How a Philadelphia Journalist Investigated One of New Jersey's Most Notorious Murder for Hire Plots
You may have seen Annie McCormick reporting the news at Philadelphia's own 6ABC, but after an interview with the daughter of one of New Jersey's most notorious murder for hire plots, she became so intrigued that it prompted her own investigation. With a plethora of details to sort through, combined with the victim's persistent family, and a new prosecutor in office, it's a tale worthy of becoming a book. Check out what Annie has to say in the answers below:
1. Tell us how you first heard about the case? I was working at another TV station in Harrisburg, PA but home visiting my parents when I saw the breaking news about April’s murder on 6abc. I eventually came to work as a reporter for 6abc. On the one year anniversary of April’s murder I interviewed her daughter Kim Pack. From there I was intrigued by the case primarily because so many people were convinced Dr. Kauffman was responsible, but he continued to live his life in the same community without consequence. I was also struck by how frustrated Kim Pack was with how the investigation was going and how it seemed The Prosecutor’s Office was shutting her out, yet she still persevered and so did many of April’s friends.
2. What was it about the case that intrigued you the most? Jim Kauffman not only continued to practice as a doctor at the shore, but he also began dating just weeks after April was killed. Jim’s supporters would say he was a victim, his wife was murdered and he was just trying to move on with his life. I found it strange that Jim never actively tried to start a reward fund for information or publicly push to find April’s killer. I also found it strange authorities did not either. In fact we would reach out to The Prosecutors Office about doing follow ups on the case and majority of the time received a “no comment”. It felt like everyone knew who did it and no one was doing anything about it. Then about a year after April’s death when The Prosecutor’s Office would not clear Jim as a suspect, at his request to allow him to collect her life insurance policies, it added intrigue because it was the first time The Prosecutor’s Office said publicly (in court filings) that he wasn’t ruled out as a suspect.
3. What were some things that stood out as odd? Jim Kauffman’s behavior detailed by investigators on the day April was found, and the days after was very strange according to meticulous notes kept by Linwood PD and The Atlantic County Prosecutors Office. The requests he made for his Tom Collins mix, and the comments he made foreshadowing his arrest really stuck out to me. Then years later, how he contradicts so much of what he said that day in a civil deposition.
As I stayed on the case people would come to me with crazy bits of information often I would think, this must be a stretch but then when the case all came together finally a lot of the peace-meal “crazy information” I received turned out to be true. For example, investigators had an email exchange with a California psychic in 2013, the psychic wrote details about the investigation that would later have some truth to it in regards to a hitman and how much money the hitman was offered. The psychic made one mistake, he put “The Murder of Annie McCormick” in the subject line. That was jarring to say the least, at least for me personally.
4. As someone who covered a lot of news over the years, what do you wish the public knew more about? Often when authorities are not releasing information to the public, there is a bigger reason behind why, and it truly might be that they are protecting the integrity of the investigation. I don’t think we will ever find out why April’s case took so long to solve but, the theories swirling around why might just be theories. Also, so often in cases like this as time passes suspects get complacent and sloppy and the more people involved, the more likely someone will talk. In this case I think Dr. Kauffman got bolder even pulling off more illegal schemes. Also, there were a few times I almost did stories on 6abc about Jim’s lying about being in the military, but the people who would talk on camera backed out because they were scared of him and we never found proof of any financial gain from his lies of serving.
5. How do you feel the case was handled by local officials? To be honest I feel like I never actually got the answers to all of those questions, I feel like I left this with more questions. I don’t know if there was so much attention to the case and that in turn it caused crazy rumors that took away from the investigation or if it was that investigators were in over their heads or if they knew all along who was responsible but couldn’t connect the dots to lead to an arrest. I did find that there was a lot of progress made in the case in the months right after April’s murder and even into the fall of 2013. There was a DEA investigation into the same group of Pagans that ended up having involvement with the drug ring and knowledge of the search for a hitman. I interviewed the former prosecutor who retired just weeks after April’s murder (it was a planned retirement prior to her killing). His name was Ted Housel and he has since passed away. On the record he would not say if he thought there was anything nefarious behind the scenes as far as how the case was handled. Years later I interviewed Special Agent Dan Garrabrandt who actually offered his services from The FBI within days of the murder, Garrabrandt was one of the agents later assigned to the case when Prosecutor Damon Tyner decided to assign a group to work the case in The Spring of 2017. After Jim tried to collect April’s life insurance policies and they had to go to court The D’Arcy brothers, Kim Pack’s civil attorneys with D’Arcy Johnson Day, seemed to be the only ones digging for answers. They gave all of their findings to The Atlantic County Prosecutors Office but it seemed to fall on deaf ears until Tyner took office. I can’t say if it’s because The Prosecutor’s Office was actively doing their own work behind the scenes, and what The D’Arcy’s gave them they already knew but The D’Arcys were under the impression what they shared with them came as a surprise. Including The “Harry Johnson” burner phone that called Jim Kauffman more than three hundred times in the eight months leading up to April’s murder, the last phone call from that burner phone to Jim was the night before April was killed.
6. Did you have a theory of your own? How close was the actual story to yours? This is a True Crime book, I did not take any liberties with the truth. I did dozens of interviews over the course of several years, plus I was privy to the details of the investigation and that helped me tell the story. I like details, even the tiniest details of what someone was wearing and their expression when they shared a tidbit of information helps to paint a picture for the reader. I’m a very visual person so I like to add any bits I can. I do have some theories in my head. I often wonder if really it was Jim that shot April, he was an expert marksman. I wonder if someone come to the house that day not to shoot April but to get rid of the gun for Jim. The murder weapon was never found. Francis Mulholland, the hitman according to investigators, never fired a gun in his life according to his family, that really stuck with me. I also question what Joseph Mulholland’s involvement really was, the information he shared in interviews contradicts what he said on the stand. Joseph Mulholland admitted to driving Francis (they are not related) to commit the murder. But, Joseph also said the reason he did it was out of his fear of Fred. Joseph is a really big guy, who looks like he could handle any situation, Fred is a small guy in his sixties, it struck me as odd that Joseph could really be fearful of Fred. Plus, at the time Fred was out of The Pagans and Joseph was never actually a Pagan, so it’s not like the club would necessarily back Fred if he wanted to enforce any violence against Joseph.
7. What do you wish people understood about the case? That when you take away all of the rumors and frills of the story this was simply a case of a woman shot and killed while sleeping in the safety of her bedroom. She was not a drug dealer and she was doing a lot of good for her community and veterans. April was a mother and a grandmother. I feel like people got caught up with rumors and innuendos and lost sight of the fact that April was a victim and her case was unsolved.
8. If you could go back to the beginning, what would you change in terms of how you covered the case? I would have been more aggressive with calling out Dr. Kauffman on his lies about serving in the military. Knowledge is power, and often when I’m armed with a lot of knowledge on a subject I go into telling a story with more confidence. At the time in 2013 I was dealing with a lot of pieces of information that I wasn’t able to string together. Many of the people who wanted to do a story about Kauffman’s lies, specifically him lying about being a Green Beret, were scared to speak up, they were terrified of him. That made it difficult to do that story. It wasn’t until 2017 that we were finally able to begin a dialogue with authorities and when they began taking him to court, more details about the investigation were revealed in court filings. I knew at that point the momentum was there and it wasn’t going to stop.
9. Are you happy with the outcome? I’m happy with the book. I wish I came up with a shorter title but, “The Doctor, The Hitman and The Motorcycle Gang” felt right at the time. I am happy to give a more human side to the victims. Also, in TV news we only get so much time to tell a story so I was happy to have this opportunity.
10. How do you feel about the justice system, and do you feel April got justice? And the family? That’s a tricky question. In this day in age when people are questioning law enforcement and their motives and what is fair and what is not, I feel as a journalist we can’t take everything investigators say as “Bible”. In this book I lay out the facts, many gathered by investigators, mixed with interviews I did on my own, and led to Fred Augello’s conviction and leave it up to the reader to decide. What is sad and something I see so often with victims is justice is fleeting because in the end their loved ones are never coming back. I feel like a conviction is really just closure to victims which helps them process their grief. I will say that we see so many “good apples” and “bad apples” in the justice system and after seeing the work done by investigators in this case there were some, including Special Agent Garrabrant who really took the solving April’s case seriously.
11. You mentioned that there are things that were never made public, but are in the book, can you give us a teaser? And were you ever afraid to go public with those details? There’s always details we find out in stories that I’m nervous about making public because everything impacts someone involved. In this book there are details that will surprise people. Neighbors reported seeing Jim in the days after April’s death looking for something in the backyard just hours after a K-9 dog appeared to find a “hit”; I always wondered if the dog was signaling finding the murder weapon but authorities missed it. Jim’s civil deposition is eye opening because he contradicts so much of what he told police the day April died. There are so many details the public has never heard that the conversations Jim has while he is in jail are really telling of his true personality. He has a conversation with a friend and appears to want to intimidate an employee who has knowledge of the drug ring, by telling his friend he thinks she is cooperating with authorities. I became concerned for that employee and wondered if she was in any danger. I also document other illegal operations he was running out of his practice even while under a cloud of suspicion for April’s murder. I heard he was never an animal person but in his conversations while in jail he is always asking about his dog. Like I said, I like tidbits of information to humanize characters even the ones that in the end are considered narcissistic sociopaths. We’re all human.
To purchase The Doctor, The Hitman, and The Motorcycle Gang go to anniemccormick.com .