Image: Werner Lippe
Anonymous  /  AP
Werner Lippe was convicted in October of incinerating his wife Faith Lippe in an oil drum after knocking her unconscious with a piece of lumber in 2008.
By
updated 3/29/2011 11:16:35 AM ET 2011-03-29T15:16:35

A New York jeweler who was convicted of murdering his wife — although her body was never found — made an unrepentant argument for his innocence on Tuesday as he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Werner Lippe was convicted in October of incinerating Faith Lippe in an oil drum after knocking her unconscious with a piece of lumber in 2008.

Lippe, who made jewelry for Donald Trump and Yoko Ono, and his wife were in the midst of divorcing when she disappeared. They had two teenage children.

Before the judge pronounced the sentence, Lippe turned to where his wife's family and friends were in the gallery and said, "The lynch mob over there will applaud you."

The victim's cousin, Shari Caradonna, said in court that she couldn't stop wondering "what Faith's last moments may have been like. ... Was it over fast? Did she suffer?"

Three confessions
Lippe confessed three times to the killing — jurors heard the recordings — but recanted. He testified that he last saw his wife being driven away from their home in Cortlandt, a New York City suburb.

His first trial ended with a hung jury.

Lippe's defense emphasized that no trace of the body was found, and an earlier jury was unable to reach a verdict.

Lippe testified that he confessed because he feared investigators were manufacturing evidence against him.

He said he had learned when his mother was cremated that it was impossible to destroy bones and teeth by burning. He said he thought he would be exonerated when authorities realized his body-burning story couldn't be true.

But prosecutors said Lippe could have disposed of his wife's bones and teeth with the acids he kept in his home workshop.

Image: Faith Lippe
Anonymous  /  AP
Faith Lippe appears in an undated photograph.

In one confession — recorded by a friend wearing a wire for the police — Lippe said of his wife, "She doesn't exist anymore. They can't find her."

Lippe said in his confessions that he knocked out his wife with a board, then burned her up in a backyard "burn barrel."

Police saw the barrel early in the investigation, but it disappeared before Lippe was arrested. No trace of his wife — bone fragments, blood or DNA — was found.

Prosecutors said that by killing his wife, Lippe stood to gain $1.5 million he would lose in the divorce.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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