Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joel Sandler's Murder for Hire

Dead Set on Success

Joel Sandler came from a modest background and was the only child of a Long Island, N.Y., family. Sandler had high aspirations while growing up and decided that his parent's dream of his being a doctor was not what he wanted. In fact, he wanted much more, and, after graduating from Pittsburgh University, he set out to attain his dream of being successful and wealthy.

Map of Long Island
Map of Long Island

Sandler went to Philadelphia, Pa., where he landed a temporary job at a construction company. Shortly after his move to the city, he met a young student named Linda, with whom he soon fell in love. The couple was swept up in a passionate affair that led to marriage in June 1971, followed by the births of a son and daughter in the next few years.

University of Pittsburgh seal
University of Pittsburgh seal

Sandler worked at a series of temporary jobs until he found an ideal position, working as a stock broker for Merrill Lynch on the outskirts of Philadelphia. Dunne reported that here Sandler found his niche and used his talent and shrewdness to establish himself as "an aggressive broker with good financial instincts," eventually "pulling in a salary of more than $150,000 a year." Yet, the money was not enough for Sandler, and before long he developed a reputation for being money-hungry and brusque, causing tensions at his work that led to his being transferred to another office. Sandler's boss told him that he wouldn't be allowed to take his clients with him, which enraged Sandler and led to his threatening his boss with physical harm. He was fired soon thereafter but it would by no means mark the end of Sandler's quest to attain his dreams of success.

Fueled by his hunger for money, he set off on another business adventure. In 1978, Dunne reported that Sandler "secured a position with an upscale real estate firm and began brokering investment deals for wealthy families and corporations" during the 1980s real estate boom, earning Sandler an income of "more than $500 thousand dollars." Sandler had the "Midas touch," exhibited by the exponential growth of his profits over a relatively brief period of time, netting him millions.

By 1985 he was able to relocate his family to a sprawling mansion worth half a million dollars in the affluent community of Bryn Mawr, Pa. To the outside world, it appeared that the Sandler's had everything anyone could ever want or need. However, it didn't take long for cracks to appear in the façade of the perfect family.

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