James Kauffman, accused of arranging wife's murder, found dead in jail

Dr, James Kauffman, left, and his wife April Kauffman (File photos | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

The Atlantic County doctor charged earlier this month with paying a hitman to kill his wife nearly six years ago, has committed suicide in the Hudson County jail.

James Kauffman, who authorities previously said was moved to the facility in Kearny for his own safety, was found dead in his cell by staff around 9:20 a.m., jail spokesman James Kennelly confirmed. Kennelly would not elaborate on how Kauffman took his life or provide other details.

Kauffman is the fifth inmate to die at the jail in the past eight monthsTwo died last week.

His cellmate was apparently in court this morning and Kauffman was alone.

Sources said Kauffman suffocated himself and that a six-page suicide note was discovered. Kauffman didn't hang himself, but had tied something around his neck and laid facedown on his bunk. As a result, it appeared he was still sleeping and staff doing rounds didn't notice anything wrong until he didn't respond.

The Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office would only confirm that they were notified by the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office that Kauffman died in an apparent suicide. They added he was moved to that jail "as a result of credible threats to his life."

April Kauffman was found shot and killed in her Linwood home in 2012, but it took nearly six years for her husband, an endocrinologist, to be charged with murder.

James Kauffman's attorney, Ed Jacobs, said he learned of his client's death from the Hudson County jail warden.

"My condolences go out to his widow and we are sorry to have lost a client ... a person with whom we have become friendly," Jacobs said. Kauffman remarried after his wife's murder.

Jacobs speculated that the stress of the ongoing investigation and months spent in jail may have led Kauffman's death.

"The events of the last 5 1/2 years have taken a toll and may have been a contributing factor to Jim's passing."

Kauffman appeared frail and walked slowly during his detention hearing last week. He offered one-word answers to the judge during the proceeding.

Attorney Patrick D'Arcy, who is representing April Kauffman's daughter, Kim Pack, in a lawsuit against the doctor, said his client was very emotional upon learning Friday's news.

"It's really a sad day," D'Arcy said. "It's been a long road and her emotions are pretty raw right now. Certainly, she was relieved when he was charged, but she's a mess right now."

Kauffman was charged with orchestrating a murder-for-hire plot against April Kauffman, a South Jersey radio host, businesswoman and veterans advocate. He allegedly sought a hitman to kill her after she threatened to report a prescription drug ring he was running out of his office.

Atlantic County prosecutors said Kauffman conspired with members of the Pagan Outlaw Motorcycle Gang to use his medical practice to illegally distribute drugs.

The man who agreed to kill the woman, Francis Mulholland, was driven to the Kauffman home, where the doors were left open, authorities said. Mulholland shot her twice, prosecutors said. Mulholland died of a drug overdose in 2013, officials said.

In addition to murder, Kauffman was also charged with racketeering in connection with the drug scheme.

He was next due in court on Feb. 21.

Kauffman had been moved to the Hudson County jail for his own safety, authorities said, after they uncovered a plot to kill him.

Prosecutors additionally charged Ferdinand Augello, 62, of Petersburg, with conspiracy to kill Kauffman, alleging that he feared the doctor would confess to the pair's actions. Augello is also charged with murder in connection with April Kauffman's death. He allegedly recruited Mulholland.

Six other people are charged with racketeering in connection with the drug ring.

Kauffman has been in jail since June 2017, when he held investigators at bay with a handgun when they attempted to execute a search warrant at his office. He surrendered after a 45-minute standoff.