On September 20, 1992, the police received reports that someone had fallen from a 12-story cliff near the New Jersey Palisades. They arrived in the area and found Stephen Scharf, who told them they he and his wife, Jody, were having a picnic before going to a comedy club in New York City. Scharf also stated that they were drinking in their car, and then went to a lookout area described as their “spot”. Finally, Scharf told the police that while he was getting a blanket and more drinks from their vehicle, Jody fell from the rocks. Jody’s body was later found, and her blood alcohol content was 0.12. At that time, the medical examiner could not determine a cause of death.
Other facts undermined Scharf’s story. Jody was seeking to divorce him, alleging that he was abusive and unfaithful. Further, at some point within the past year, Scharf had taken out a $500,000 life insurance policy on Jody. Because of such facts, the case was reviewed again in 2004. Finding that Jody’s injuries (primarily to her face) were inconsistent with falling off a cliff, the medical examiner changed the cause of death to homicide. The medical examiner further determined that Jody was thrown from the cliff, and had hit a tree as she dropped down.
During trial, a number of individuals who knew Jody testified that her husband was abusive, and that she was afraid of both him and heights. Jody was also seeing a therapist who testified that Jody had previously refused to accompany her husband to the cliffs, and that she never visited the area before. One witness also testified that Jody had informed her that Scharf had refused to sign certain papers related to the pending divorce, and that he would “see her dead” before signing them. The couple’s son also testified that Jody did not want to go to dinner alone with her husband. Continue reading