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Chesed Shel Emes does religious cleanup after triple murder suicide

Oct 25, 2011 -Journal News
Nearly six months before he wiped out his entire family, Sam Friedlander walked into a Yonkers gun shop far from his northern Westchester home and law office and purchased a 12-gauge shotgun and two boxes of ammo, actions that prompted his father-in-law to speculate Monday that the killings were planned.

Friedlander bludgeoned his wife to death in the master bedroom of their luxury Cross River Colonial, shot his two children in their beds and then covered them with their bedspreads before going to the unfinished basement and putting the gun to his own head. Their bodies were discovered Oct. 18.Amy Friedlander and her children were buried Sunday in Trevose, Pa., where she grew up.

Officials with the Westchester County Medical Examiner's Office said Monday night that Sam Friedlander's body had been claimed by a funeral home Monday. The name of that home was unavailable, officials said.

A Brooklyn-based Jewish organization went to the Friedlanders' Lambert Ridge Road home over the weekend to clean up the bloody scene and to follow what they say are the tenets of Jewish law.

Some 10 volunteers with Chesed Shel Emes spent about two hours Saturday night scouring the bedrooms and basement in an effort to return any of the decedents' remains to them, said Rabbi Mayer Berger, Chesed's director of operations.

"According to Jewish law, all remains have to be buried with the person," Berger said on Monday. "If anything is missing from him or her, he or she is not complete."

After learning of the Lewisboro tragedy, Chesed Shel Emes, a more than 20-year-old organization that specializes in recovery and burial, contacted the families of the dead to offer their services, Berger said. An attorney for Amy Friedlander, he said, returned the call and opened the house for them to do the recovery.

Berger said they gave the remains to the attorney in bags but did not know if the remains were indeed buried with Amy Friedlander and her children.

Buonamici & LaRaus and Guttridge & Cambareri represent Amy Friedlander. A call to Lawrence LaRaus was not returned Monday.

Berger said they also contacted Sam Friedlander's family and offered to conduct a burial for him. They were told his brother would be claiming the body and taking care of arrangements, Berger said, adding they would check back in a couple of days to see if anyone had indeed claimed him.

"As long as he is Jewish, he deserves a proper Jewish burial" Berger said. Berger declined to comment on the specifics of the cleanup.

Chesed Shel Emes, which means "charity of truth," has more than 500 volunteers in 10 states and conducts about 30 cleanups and 150 burials per year, Berger said.

Burial services are done for the unclaimed and for those who can't afford one, Berger said. They rely solely on donations to run their operations, he said.

State police said they were aware of the recovery effort though they had no contact with Chesed. Once the autopsies were completed, the house was released, said Capt. Lisa Loughran.

"We really try to honor any cultural traditions but not compromise the crime scene," she said.