CREVE COEUR, Mo. — A Missouri engineer was convicted last week of murdering his pregnant wife after failing to convince a jury that he killed her during a heated argument over an affair.
Beau Hampton Rothwell, 31, was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder in the Nov. 11, 2019, beating death of Jennifer Elizabeth Rothwell, 28, inside their Creve Coeur home. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Beau Rothwell was also convicted of tampering with physical evidence and abandonment of a corpse.
Jennifer Rothwell was six weeks pregnant at the time of her murder.
“The last day of Jennifer’s life should’ve been a good day,” prosecutor Tom Smith said during closing arguments, according to KMOV in St. Louis. “She had much to be happy about.”
Beau Rothwell reported Jennifer Rothwell missing Nov. 12, 2019, telling authorities he’d last seen his wife, a chemical engineer at DuPont Chesterfield, as she left their home on Northwinds Drive for work that morning. Her abandoned car was found later that day on Olive Boulevard, about a mile and a half from the couple’s home.
In the days after Jennifer Rothwell was reported missing, police found a trove of evidence in the couple’s home, including a wet, bleach-soaked carpet. Blood found on the carpet and seeping into the padding beneath later proved to be that of Jennifer Rothwell.
Detectives also learned that Jennifer Rothwell had done a Google search for “what to do if your husband is upset you are pregnant.”
According to police, the disappearance quickly evolved from a missing persons case to one of homicide, and Beau Rothwell was taken into custody.
The Associated Press reported in 2019 that Beau Rothwell was seen on security footage the night of Nov. 11, 2019, buying bleach, carpet cleaner and gloves. Court documents in the case indicated that receipts showed exactly when Beau Rothwell bought the items.
“This purchase was, oddly, at a time during a major snow event involving dangerous driving conditions and was also contradictory to Beau Rothwell’s statement that he was home with his wife all night,” an investigator wrote in search warrants obtained by Fox 2 News in St. Louis.
Detectives searched Beau Rothwell’s truck, the bed of which reeked of bleach, the warrants stated. A garage window at the couple’s home had been left open, despite 30-degree temperatures, in an effort to make the smell dissipate.
Windows were open in the couple’s basement, which had also been cleaned with bleach. Despite the cleaning, police found blood and hair belonging to the missing woman, Fox 2 News reported.
Jennifer Rothwell’s body was found a week after her disappearance when Beau Rothwell, through his attorney, led investigators to a spot near Troy about 45 miles northwest of their home.
She had been bludgeoned to death.
Prosecutors at Beau Rothwell’s trial argued that Rothwell, who they portrayed as a meticulous planner in his everyday life, had been just as meticulous with the murder of Jennifer Rothwell. According to the Post-Dispatch, they pointed to evidence of premeditation, including a list of the pros and cons of leaving his wife.
They also detailed his efforts to cover up the crime and emphasized the brutality of the beating.
The pathologist who performed Jennifer Rothwell’s autopsy testified that the force of the second — and fatal — blow to her head showed that the killing could not have been an accident.
“He deliberated in July: talked about the pros and cons. Deliberated in October: ‘Wait and see if she has a miscarriage or something,’” Smith told jurors. “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.”
Beau Rothwell’s defense lawyer argued, however, that his client killed Jennifer Rothwell in a rage during an argument over Beau Rothwell’s infidelity.
“The state is trying to turn this extramarital affair into some sort of motive or deliberation,” attorney Charles Barberio told jurors. “There simply isn’t any evidence that he ever planned to do it.”
The Rothwells, who married in 2015, had tried for nearly a year to get pregnant. Beau Rothwell testified during his trial that after about six months with no luck, being intimate became more of a “chore,” so he and his wife agreed to cut back on their efforts to conceive.
Around that same time, Beau Rothwell began having an affair.
Jennifer Rothwell told her husband weeks before her murder that she was pregnant, but by then, he had grown less than enthused.
The jury was shown text messages between Beau Rothwell and his mistress, some of them sexually explicit. According to Fox 2 News, the soon-to-be father told the woman in one text exchange that he had “three options” for dealing with the pregnancy.
The third option was waiting to see if Jennifer Rothwell miscarried, the news station reported.
Beau Rothwell, who at times wept on the stand, testified that he lied to his mistress when he told her he hoped his wife had a miscarriage. KMOV reported that his attorney pointed out other Facebook messages in which Rothwell and his girlfriend circled back to Option 1: Tell Jennifer about the affair and get a divorce.
“These options didn’t say to kill anybody,” Barberio said.
On the day Jennifer Rothwell was slain, Beau Rothwell said he had been anxious and guilt-ridden over his affair and decided to tell his wife the truth. He said they sat in the kitchen and he admitted to cheating.
Jennifer Rothwell demanded to know the identity of her husband’s mistress, according to his testimony. When he refused to tell her, she angrily told him he could keep his “mystery (expletive)” and claimed he was not the father of the baby she was carrying.
DNA tests on the fetus would later prove Beau Rothwell was the father.
Fox 2 News reported that Beau Rothwell testified that he picked up a nearby mallet, which he had used to hang decor on the wall. As his wife sat at the table, he struck her from behind with the heavy tool.
The station and the Post-Dispatch reported that Rothwell described his anger as a “red haze.”
Jennifer Rothwell got up from her chair and began stumbling toward the garage to escape the attack. The couple scuffled at the top of the stairs to the basement, Beau Rothwell said.
“In the heat of everything, I hit her again,” Rothwell testified. “I believe I cracked her skull. She fell unconscious and fell down the stairs.”
The slaying “happened in just moments,” he said.
Beau Rothwell testified that he was not sure if his wife was dead. Smith told jurors, however, that Jennifer Rothwell was struck with “unbelievable force.”
“Her head was smashed open to where you can see her brain,” the prosecutor said, according to KMOV.
After realizing he’d killed his wife, Beau Rothwell said he went twice to a nearby store to buy cleaning supplies, Fox 2 News reported. He wrapped Jennifer Rothwell’s body in a tarp and placed her in the bed of his truck. He then drove an hour to an area of Highway 61 near Troy and left her body there.
As he drove home, he threw the used cleaning supplies in a business’ trash bin, along with the tarp he had used to transport his wife’s body.
Beau Rothwell testified that he decided to strip his wife’s body naked to get rid of evidence because he “saw it on crime shows,” Fox 2 News reported.
While abandoning her car, he used his wife’s phone to dial his own. The goal was to make it appear she had car trouble on the way to work, he testified.
He then walked home.
Beau Rothwell went to work as usual and later sent several text messages to his wife’s phone to make it appear he was concerned about her whereabouts, according to the news station. He testified that he went home for lunch to continue cleaning up his wife’s blood.
The Post-Dispatch reported that Rothwell also helped family and friends search for the missing woman.
Rothwell testified he was in “panic mode” the entire time.
“It was this feeling of needing to keep up the facade,” he said.
Beau Rothwell faces life in prison without the possibility of parole at his sentencing July 8.
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