Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joel Sandler's Murder for Hire

The Root of
All Evil

Twenty-five years after the coupled had exchanged vows, Linda fled the Sandler home in fear for her life. She not only sought a divorce but also a chunk of the family assets, a move that would drive Sandler over the edge. He would rather see his wife dead than part with half of his $4.5 million estate.

Linda Sandler
Linda Sandler

Sandler waged a bitter legal battle over the family assets, which he viewed as essentially his. He also set in motion a plan to destroy Linda emotionally by stalking her, Dunne reported. Linda became so fearful of her safety that she went into hiding in 2001, refusing to tell anyone of her whereabouts, including her children who had long since severed ties with their father.

In the meantime, the judge in the acrimonious divorce battle decided that the case had been stalled long enough; a decision in the case was fast approaching. Sandler knew that it was only a matter of time before he would have to pay up, so he made a last ditch effort to seize ultimate control of the situation. It was then that he decided to be rid of his problem once and for all, literally.

In March 2001, Sandler scheduled a lunch date at the Marbles Restaurant in Bryn Mawr with an acquaintance of his whom Sandler "mistakenly believed had underworld connections" and who, he hoped, would help him take care of the business at hand, Dunne reported. During the lunch, Sandler informed his shocked guest that he wished to have someone killed and asked whether he knew anyone who would be willing to do it. It was a request that was immediately turned down by a shooing gesture of his guest's hand. Sandler mistook the gesture, thinking his lunch partner was extending his hand to shake in agreement to the plan, not realizing that he had just sealed his fate.

Unbeknownst to Sandler, his lunch guest immediately informed the Township of Lower Merion Police Department of the unusual conversation he had with Sandler, which prompted an investigation. Less than two weeks later, detectives placed a typed note in Sandler's mailbox that read, "Someone will be in touch. Don't ever ask me for anything else." The note set the stage for the sting operation that would engage numerous officers; cost thousands of dollars, involve significant strategic planning and put at risk the life of at least one courageous undercover agent. What the police didn't take into account was the extent to which Sandler had gone to protect himself in the event of a sting operation, planning that threatened the very foundation of the murder-for-hire case which would be brought against him.

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