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Woman Who Notoriously Hacked Husband Into 65 Pieces Granted Prison Release To Hackensack

Rita Gluzman, Yakov Gluzman
Rita Gluzman, Yakov Gluzman Photo Credit: Güner N. Akgün / INSET: about.me/ritagluzman

A Bergen County woman who was sentenced to life in prison for the infamous hacking death of her husband in Rockland County was headed to live with her sister in Hackensack this week after a federal judge granted her a compassionate release.

Rita Gluzman, 71, formerly of Upper Saddle River, was granted the release, with conditions, from the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas after suffering multiple strokes, TV station WFAA reported.

The Ukrainian-born activist made international headlines after an East Rutherford police officer found her cousin trying to dump garbage bags filled with dozens of her estranged husband's body parts in the Hackensack River in April 1996.

Prosecutors made Gluzman the first woman ever charged under the federal 1994 Violence Against Women Act, accusing her of crossing state lines to commit domestic violence.

Federal jurors in White Plains later convicted her of killing Yakov Gluzman, a molecular biologist and cancer researcher, in his Pearl River apartment during a bitter divorce battle over millions of dollars in assets.

A judge later sentenced her to life (there's no parole in the federal prison system).

“Your Honor, I did not do it and I still say that in front of the world," Gluzman said at her sentencing.

Gluzman's cousin, Vladimir Zelenin of Fair Lawn, pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for a more lenient sentence of 22½ years. He was released in 2015.

The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Rita Shapiro attended the same primary schools as Yakov Gluzman while growing up in Chernowitz, a shtetl in Ukraine (then part of the USSR).

They later co-founded a computer firm, ECI Technologies, in East Rutherford.

Yakov Gluzman filed for divorce in 1995, claiming that his wife was an abusive spendthrift.

Although she responded by accusing him of having an affair, prosecutors said Rita Gluzman was more concerned about losing her assets -- including ECI.

Rita Gluzman traveled to Europe and Israel to collects photos of her husband and his girlfriend, a Russian immigrant, in a blackmail attempt, they charged. She also tapped his phone, they said.

Rita had married Yakov Gluzman in 1969, then pressured the Soviet Union to allow him to emigrate to the U.S. with the rest of their family in three years later, holding an 18-day hunger strike at the United Nations.

On April 6, 1996, Gluzman and Zelenin waited at her husband's Pearl River apartment for him to return home from his consulting job at Lederle Labs.

Yakov Gluzman had moved to the second-floor apartment -- a short walk from Lederle and barely a 10-minute car ride from Upper Saddle River -- after separating from his wife a year earlier.

Using various tools (some reportedly bought at Home Depot), Rita Gluzman and Zelenin attacked Yakov with an axe and knife.

Zelenin said he then chopped the body into 65 pieces in the bathtub with a hacksaw and scalpel.

The two stuffed the dismembered body parts into plastic bags, put them in the trunk of Yakov Guzman's Maxima and took them to Bergen County the next morning.

East Rutherford police arrested Zelenin on Easter Sunday on the banks of the Passaic River -- behind ECI -- after finding him with the bags and a bloody hand injury apparently sustained during the assault.

Rita Gluzman had already fled but was captured 11 days later in a cabin in Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, near a lab where her husband had worked.

She was carrying a passport and travel brochures for several worldwide destinations, including Switzerland, authorities said.

Gluzman began her sentence at low-security correctional facility in Danbury, CT. She was transferred in 2001 to FMC Carswell after suffering a stroke.

Gluzman filed a motion for compassionate release in U.S. District Court in Manhattan last month, claiming “extraordinary and compelling" circumstances -- including early Parkinson’s disease -- "even without considering the COVID-19 pandemic.”

U.S. District Judge Lewis J. Liman granted her release with conditions, including her obtaining an iPhone so she can FaceTime with her probation officer.

Gluzman will remain under five years of supervised home custody in Hackensack -- with a GPS monitoring device -- and will be allowed to travel to medical visits, court appearances, religious services and certain other activities that must be approved by Liman or another federal judge. 

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