EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP, N.J. – It was hard enough for Kimberly Pack dealing with the killing of her mother five years ago, but the way in which prosecutors say it happened was almost too much to bear. Her stepfather, a doctor, is charged with arranging for his wife to be shot in her home to prevent her from exposing an illegal drug distribution ring he was operating with an outlaw biker gang.
She has lived with sadness, anger and suspicion since that morning in May 2012 when a handyman found her mother dead on a bedroom floor from two gunshot wounds. But now that Dr. James Kauffman has been charged with murder, Pack thinks she knows how to regain peace in her life.
“I’m really trying my best to work on forgiveness,” Pack said, anticipating the day when she can confront Kauffman in a courtroom and tell him what her life has been like since the killing.
“You plan that day out and that speech out a million times in your head,” she said. “It’s not going to be this hate-filled speech. It is going to be one that I hope is quite freeing for myself because that will truly be the end for me. Regardless of the outcome, I’m finding forgiveness in my heart to let this go when it’s all said and done.”
James Kauffman, 68, of Linwood, New Jersey, and co-defendant Ferdinand Augello, 61, of Petersburg, New Jersey, are charged with murder in the death of Kauffman’s 47-year-old wife, April, a local radio talk show host who advocated for veterans and who had won a community service award from the governor days before her death.
Authorities say Kauffman arranged for his wife’s murder to keep her from divorcing him in 2011 and exposing a lucrative drug ring he was running with the Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Gang through his endocrinology practice.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said Kauffman told Augello about his wife’s threats and solicited him to have her killed. After about a year, a man who agreed to do it, Francis Mullholland, was driven to the home, where the doors had been left open, and was given a gun, authorities said. April Kauffman was shot twice.
Mullholland, who got about $20,000 in cash, was later found dead of a drug overdose, Tyner said.
Prosecutors also revealed this week they have charged Augello with planning to kill James Kauffman before he can go to trial. The alleged threat resulted in Kauffman being moved to a jail in a different county almost 100 miles away.
Kauffman maintains his innocence, his lawyers said this week. Augello’s public defender declined to comment on his behalf.
Pack still has not been able to truly grieve for her mother.
“Every hour, I feel like my emotions are changing,” said Pack, a pharmaceutical representative. “The person I believe killed my mother is finally being charged. But once you actually hear it said out loud, it’s hard to take it in.”
Pack’s attorney, Patrick D’Arcy, would not allow her to discuss the facts of the case before a trial occurs. But he noted how she retained his firm in a successful effort to prevent Kauffman from cashing in two life insurance policies on his slain wife. That led to a wrongful death lawsuit against her stepfather that remains pending.
Pack has adopted coping mechanisms that helped her get through the past five years while bracing for what is yet to come: live in the moment, enjoy or mourn what is happening today; don’t look back or forward too far; and deal with tomorrow when it arrives.
She and her two sons, ages 11 and 7, try to keep April Kauffman’s memory alive, recalling how she loved her Corvette and her motorcycle, how she was thrilled to go hot air ballooning, and how she never used a recipe while cooking. Pack says she sometimes hears “that ornery giggle” of her mother’s in her younger son’s laughter.
“The thing that scares me is forgetting those memories,” she said. “She was the most amazing person.”
Follow Wayne Parry at https://twitter.com/WayneParryAC.