Sister: Cops 'Made' Tankleff Confess
By Joshua Quittner
March 29, 1989
Martin Tankleff's sister, Shari Rother, testified during a pretrial hearing yesterday that Tankleff told her police "made" him confess to the fatal assaults on his parents.
Rother testified before Suffolk County Court Judge Alfred Tisch in Riverhead that her younger brother called her from police headquarters about 6 p.m. on Sept. 7, the day the blood-soaked bodies of Seymour and Arlene Tankleff were found in the couple's Belle Terre home. Rother said her brother, in an "agitated" voice, said: " `I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I have big problems. I need psychiatric help . . . ' "
She said that she asked him, "Marty, did you tell them you did this? He said, `Yes.' I said, why did you tell them that? He said, `They made me.' "
Rother testified that she then told her brother she loved him, and hung up.
Police asked Rother if they could record the conversation, but Rother testified that she would not allow them to. However, police standing next to Tankleff as he made the call, overheard his statements.
The hearing, now in its fourth week, focuses on the admissibility of statements Tankleff made to police on the day of the attacks. Tankleff's attorney, Robert Gottlieb, has contended that the telephone conversation between Rother and Tankleff is inadmissible because he specifically told detectives that Tankleff was not to call her.
Gottlieb has also argued that an alleged oral admission Tankleff made to police, in which he said he stabbed and beat his parents with a dumbbell, is inadmissible on the grounds that the 17-year-old was then represented by an attorney - Myron Fox - who forbade police from questioning him.
Fox testified on Monday that he visited the Tankleff home at Rother's request at 8 a.m. on the day of the stabbings to retrieve Martin Tankleff and take him to the hospital to see his father, Seymour, who was then in a coma and who died, without regaining consciousness, a month later. Fox testified that when he arrived at the family's home, Det. James McCready told him that Tankleff had already left for the hospital. And Fox testified that he told McCready he represented the youth and forbade police from questioning Tankleff without Fox being present.
McCready has testified, however, that Tankleff was, in fact, at the murder scene with him when Fox arrived. He testified that Fox greeted Tankleff and conversed with him, and never told police that he was anything more than Seymour Tankleff's business lawyer.
Yesterday, Rother said that she did not dispatch Fox to the Tankleff residence to represent her brother. She said she merely wanted Fox to bring him to her at the hospital for support.
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