CLAYTON, Mo. — A St. Louis County jury on Thursday found Beau Rothwell guilty of murdering his pregnant wife in 2019. Rothwell was convicted of first-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence, and abandonment of a corpse. The court set sentencing for July 8 at 11 a.m.
A St. Louis County jury is in deliberation Thursday afternoon, tasked with deciding the fate of accused murderer Beau Rothwell.
Rothwell admitted to killing his wife, Jennifer, at their home in November 2019, as well as to hiding her body and attempting to clean up the blood afterward. What matters is if Rothwell had planned to murder Jennifer in advance or acted with deliberation in advance. The verdict could be a difference between life imprisonment without parole.
The prosecution and defense agree that Beau Rothwell is guilty of abandonment of a corpse and tampering with physical evidence. That’s where the consensus ends.
The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office initially charged Rothwell with second-degree murder but that charge was amended to first-degree murder.
A second-degree charge is generally issued for an intentional murder that lacks premeditation. It is considered a middle ground of sorts between first-degree murder—acting deliberately with the intent to kill—and voluntary manslaughter, a homicide that occurs in the heat of the moment.
The jury can convict Rothwell of any of those three options or not all. If convicted of first-degree murder in St. Louis County, Rothwell faces life in prison without the possibility of parole. A second-degree murder conviction carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison. If the jury finds Beau committed voluntary manslaughter, he can go to prison for five to 15 years.
Prosecutors argue Beau Rothwell was plotting Jennifer’s demise as early as the summer while he was in the midst of having an affair. Rothwell created a “pros and cons” list in late July 2019 for leaving Jennifer. In a text exchange from October 2019 between Beau and his mistress, Rothwell expressed hopes that Jennifer’s pregnancy would end in miscarriage and outlined three options for them going forward:
- Option 1 – End things altogether and cease contact.
- Option 2 – Beau would admit to an affair and seek a divorce from Jennifer.
- Option 3 – See if “a miscarriage or something” happens. In which case, Beau would leave Jennifer for his mistress.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Tom Smith argued Beau’s use of “or something” in the message meant he was already planning to kill his wife. Rothwell had texted his mistress days later, hinting the two had sex on November 1. He also sent lascivious texts to her again on November 8, just three days before Jennifer’s murder.
Smith told jurors Beau killed Jennifer so he could “have a fresh start” with his mistress. He claimed Beau shed “crocodile tears” on the witness stand earlier in the day while describing how he’d killed Jennifer.
According to the judge’s instructions, the jury must determine if Beau acted on “cool reflection on the matter for any length of time, no matter how brief” and deliberately. The prosecution said Beau’s actions before, during, and after Jennifer’s murder show he acted with deliberation.
Defense attorney Charles Barberio told jurors that everything Beau did after killing Jennifer—buying cleaning supplies, parking her car elsewhere, and hiding her body—does not show deliberation before the act itself, which is paramount for a first-degree murder conviction. He called Smith’s insistence on a first-degree murder verdict prosecutorial overreach.
Barberio said the murder happened only after an argument in which Beau admitted to Jennifer that he’d been having an affair.
The defense said prosecutors did not show or provide any proof—in messages or computer searches—hinting that Beau Rothwell had been planning to kill Jennifer. Earlier in the week, Jennifer’s friends and family testified they never saw or were told of any instances of spousal abuse on Beau’s part. Barberio said Beau, who defense witnesses described as an even-tempered man, snapped under stress while having an argument with his wife.
Rothwell testified that he felt guilty and anxious to confess his affair to Jennifer and that, when he did, she became angry and told him that she, too, had been having an affair and that the baby she was carrying might not be Beau’s. Beau said he went into a “red haze” and took a nearby mallet that he’d used to hang wall decorations and smashed Jennifer’s head with it.
While Beau claims to have used a mallet, police, and prosecutors have said they could find no murder weapon. A forensic pathologist with the county medical examiner’s office said Jennifer Rothwell ultimately died of “blunt cranial cerebral trauma” and said there was no way her skull was fractured as a result of fists, or a fall, or an animal.