Charles E. Friedgood, the former Great Neck heart surgeon convicted in 1976 of murdering his sickly wife with a lethal overdose of a painkiller and freed in 2007 from prison with terminal cancer as the state’s oldest inmate, has died. He was 99.
His death in Florida two years ago — confirmed Saturday to Newsday by son-in-law Richard Zaretsky — went unpublicized.
Friedgood had been part of a successful class-action lawsuit accusing New York of violating the law with an unwritten policy of denying parole to nearly every one of the most serious felons, despite judicial sentences requiring consideration for release, upon serving the minimum sentence, over factors like threat to society and signs of rehabilitation.
Convicted in less than five hours after a 13-week trial, Friedgood was sentenced to 25 years to life. He served 31 years. He killed his wife, Sophie, by injecting her with Demerol in their bedroom on June 18,1975, signing the death certificate himself with the cause as stroke, sending her body out of state the next day for burial — citing Jewish tradition mandating a prompt burial.
A week after his wife was found dead, Friedgood was arrested as he boarded a plane to London: it turned out he had had a Danish mistress since 1967, a nurse who had treated the wife. The doctor and the Dane had two children together. Sophie had the mistress’ nude photo in an envelope with the Hebrew word for “whore."
Friedgood had six children with Sophie, with whom he lived on Beverly Road in Kensington in an 18-room brick mansion. The house and money were in Sophie’s name.
When the police arrested him at the airport, he had $450,000 in cash, securities and jewels from his wife's estate.
His wife had long been an invalid, having had a stroke in 1959, when she was 33. Friedgood admitted giving her the injection but denied intending to kill. He was convicted in Nassau County of second-degree murder and grand larceny.
Friedgood told a parole board on Nov. 6, 2007, that his crime was motivated by "lust for another woman" and "greed for money,” according to a hearing transcript of his last plea for freedom.
"I feel that I'm rehabilitated with remorse," he said.
While imprisoned, he had terminal colon, prostate and rectal cancer, and carried a colostomy bag, for which other prisoners had abused him, according to the parole file.
He had tutored fellow prisoners, saved the lives of a guard having a heart attack and another prisoner from choking.
One parole board member who voted for release said the crime was "horrendous and cannot be excused, explained or forgotten" but Friedgood's "institutional record has been a good one. He has many accomplishments, helped numerous individuals and has been active in a positive manner throughout his incarceration."
A board member opposing parole said, "His offense of murder violated not only his personal oath as a physician and the trust of his wife, but it perverted the license and power of the state, placed in his care."
Charles Friedgood was born Oct. 3, 1918, according to the state prison website. He died May 19, 2018, according to findagrave.com, with his gravestone listing his service as a private in the Army in World War II and describing him as a “DOCTOR,” “PAPA” and “SON.”
The epitaph: “PEACE AT LAST.”