Mom strangles 11-year-old son, gets life sentence

HORSHAM, PA – A Pennsylvania woman has been handed a life sentence following her conviction for the murder of her 11-year-old son. Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead, 50, was found guilty of first-degree murder and the use of an instrument of crime for strangulating her son while he slept.

His father made the grim discovery of the boy’s lifeless body at their residence in April 2023.

Following the murder, DiRienzo-Whitehead absconded to the Jersey Shore. Her car turned up on a Cape May beach, featuring a conspicuous belt lying on the floor. She was later apprehended in Wildwood Crest where she retreated to her family’s summer residence.

According to prosecutors, DiRienzo-Whitehead explained her cruel act to the police, stating she didn’t want her son to endure their family’s financial adversities, leading her to strangle him using her husband’s belt. An autopsy confirmed the cause of death to be ligature strangulation by homicide.

DiRienzo-Whitehead’s defense argues that she “snapped under the weight of mental illness”, pointing out a lack of history in child abuse or neglect. Her attorney emphasized that all accounts suggested a sudden mental breakdown.

Despite this, the evidence led to a mandatory life sentence for DiRienzo-Whitehead. She faces charges of first-degree murder and possession of an instrument of crime.