WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — A wealthy 68-year-old jeweler with two ex-wives in Europe who is accused of killing his third wife and burning her body testified Monday that he learned how bodies are incinerated when he questioned a mortician about his mother's cremation.
He insisted, however, that he did not kill or burn his wife. He said he used his knowledge of cremation only to concoct a false confession so investigators would stop harassing him.
Defendant Werner Lippe is charged with murder in the disappearance of his wife, 49-year-old Faith Lippe, in 2008. They were in divorce proceedings at the time. Her body has never been found, and prosecutors have no DNA evidence against Lippe.
But he told a friend wearing a wire, and later the police, that he had killed his wife and incinerated her in a 55-gallon drum in their yard. He testified Monday in Westchester County Court that those were false confessions extracted from him only through confusion, fatigue and "this witch hunt against me."
Cross-examination is scheduled for Thursday.
Lippe specifically denied killing his wife, saying the last time he saw her she was being driven away from their home in Cortlandt in an unfamiliar SUV on Oct. 3, 2008. He said he did not know why she was leaving or who was driving.
Lippe said he was concerned when his wife did not return home that night, but he did not report her missing until late the next day. He said he drove an hour to ask a retired policeman friend in Connecticut how long one had to wait before reporting a missing person.
Lippe, who had a jewelry business in Manhattan's diamond district, testified that he kept acids, some of them dangerous, and tools at home because he sometimes worked there as well.
He said he melted gold and platinum and soldered wire.
Lippe said his mother died in 2006. She was to be cremated in Austria, and he was interested in the process, he said.
"I'm a curious person to begin with," he testified, adding that the Discovery Channel is his favorite. He said he asked the "funeral person," "By the way, how do you burn people?"
Lippe said he learned that temperatures above 1,600 degrees are needed, fire or electric heat can be used and bones have to be ground up and added to the ashes after cremation.
He said he learned enough to know that the prosecutors' theory that he burned his wife's body in a barrel is "an impossibility."
"You cannot burn a body and make the bones disappear," he said.
Lippe said that as he tried to explain to the police that his confession was false, he found he was "not getting anywhere with logic or intelligence." He said he asked to talk to a judge or district attorney because they would have more education and a "higher IQ" than police officers.