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Gaithersburg Physicist to Fight Extradition in Slaying of Wife

Marc Friedlander will plead not guilty in the death of his wife, his attorney said yesterday, and he is fighting extradition to Virginia to stand trial on a murder charge.

Friedlander, of 9904 Walker House Rd., Gaithersburg, did not waive his right to extradition during a bond hearing yesterday in Montgomery County. The 42-year-old physicist surrendered at a Montgomery police station at 10 a.m. Wednesday after Fairfax County police issued a warrant for his arrest. His wife Zitta was shot several times with a 9mm semiautomatic weapon Tuesday afternoon in a parking lot at the Mitre Corp. in McLean. The weapon has not been found.

The couple had been engaged in a bitter divorce and custody battle for their two sons, according to court records. Sources said Marc Friedlander acquired a gun several weeks ago.

Lawyer Barry Helfand, who said he was hired by Friedlander’s parents, said Friedlander surrendered to Montgomery police, but “he did not admit to anything. He has denied the crime. He intends to plead not guilty” if ordered back to Virginia.

“He’s appropriately depressed because of the situation he’s in,” Helfand said. “I mean, it’s bad stuff.”

Friedlander, wearing a green prison jumpsuit, and with his brown hair disheveled, was escorted into the a hearing room at the county detention center at 8:27 a.m. yesterday. He acknowledged the presence of his relatives with a brief smile, and turned to Montgomery County District Court Judge Stanley Klavan.

“My client would like to have an extradition hearing,” Helfand told the judge.

Klavan scheduled a hearing for Aug. 5 and denied a request for release on bond, which brought a shriek of disappointment from Friedlander’s relatives.

“This is a first-degree murder case. There are certain elements of irrationality in it,” Klavan said.

Friedlander left the proceeding, which lasted less than a minute, without saying a word. His parents, a cousin and a friend attended the hearing.

Fairfax County prosecutors must now go to Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles and convince him that there is enough evidence of a crime to warrant Friedlander’s return to the state. The Virginia governor then would send Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer a warrant demanding Friedlander’s return.

Helfand said two issues must be settled at the Aug. 5 extradition hearing for Friedlander to be surrendered to Virginia authorities: A crime was committed and Friedlander was in the state of Virginia on the day of the crime. The burden is on Friedlander to prove he was not in Virginia,Helfand said.

Marc and Zitta Friedlander’s divorce was marked by bitterness, accusations of violence and deceit, according to a court report. On June 17, a Montgomery domestic relations master recommended that the divorce be granted and ruled that the children be placed in their mother’s custody.

Marc Friedlander asked for an extension before the divorce was final, and the papers making the divorce official were never signed, according to Helfand.

Both Friedlanders held doctorates in physics from Columbia University, where they met and were married in 1969. They separated in June 1986. He is a scientist who has been self-employed for several years while working on an invention. Zitta Friedlander, born in Romania, was employed by the Mitre Corp., where she rose to a sensitive position involving assessing military wargame strategies.

Zitta Friedlander, 41, was buried yesterday morning at Mount Lebanon Cemetery on Riggs Road in Adelphi. Their sons, ages 10 and 8, are being cared for in the mother’s home in Gaithersburg, according to a source, and will be moved into protective custody within a few days.

Client Reviews
"I have watched Mr. Helfand in trial and in negotiations. He is remarkable. Mr. Helfand is extremely knowledgeable in the law, and even more knowledgeable in the ways to deal with people." Afshin Pishevar, Criminal Defense Attorney in Rockville, MD
"I strongly endorse this lawyer. I have known Mr. Helfand for many years. We have worked together on cases and represented conflicting parties. I have watched Mr. Helfand in trial and in negotiations. He is remarkable." David Felsen, Criminal Defense Attorney in Rockville, MD
"It’s one of the biggest cases that’s been tried in Montgomery County in a long time,” said Steve VanGrack, a Rockville lawyer considering a Democratic bid for state’s attorney." Washington Post