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Wife Suspected in Soviet Emigre’s Dismemberment Slaying

April 16, 1996

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ Back when things were good between Rita Gluzman and her scientist husband, she staged an 18-day hunger strike to gain his release from the Soviet Union.

Now prosecutors suspect she conspired with a cousin to kill and dismember her husband, perhaps to avert a financially ruinous divorce.

The macabre tale began to unfold on Easter Sunday when an East Rutherford police officer on patrol in an industrial park spotted Vladimir Zelenin, Mrs. Gluzman’s cousin, walking up the bank of the Passaic River wearing a bloody latex glove, his pants spattered with blood.

In two cars nearby, the officer found eight bags of body parts, a bag of bloody clothing and a bag of cutting tools. Police recovered numerous body parts, 66 of them identifiable, including a nose, ear and lips found in the river.

The victim’s fingertips were cut off to prevent identification. But using dental records, medical examiners determined he was 48-year-old Yakov Gluzman, a prominent cancer researcher and Rita Gluzman’s husband of 27 years.

Authorities quickly learned the Gluzman’s marriage was not a happy one. Yakov Gluzman had moved from their $530,000 home last year in Upper Saddle River and filed for divorce in December.

Mrs. Gluzman, 47, disappeared the day before Easter, and investigators feared she had fled either to Russia or Israel. But she was found Friday in a cabin for visiting scientists at Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) Laboratories, where Yakov Gluzman had once worked. She was arrested on burglary charges.

Inside the cabin, authorities found travel books about Australia and Switzerland along with flight information for Switzerland.

Mrs. Gluzman was being held without bail Tuesday in New York. She has not been charged in the April 6 slaying of her husband at his apartment in Pearl River, N.Y.

But during a hearing Saturday, New York Judge Claire Weinberg told Mrs. Gluzman’s attorney, Michael Rosen, ``We both know this is not just a normal burglary. The possibility of murder charges is in the background.″

``I don’t have any indication that there’s anything worthy out there that would warrant any action by the prosecutors,″ Rosen said Monday. ``I have as much information about what they plan to do as you. When I last saw her, she was resigned to the fact that this is all cooked up in some sort of hocus pocus to keep her on ice for a while.″

The Gluzmans lived at the Cold Spring Harbor complex from 1977 to 1985 while Yakov Gluzman worked with Nobel Prize-winning biologist James D. Watson, co-discoverer of the molecular structure of DNA. At the lab, Gluzman developed a cancer research method that became standard around the world.

``These were the best years of our lives,″ Mrs. Gluzman was overheard saying after she was caught Friday.

Gluzman had worked since 1987 at the Lederle Laboratories research and manufacturing facility in Pearl River, and was Lederle’s senior director of molecular biology.

The Gluzmans also owned East Rutherford-based ECI Technology Inc., a business she ran that specializes in making equipment for companies that manufacture circuit boards for the electronics industry. Yakov Gluzman’s remains were found behind the industrial park where the business is situated.

Police believe Zelenin, 40, of Fair Lawn and a much smaller accomplice attacked Gluzman in a frenzy with an ax and a knife, dragged his body into the bathroom of his apartment and spent at least six hours hacking it apart.

Zelenin, who had worked as a computer technician at ECI for six months, was charged with murder and conspiracy.

The Gluzmans grew up together in the Ukraine and married in the Soviet Union in 1969. Rita Gluzman fled the country for Israel in 1970, and Yakov joined her a year later after she staged a hunger strike outside the United Nations and lobbied Congress for his release.

But Yakov Gluzman complained in divorce papers that his wife ``spent every cent I had and incurred substantial debt,″ ran ECI into the ground and could not accept the fact he wanted out of ``a bad marriage.″

Mrs. Gluzman in return accused her husband of having an affair with an Israeli woman he reportedly wanted to marry and funneling money out of joint bank accounts.

Mrs. Gluzman listed her personal expenses as $6,212 per month, including $1,000 for clothing and $225 for care of the family dog.

``We’re looking into financial motives, any jealousy motive, any love triangle motives,″ said Detective Sgt. Terry Hutmacher of the Orangetown (N.Y.) Police Department.

Mrs. Gluzman spoke just once during Saturday’s hearing. When prosecutors accused her of trying to disguise herself by coloring her hair, she snapped, ``I’ve had this hair color for five years.″

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