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UPDATE: Mom Who Strangled Son, 11, Given Life Sentence

UPDATE: Mom Who Strangled Son, 11, Given Life Sentence

By Christopher South

Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead, 51, shown in this jail photo after her arrest in April 2023, faces life in prison after she was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her 11-year-old son, Matthew.
Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead arrived at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility
File Photo
Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead, 51, shown in this jail photo after her arrest in April 2023, faces life in prison after she was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of her 11-year-old son, Matthew.

A Pennsylvania woman who strangled her 11-year-old son to death last April and then fled to Cape May County was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of first-degree murder on Thursday, Feb. 15.

Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead, 51, of Horsham Township, Montgomery County, received her life sentence on Friday, Feb. 16.

DiRienzo-Whitehead’s vehicle was found on Cove Beach in Cape May at around 7 a.m. on April 11, 2023. About the same time, her husband alerted authorities in Horsham after he found his son Matthew’s body in the bed he normally shared with his wife.

According to police documents, DiRienzo-Whitehead’s husband slept in another room that night. She strangled her son, she told investigators, because the family was having financial difficulties, and she didn’t want the boy to struggle in life.

After killing her son, she fled to Cape May County and apparently tried to drive her car into the ocean at Cove Beach.

But the vehicle got stuck in the wet sand at the water’s edge and she abandoned it, leaving the murder weapon – her husband’s belt – on the floor of the car. She then walked to the family’s shore home in Wildwood Crest.

After her car was discovered, local law enforcement got in contact with authorities in Pennsylvania and were directed to the couple’s home in Wildwood Crest. DiRienzo-Whitehead was arrested there, reportedly telling officers, “I know why you are here.”

She did not fight extradition to Montgomery County. By law, she was jailed while awaiting trial due to the first-degree murder charge. Despite her attorney’s efforts at an insanity defense, in August she was found competent to stand trial.

According to NBC10, during the trial it was asserted by the prosecution that DiRienzo-Whitehead had performed internet searches on mothers who had murdered their children, as well as how to strangle someone.

She opted to have a trial before a judge with no jury.

Contact the author, Christopher South, at csouth@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.

Reporter

Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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