A former New York City stock trader has been accused of murdering his wife, a UBS wealth management executive, in a wrongful death civil lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Roderick Covlin, 38, was accused in the suit of strangling wife Shele Danishefsky Covlin, a 47-year-old senior vice president of wealth management at UBS Securities who was found by her daughter face down in the bathtub in her apartment on West 68th Street on New Year's Eve 2009, according to court papers. The suit was filed almost two years to the day after Shele Covlin's death.

Police at first ruled the death an accidental slip and fall; her body was buried the day after her death, in accordance with Orthodox Jewish custom. But she had told friends, it later emerged, that her estranged husband had threatened to kill her, and she feared for her life. Embroiled in a bitter custody battle, she had obtained a protective order against him. She also apparently intended to cut him out of her $1.5 million estate.

Nearly six months later, her family had her body exhumed for an autopsy, and in July 2010, the medical examiner ruled her death a homicide. Police opened an investigation and suspicion immediately fell on Roderick Covlin, but he was never formally charged.

The civil suit, filed by representatives of Shele Covlin's estate, claims that the couple was involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle at the time of her death.

The suit was filed just before the case's statute of limitations was to expire and is intended to prevent Roderick Covlin from inheriting a share of his late wife's estate, which was estimated to be worth at least $1.5 million, according to court papers.

She apparently intended to change her 2004 will, which left most of her estate to her husband, and instead leave it all to their two children, Anna Covlin, 11, and Myles Covlin, 5, according to the lawsuit.

The suit was filed by Manhattan Public Administrator Ethel Griffin, a New York County official who handles estate disputes and has been appointed executor of the estate, replacing Roderick Covlin. The suit aims to keep Covlin from grabbing half his wife's assets, which by law he has to split 50-50 with the children.

Covlin has taken control of his wife's $1.6 million insurance policy payout that she'd intended for their children. He filed papers in Westchester County last April to become guardian of her cashed-in policy, giving him the power to invest the money and apply to the court to withdraw cash on behalf of Anna and Myles, who are set to inherit it when they turn 18. He is currently living in Westchester County, N.Y., with the children, but Shele Covlin's family is seeking custody of them.

New York police officials said the investigation into Shele Covlin's death is still open. Were Covlin to be eventually indicted and found guilty of killing his wife, he would lose his share of her estate, all of which would go to the children. If he is never charged or is acquitted, the civil suit will proceed and he could still lose his share of the estate.

--Jim McConville