ST. LOUIS (KMOV) – For three days, 12 jurors were presented with evidence and testimony covering the events before and after that cold November night Jennifer Rothwell was killed in her Creve Coeur home.
After seeing hundreds of documents and photographs, the jury found Beau Rothwell guilty of murdering his pregnant wife in the first degree, a charge that comes with a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Beau Rothwell closed his eyes, tilted his head slightly down and exhaled, showing no other emotions, as the Honorable Jude Ellen Ribaudo read the verdict to the courtroom.
The jury made the decision after three hours and twenty minutes of deliberation and found Rothwell guilty of the two other charges against him; tampering with evidence and abandoning a corpse.
Jennifer Rothwell’s family and friends sighed in relief, some shedding tears of painful joy.
Sentencing is set for July 8 at 11 a.m.
“The last day of Jennifer’s life should’ve been a good day,” Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Smith said to open his closing argument Thursday afternoon. “She had much to be happy about.”
Smith built the case all week for the jury to charge Beau Rothwell with murder in the first degree, saying the evidence shows the defendant deliberated about killing his wife months before the night of November 11, 2019.
“He deliberated in July; talked about the pros and cons. Deliberated in October; ‘wait and see if she has a miscarriage or something.’ He deliberated when he got the weapon; when he drew it back, when he brought it down on her head. He deliberated when he did it again,” Smith told the jury.
Both the state and the defense didn’t dispute the two other charges Beau Rothwell is facing at trial. Both attorneys said there is no doubt Beau Rothwell tampered with evidence and abandoned the corpse. But did he plan on killing her?
“Murder in the first, not the second, not voluntary manslaughter. First degree,” Smith said with a stern face. “She was struck with such unbelievable force … more than once. It fractured her skull. Her head was smashed open to where you can see her brain. What does he do? Takes a trash bag and puts it over her head.”
A murder charge in the first degree requires intent. Lead Defense Attorney Charles Barberio said the first-degree charge is a “stretch. It was an overreach from the beginning. It’s an overreach now.”
In his closing argument, Barberio said the state was trying to manipulate evidence by not revealing all of the Facebook messages between Beau Rothwell and his girlfriend about their options. The third option was to “wait and see if she has a miscarriage or something.” Barberio claimed there were more messages between them alluding to circling back to option one if a miscarriage doesn’t happen. Option one was to tell Jennifer Rothwell about the affair and get a divorce.
”These options didn’t say to kill anybody,” Barberio said. Stepping closer to the jury, Barberio told them no witness has said anything about Beau Rothwell being abusive, violent or aggressive.
“This all happened like that,” Barberio snapped his finger. “Panic set in and he didn’t make the right choices. He was thinking second to second, fight or flight.”
Barberio again reiterated the crime “rose out of sudden passion,” and “there’s no evidence that he ever wanted to kill his wife.”
The jury heard from Beau Rothwell earlier Thursday. He said his plan was to tell her about the affair, “throw myself at her mercy, and hope for the best.” He walked the jury through the argument as he experienced it and said he hit the right side of her head with a mallet in a “red haze” of anger and then “in the heat of the moment, I hit her again.”
“He deliberated between the first blow and the second blow,” Smith told the jury when he addressed them for the last time. He paused, looked at the jury and agreed with Barberio that no witness on the stand said Beau Rothwell was a violent man. He grabbed a paper from his files and said “there’s only one witness to his violence,” and placed Jennifer Rothwell’s photo on the projector.
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