Bones were found in the fireplace. Rare coins may have been the motive for murder, police say. | TribLIVE.com
Pennsylvania

Bones were found in the fireplace. Rare coins may have been the motive for murder, police say.

The Washington Post

It was reportedly not a happy home.

The couple lived on a tree-shaded street in Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County. The house overlooked a creek that corkscrewed all the way to the Susquehanna River and Harrisburg about 10 miles away to the east. Inside, the relationship between Rabihan and Hap Seiders allegedly flashed with brutal violence.

The couple married in October 2009. Rabihan was a teacher who had been born in the former Soviet Union. Hap was a coin collector who had been involved in a number of legal scraps, for everything from burglary to bigamy to counterfeiting coins to his role in an insurance scheme involving arson. Money was often the fuel behind the marital blowups.

As the Harrisburg Patriot-News reported, in July 2012, Hap beat his wife the previous summer over their finances. In court papers, he accused his wife of drilling open a safe to take a collection of rare gold coins. Rabihan was reportedly so nervous, she told her adult daughter Valeria Kulbova she was worried her husband would “hit her so hard she would never wake up” or that Hap might “poison her with antifreeze,” investigators would later write in court documents. Rabihan told her daughter that if anything ever happened to her, Kulbova should tell police Hap was responsible.

Rabihan, then 53, vanished in March 2012, WGAL reported at the time. Police immediately zeroed in on Hap. But it would take seven years of police work — and some carpet stains and tiny bone fragments in the chimney — before investigators made a case.

Hap, 65, was arrested last Tuesday. The next day, Cumberland County District Attorney Skip Ebert announced he was being charged with felony criminal homicide, misdemeanor abuse of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence, the Cumberland Sentinel reported. Ebert told reporters at a news conference that Hap murdered and dismembered his wife at their house.

Ebert pointed toward Hap’s avaricious pursuit of coins as a motive. Before her death, Rabihan transferred around $3 million in gold coins to a safe-deposit box in Philadelphia, Ebert said.

“It doesn’t take a genius to understand that if you’ve lost $3 million, you might want to get it back,” he explained to reporters, according to the Sentinel.

Hap remains in custody. His attorney did not immediately respond to a message for comment.

Rare coins have reportedly been a centerpiece of Hap’s life — and his criminal career.

In 1981, when he was 28 years old and serving a federal prison sentence for operating a fraudulent investment scheme, Hap testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee.

“I had always been interested in coins,” he told the committee, according to a transcript. “Though I had little money, I had managed to buy a few coins starting when I was about 8 years old. I continued to study coins and became something of an expert.”

He was born in Harrisburg and raised in rural Perry County, Hap said in his testimony. By 16, his lack of interest in school had led to a burglary charge, which landed him in a juvenile offender facility for 10 months. The stay scared Hap straight, he claimed, and upon his release he went back to school, graduated from high school and started working as a computer specialist.

On the side, he started trading in rare coins, eventually running a business that earned $3 million a year by 1978.

That year, a building Hap owned in Harrisburg called Paxton Plaza exploded in a bombing, PennLive reported.

Two years later, two members of the Pagan motorcycle club told investigators Hap had given them $6,000 to blow up the structure so he could collect $330,000 in insurance money on the building.

Around the same time, Hap was implicated in a fraud scheme involving fake rare coins, according to his Senate testimony.

“I ran a scheme in which I would offer rare coins for auction by mail,” he said. “For example, there are many different types of counterfeit coins, and one example in particular would be a 1799 silver dollar, which was minted by someone other than the U.S. Mint.”

These fake coins would cost around $100, he explained, but Hap would auction them to collectors as genuine items for as much as $5,000.

Both the insurance scheme and the coin fraud landed Hap in federal prison. According to PennLive, he was released in 1983.

His legal problems, however, continued.

The same year he was walked out of the penitentiary, Hap married. The couple eventually separated 2002, but the divorce was not finalized until 2009. In the meantime, Hap married a different woman in 2006 in Las Vegas. That marriage was annulled a year later, but prosecutors still brought a bigamy charge against Hap in 2008.

He was convicted in 2010. Eventually, the conviction was overturned by a higher court because of wiggle room in Pennsylvania law that demanded a second marriage take place in the state for a bigamy charge.

By that time, Hap had already tied the knot again — this time to Rabihan.

Their relationship was marked by allegations of abuse and more courtroom appearances. In 2011, Rabihan filed for a protective order against her husband and later charged he had punched her in the head in August 2011, PennLive reported. Rabihan claimed in a court document Hap had threatened to “dispose of her body in the river in many pieces.”

He pleaded guilty to a simple assault charge related to the allegations in December 2011.

Three months later, when Rabihan disappeared, Hap never contacted authorities. Kulbova, his wife’s daughter, reported her missing in April 2012 after failing to speak with Rabihan for a number of weeks, ABC 27 News reported. When Kulbova logged on to her mother’s Yahoo email account, she saw the last message had been opened on March 24 of that year.

Police questioned Hap, and he claimed he had last seen his wife on March 28, 2012. He said he dropped her off at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.

But as authorities revealed last week, a search of the couple’s home overlooking the creak in Pennsylvania in 2012 turned up physical evidence.

DNA testing matched stains on a bedroom carpet with the missing woman’s blood. Investigators also left the house with several containers of ash from the fireplace, which was sent to the FBI. A forensic examiner determined the material contained tiny fragments of human bones. But there was little else for investigators to learn from the material.

“The remains that we found in the fireplace, DNA was not able to be extracted from these bones, so we were left with an expert who has indicated they are human bones and they are female,” Ebert told reporters last week, ABC 27 News reported.

The biggest challenge facing investigators moving ahead is likely why an arrest took nearly seven years: police still have not found definite proof of Rabihan’s remains.

“There is no direct proof of this particular homicide,” Ebert admitted last week, the Sentinel reported. “It had to be a decision on my part to go forward with this case based on the circumstantial evidence that we had.”


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