Engineer Beau Rothwell Convicted of 2019 Murder
Jurors Don't Buy "Red Haze" Defense and Frown On Pros and Cons List of Leaving Your Pregnant Wife
I work with a Cold Case Foundation, so justice delivered is often justice delayed. In fact, while families are grateful for answers, the truth is often bittersweet.
Sometimes the perpetrator is dead. Even when he's alive, he may be an old man who looks more like somebody's grandpa than the violent offender he once was. It's also an infuriating reminder that this murderer has lived a full life while their daughter, son, sister, or brother has never had that opportunity.
I am happy to report that that is not what happened in this week's case. On April 28, 2022, Beau Rothwell was found guilty of the first-degree murder of his wife, twenty-eight-year-old Jennifer Rothwell. He beat her to death with a mallet on November 11, 2019. On July 8, 2022, he will be sentenced and face life without parole. Let's keep our fingers crossed he gets what he deserves.
In the Beginning
We all know how a love story starts.
Magical. Exciting. Intoxicating.
Beau and Jennifer met at the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2010. The lab partners soon had sparks flying. Not only were they attracted to each other, but they also had common interests. Both engineering majors, the two enjoyed vacationing with her family in North Carolina and shared a fondness for Game of Thrones. In 2013, they graduated; in 2014, they were engaged; and in 2015, they married. All was right with the world.
By 2018, Jennifer was a chemical engineer at Dupont and up for a promotion. Beau, too, was thriving as an engineer. They bought a new house with a good-sized backyard in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in April, hinting at a future of diapers and preschool. They were ready to start their family.
But then, a setback. That December, the couple learned Jennifer had endometriosis. It could be more challenging for Jennifer to conceive.
Being a logical and organized pair, Jennifer and Beau set up a babymaking schedule around Jennifer's ovulation cycle. While efficient, it quickly extinguished any spontaneity or playfulness and turned lovemaking into a chore. With still no pregnancy by the spring of 2019, Jennifer was discouraged. Beau, however, apparently channeled his disappointment in another direction; by May or early June, he was having an affair. Jennifer had no idea.
Jennifer is Pregnant
We can only guess at some of what went on between Jennifer and Beau before November 11, 2019. Sometime in October, Jennifer found out she was pregnant. It seems likely that she was initially thrilled and thought Beau would be. Her subsequent Google search of "what to do when your husband is upset when you're pregnant" suggests he wasn't.
There are so many unanswered questions. What did Jennifer tell herself about Beau's reaction to her pregnancy? Did she chalk it up to surprise or the jitters of an expectant parent? Or did she wonder if it meant something more?
Jennifer's mother seemed to think that her daughter and son-in-law were happy. Friends who saw them at a charity function in October thought all was well. No one noticed anything amiss - even Jennifer.
It's infuriating to think how much Beau's mistress (whose name has been protected) knew that his wife didn't. Like the lovey-dovey texts they were sending each other. Like their tryst on November 1. Like the discussions they had about Jennifer's pregnancy and what it might mean for their relationship. Texts show hey came up with three options for their relationship going forward; end the relationship, tell Jennifer about the affair and file for divorce, or wait and see if a miscarriage "or something" happened. (Prosecutors would later argue that the "something" included murder). In which case, Beau would leave Jennifer for his mistress.
Beau and his mistress eventually decided to wait and see. Both agreed that if Jennifer's pregnancy continued, they would break up.
Jennifer is Missing
In my opinion, Jennifer's Dupont coworkers deserve an award. Not only were they immediately concerned when she did not show up for work on Tuesday, November 12, 2019, but they also drove around looking for her. They texted Beau around 8:00 p.m. to tell him his wife did not come to work, and they had found her 2011 Hyundai abandoned on the side of a road a little over a mile away from her house. (Police had noticed it around 9:30 a.m. but merely tagged it as an abandoned car). The car was in perfect condition, and there were no signs of a struggle inside. Her purse was missing, but her cellphone was inside the vehicle.
At 9:44 p.m., Beau Rothwell called the police to report his wife of five years missing. He told them that he had last seen her that morning around 6:20 a.m. when she left for work; she had left early because of the bad weather. It was 17 degrees and snowy. He said the two of them had spent the night before at home watching cooking shows; it was an ordinary evening.
The community jumped into action. Jennifer's friends and family (including Beau) made and distributed fliers with Jennifer's picture. Police talked to Jennifer's mom. On Wednesday, November 13, Brian posted on Facebook about what was happening; "Some of you may have heard already, but my wife Jennifer went missing last night. I've filed a police report, and the search is ongoing. Please, if you hear of anything or have any information, it would be greatly appreciated."
Five hours later, he was behind bars, charged with her murder.
The Usual Suspect
I've been known to criticize police for their reluctance to jump into a missing person's investigation with both feet. I have only praise in this case; from the moment Jennifer Rothwell was reported missing, police were all in.
From the moment the police arrived, Beau Rothwell didn't act right. While the public (and Jennifer's friends and family) were seeing a cooperative and concerned Beau putting up fliers and posting for help, investigators were astonished when – from the git-go - he refused to let them search his home or his car. Neither would he allow them to access his phone or consent to their requests for a DNA sample. He also asked for an attorney.
Despite his lack of cooperation with law enforcement, on Wednesday, November 13, Beau had no qualms about putting his trash out by the curb. He apparently did not know that police did not need a search warrant to look through his now publicly parked garbage. It was a goldmine of evidence; rubber gloves, used paper towels, and a receipt for various cleaning supplies from a local Dierberg's grocery store. The date on the receipt was November 11.
Police were able to find video footage of Beau purchasing bleach, carpet cleaner, and various other cleaning supplies on the evening of November 11. These suspicious purchases contradicted his earlier statement that he and his wife had been home together all evening and occurred in the middle of a significant snow event that, sans emergency, would have kept even the hardiest Midwesterner homebound.
It was time for a search warrant.
Police arrived at Jennifer and Beau Rothwell's home at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday, November 13, and were immediately overwhelmed by the smell of bleach. Once inside, they found clear signs of foul play, including a large red stain at the bottom of the basement stairs still wet with cleaning product, damaged drywall, and human hair. DNA from Jennifer's parents indicated it was Jennifer's blood. Investigators found a 2015 GMC Canyon pickup in the garage also reeking of bleach.
For Beau, it was the beginning of the end. On November 18, five days after he was arrested, he led investigators to Jennifer's body. It was forty-five miles from the couple's home.
Beau's Side of the Story: What Happened to Jennifer?
We'll never know exactly what happened on the day Jennifer Rothwell died. Here's the story Beau Rothwell gave the police:
On the night of November 11, he told Jennifer about his affair; he said he planned to come clean and throw himself at her mercy. However, they got into a massive argument after he refused to name his mistress. He claimed that Jennifer said that she, too, was seeing someone else and wasn't even sure if the baby was his. (News flash; it was).
In a "red haze" of anger, he grabbed a kitchen mallet and hit Jennifer upside the head. He then tried to shake her awake, realized she was dead, and went into panic mode instead of calling 911.
He then began the cover-up. After purchasing the cleaning supplies, he spent hours trying to remove the bloodstain from the basement carpet. He with the used cleaning products and Jennifer's nude body in the back of his truck. Beau said he removed her clothes because "he saw it on crime shows." He also wrapped her head in a plastic bag. I'm not sure what he was thinking here unless he hoped cops would think it was a sex crime. If so, wouldn't you expect to find evidence of sexual assault? Did he believe the clothes removal might get rid of evidence?
If so, perhaps he should have also burned down his house.
He left her body covered with leaves and twigs along Highway 61 in Lincoln County between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. on November 12. She was 20 to 25 feet from the road. He stopped briefly at a business on the way home, where he tossed the used cleaning supplies and his wife's clothes in a dumpster and, after another whirlwind attempt at clean-up, drove Jennifer's car to a busy intersection a mile or so from their home. Around the time he claimed she left for work, he used Jennifer's cell phone (still in her car) to call his cellphone four times. He walked home, got ready, and went to work. He came home one more time – at lunch- in a futile attempt to get rid of the evidence before beginning his short-lived charade as the concerned husband of a missing wife.
What the Prosecution Says Happened to Jennifer
With the odds so stacked against Beau Rothwell, you probably wonder why there was even a trial. With Beau's confession, the defense realized that to argue against Beau's guilt was a fool's errand. So, they focused their arguments on what he was guilty of. His attorney argued – and Beau testified – that what he was guilty of was voluntary manslaughter,
According to Missouri law, voluntary manslaughter is distinct from murder because the killer acted when their thinking was disturbed by an emotional excitement that caused them to act without thinking twice. The killing itself must result from emotional excitement. The circumstances driving this emotional excitement must be so anger-inducing that a reasonable person in that same situation would have acted the same way. If the person has had any time to "cool off" before committing the killing, it becomes murder.
Would a reasonable person walk up behind his pregnant wife and bludgeon her with a mallet? Would he then follow her as she stumbled toward the garage in a desperate attempt to escape and hit her again, causing her to tumble down the basement stairs? These were Beau Rothwell's own words, and they screamed of premeditation.
Prosecutors doubt there was even an argument. They speculated that, having thought about killing his wife for weeks, he finally decided to pull the trigger and ambushed her at the bottom of the basement stairs. They presented damning examples of his waning interest in his wife and increasing ardor towards his mistress. In July, five months before her murder, he had made a list of pros ("better sex life, fresh start") and cons ("my family's disappointment, losing half my assets/money") about replacing his wife with his mistress. The jury got to see it. And, on the stand, Beau admitted to telling his mistress he loved her and – perhaps most damming – to talking with her almost every day since his wife's death.
The Bottom Line
I have my own theory about what happened in this case. It is, of course, only a theory. I think Beau fantasized about killing his wife for weeks. But I don't think he planned it much in advance; I've never seen anyone act dumber after committing a murder and this man was a chemical engineer. Clearly, he had not thought through what to do afterward.
Do I think he was in a "red haze" of anger? Not for a minute. There may well have been an argument on the night Jennifer died, although I think Beau probably did some pretty good embellishing of what was said. And I believe Beau used it as an excuse to do what he'd wanted to do all along.
I think he purposefully selected the murder weapon. I think he intentionally hit Jennifer as hard as he could when she wasn't looking and then followed her to finish her off. That is not voluntary manslaughter. It's first-degree murder.
The jurors agreed. They deliberated for less than four hours before finding Beau Rothwell guilty of first-degree murder, tampering with evidence, and abandonment of a corpse. Jennifer would have turned twenty-nine on November 20, 2019.
Thanks for reading another edition of Mind Detectives. Please share with your true crime fan friends. Also check out my youtube channel, Unmasking a Murderer. If there’s a case you’d like me to cover, please send me a message. See you next time!