.

"It's a bizarre family and a bizarre history surrounding them, and these are serious first-degree charges levied against them," Salem County Prosecutor John T. Lenahan said in an earlier interview.

The investigation of Cullinan and Lindorff began when police learned that, while in jail, he was allegedly soliciting for the murder of the Salem County witness. His mother-in-law, Cullinan, provided him a link to the outside.

Cullinan met with an Atlantic County undercover detective posing as a would-be assassin at the King Fried Chicken eatery on Yorke Street in Salem City on Aug. 30. She was allegedly offering to pay approximately $5,000 for the murder of the witness against Lindorff and allegedly even said she'd provide a handgun.

"Through the diligence of our detectives and a few unique investigative tactics, tragedy was avoided in this case," Lenahan noted.

Lindorff and his wife Heather Lindorff - the daughter of Cullinan - are both serving prison sentences stemming from the death of Jacob Lindorff and the general mistreatment of their adopted children.

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.

Jacob Lindorff died on Dec. 31, 2001 from what medical examiners determined was blunt force trauma to the head. Police believed the blow 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.

2008 Mar 28