Pennsylvania Mother Sentenced to Life in Prison for Murder of Her 11-Year-Old Son

Mom Gets Life For Strangling Son
Ruth DiRienzo Whitehead.Montgomery County District Attorney's Office

Ruth DiRienzo Whitehead said, "I'm so sorry," during her sentencing hearing on Friday.

A Pennsylvania mother was sentenced to life in prison Friday after being convicted of strangling her 11-year-old son as he slept in the family's home. Prosecutors said she murdered the boy to spite her husband.

Ruth DiRenzo Whitehead, 51, was convicted Thursday by Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter following closing arguments, during which her defense attorney said she put a belt around her son's neck during a "psychotic episode."

The body of Matthew Whitehead was found on the morning of April 10 by his father. After killing Matthew, his mother had driven her SUV to Cape May on the Jersey Shore, where she drove into the Atlantic, authorities said.

When the engine seized, Whitehead got out of the vehicle and walked to the family's beach house, police said. She was arrested near her house, where officers said she stood barefoot and in tattered pajamas. “I know what I did," she told them, according to authorities.

Whitefield acknowledged killing her son, investigators said, saying she did so because the family was mired in financial problems and she did not want him grow up under those circumstances.

Her attorney said Whitefield had suffered a mental break under the stress of money woes. 

Prosecutors argued the woman murdered her son to get back at her her husband, whom she blamed for their financial troubles. She was enraged that she could no longer live in the style she was accustomed to, the prosecution contended.

Her lawyer, Eugene Tinari, had moved earlier this year for the judge to decide the case instead of a jury.

Judge Carpenter rejected defense claims that Whitehead was mentally impaired when she took her son's life.

On Friday, he sentenced her to life behind bars. Whitehead said "I'm so sorry" in court. Only a "monster would do something like this," she said.

Her attorney said he plans to appeal for a lesser sentence.

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