Before she was smothered by a 16-year-old carjacker, Kathleen Weinstein used a miniature cassette player to secretly record herself pleading for her life, authorities said Tuesday.
“Don’t you understand what kind of trouble you are going to get in? Don’t you think they’re going to find you?” Weinstein asked the boy who abducted her from a shopping plaza last Thursday.
Although it didn’t save the 45-year-old Weinstein, the dramatic 4-minute recording helped authorities identify a suspect: M.L. of Berkeley Township, who turned 17 on Friday. He was charged Tuesday with murder and carjacking.
The tape contained the youth’s first name, his age and details about his past, Prosecutor Daniel Carluccio said. He would not elaborate.
“On the tape, Mrs. Weinstein valiantly and persistently used every skill and power she had to convince her attacker to simply take her car and not her life,” Carluccio said.
At times, Weinstein seemed as concerned about the teenager as herself, pleading for him not to ruin his future. She also spoke of her own concern for disadvantaged people, saying she hoped to take in a foster child or adopt someone, and “give something to somebody.”
“Her humanity and skills as a special education teacher are apparent in the recording,” Carluccio said. “She made every effort to befriend and understand him.”
Weinstein offered her attacker help and advice during their conversation, and promised not to tell anyone if he just took her car and left her alone.
But in the end, the youth suffocated Weinstein with her coat and other pieces of clothing, officials said. Her body was found Sunday in a wooded area of Berkeley Township. The cassette was in one of her pockets.
The tape stopped before the slaying. It was made while the hand-held recorder was in a bag. Weinstein managed to remove the tape from the machine and put it in her pocket without the killer’s knowledge so authorities would find it later, Carluccio said.
“I have no doubt Kathleen Weinstein spoke to us through that tape,” he said.
Carluccio said he would seek to have the suspect tried as an adult.
The youth abducted Weinstein at gunpoint, and either drove or forced her to drive to the secluded site where she was killed, Carluccio said.
At some point, Carluccio said, Weinstein turned on the voice-activated recorder and began taping her conversation with her abductor. The prosecutor read some of her comments, but did not disclose any of the youth’s taped comments.
Weinstein was a teacher of disabled children at the Thorne Middle School in Middletown. She left a husband and a 6-year-old son.