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Randolph G. ROTH

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - To collect insurance money - He was suspected but never tried for murdering his second wife, Janis Roth, in 1981
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: July 23, 1991
Date of arrest: October 8, 1991
Date of birth: December 26, 1954
Victim profile: Cynthia Baumgartner Roth, 34 (his fourth wife)
Method of murder: Drowning
Location: Lake Sammamish, King County, Washington, USA
Status: Sentenced to 50 years in prison on June 21, 1992
 
 
 
 
 

Department of Psychology
Radford University

 
information
 
 
 
 
 
 

Randy Roth is a convicted murderer and thief from Washington. He was convicted of the 1991 murder of his fourth wife, Cynthia Baumgartner Roth. He was suspected but never tried for murdering his second wife, Janis Roth, in 1981.

In both deaths he was the only witness, he claimed the activity that led to the death was the idea of his deceased wife, and the bodies were cremated as quickly as could be arranged. He was also convicted of stealing in the form of defrauding insurers and the Social Security Administration and was sentenced to one year for theft and fifty years for first degree murder in 1992. At least two true crime books are based on Roth's crimes, A Rose for Her Grave by Ann Rule and Fatal Charm by Carlton Smith.

Early life and family

Randy Roth was born the day after Christmas 1954, one of five children of Gordon and Lizabeth Roth. The family moved from North Dakota to Washington in the late 50s. Randy and his brother David, also a convicted murderer, later gave conflicting reports on the nature of their upbringing.

David claimed their father was abusive and their mother supportive. Randy apparently bonded with his father more closely and remained in touch with him throughout his life while snubbing his mother, telling friends she was dead or mentally unstable. The Roths were practicing Catholics, but they nonetheless divorced in 1971.

According to former girlfriends, Randy had developed a reputation by high school of being a bully and a punk who enjoyed playing cruel pranks on others. He was dominating and controlling of his girlfriends, and his male friends were only those who toadied to him. He enjoyed fixing cars and driving them recklessly on country back roads.

After graduating Meadowdale High School in 1973, Roth enlisted in the Marine Corps, wanting to emulate his movie hero Billy Jack. Shortly before his deployment he robbed a service station where he had previously been employed, but he was not charged with the crime at that time. Roth was disappointed at his time in the Marines as he ended up serving as a file clerk in Okinawa rather than the combat action he'd fantasized about.

After less than a year, he was discharged when his mother (who was living on welfare) wrote a letter to the service protesting that it was a hardship to have him gone and he was needed home to support her. Upon returning home, he became engaged, but his fiance broke it off after she found another woman's purse in her parents' home. A few months later the fiancÚ's family's home was robbed, and she told police she suspected Randy Roth of the crime, as well as the earlier robbery. Items stolen from the home were recovered at Roth's residence and he pled guilty to burglary. Charges related to the previous stick-up were dropped, and Roth served only two weeks in jail. Shortly after being released, Roth married the other woman he'd been seeing (Donna Sanchez). She gave birth to a son Gregg in 1978, but shortly thereafter and without any explanation, he filed for divorce.

Janis Roth

In early 1981, Randy Roth met Janis Miranda, also a divorced single parent, and they married that March. She had come from an impoverished upbringing in Texas, raised by a mother who labored to support her several children after their alcoholic father abandoned them. Marrying a serviceman, she gave birth to a daughter Jalina while stationed in Germany, but the marriage ended in divorce and Janis took her infant child to the West Coast seeking to begin a new life. Randy insisted on ample life insurance for his new wife as they were buying a house together and he told her he wanted to be able to pay the mortgage if the worst should come to pass. Janis had been extremely excited about her new husband, but after a few months, her friends started to notice that she was acting very strange and wary of everything.

On the day after Thanksgiving 1981, Randy Roth took Janis hiking at Beacon Rock, where she plummeted to her death. There were no witnesses to the fall besides Roth and the stories he told to others about the incident were contradictory. Police and rescue workers were unable to locate the body for several hours after the fall, and it was later determined that it would have been virtually impossible for her to have fallen from where Roth claimed the accident occurred. Although some suspicion was raised at the time that Roth had pushed his wife, there did not seem to be sufficient evidence to proceed with an arrest and trial.

Roth arranged the same day to have his wife cremated and filed a claim on her life insurance policy early the next morning, while failing to contact her friends and family and inform them of her death.

For the next two and a half years after Janis's death, Randy Roth devoted himself to working as a mechanic and raising his son. He moved to a new house in Mountlake Terrace, where he befriended his neighbor Ben Goodwin and his family. The Roths and Goodwins remained good friends for most of the following six years, but Randy secretly seduced their teenage daughter, Brittany, with the promise of eventually marrying her when she was 18.

Roth also told numerous fictitious tales of serving in Vietnam, making his brief stint as a Marine Corps file clerk appear as if he had been in action similar to movies like Hamburger Hill. Ben Goodwin, who was a Vietnam vet, became suspicious of Roth's stories. The latter never told his age to anyone, but Goodwin was skeptical about his war tales.

In 1985, Roth married Donna Clift, another divorced mother of a small child. 21 years old, she had gotten pregnant in high school and married her daughter Brittney's father, but the marriage fell apart and she moved from her native Arizona to Washington. Randy quickly talked her into marrying him, but as usual didn't tell her his age or much about his life beyond various contradictory stories. He upset Donna by playing various mean-spirited jokes on her 3-year old daughter and becoming cold and aloof after the honeymoon. After only three months, their marriage ended when a family rafting trip on the Skykomish River ended in disaster. Randy went out with Donna along on an inflatable raft, which he attempted to steer through the rapids into sharp rocks. A terrified Donna immediately filed for divorce afterwards.

Not long afterwards, he befriended Mary Jo Phillips, a divorced mother of three children. Roth became engaged to her, but abruptly broke it off when he found that she'd been treated for cancer once before and wasn't insurable.

Cynthia Roth

Roth remained single until 1990, when he met Cynthia Loucks Baumgartner at one of his son's Little League games. Born in 1957, she was the child of an older couple who had a teenage son and had been trying unsuccessfully for years to have another baby. Raised in a deeply religious family, she married Tom Baumgartner at the age of 21, and their sons Tyson and Rylie were born in 1979 and 1981.

Tom worked hard as a parcel carrier for the USPS to provide for his family, but in 1985 he suddenly came down with Hodgkin's Disease and died at the age of 29. Cynthia was well-provided for with various survivors' benefits and the support of her family and close friend Lori Baker, and so she didn't need to work. Since she refused to marry a divorced man due to her religious beliefs, Randy Roth told her nothing about his marriages except that Janis Miranda had accidentally fallen to her death. That August, the two abruptly ran off to Las Vegas to get married, something that shocked Cynthia's family. Randy Roth quickly put up his house up for sale and purchased a big new home in Woodinville where he moved with his new enlarged family. Cynthia gradually became aware that Roth felt a need to control every aspect of her life, and did not want her doing anything on her own. Friends noticed her appearance and her housekeeping, which had always been beyond reproach in the past, were given less and less attention, and that Cynthia seemed to regret her marriage to Roth. Roth was also physically and mentally abusive to all three boys.

On July 23, 1991, just a few weeks short of their first wedding anniversary, the couple took Cynthia's two sons on a day trip to Lake Sammamish, the same lake where Ted Bundy had abducted two young women years earlier. As on the day of the Bundy abductions, it was hot when the Roths arrived and the beach was crowded.

Randy and Cynthia left the boys to play in the designated swimming area while they paddled their 11 feet (3.4 m) inflatable raft into deeper waters. Several hours later Randy Roth returned with Cynthia dead or nearly dead from drowning. She was treated at the scene and transported to hospital where she was pronounced dead. Roth claimed that the wake from a speedboat had caused the raft to flip while Cynthia was swimming next to it and she had drowned as a result.

Roth's apparent lack of emotion and contradicting versions of how events had unfolded immediately led investigators to consider him a suspect, but there was no solid evidence that she had been forcibly drowned. Once again Roth failed to inform family and friends of the death, but immediately went about trying to collect on a large life insurance policy, nearly $400,000, that he had taken out on his wife. Again he arranged for a cremation as soon as the body was released despite strong objections from Cynthia's parents. Several months after the drowning Roth apparently believed he was once again not going to be charged, and was therefore quite surprised when he was arrested for murder on October 8, 1991.

Investigation

Detectives and prosecutors assigned to the case knew from the beginning it would be difficult to secure a conviction. There was no physical evidence that Roth had forcibly drowned his wife and no eyewitnesses who actually saw him do so. They proceeded methodically, interviewing the families of his previous wives along with former friends and neighbors. They began to uncover evidence that Roth's motive was financial, and that he had repeatedly attempted to defraud insurance companies and had stolen from his employers and nearly every job he had ever held.

The investigators came to the conclusion that Randy Roth wanted a much more lavish lifestyle than he could afford on a mechanic's income, with expensive homes, multiple cars, and various other expensive toys for himself and his son. He had discovered a talent for seducing single mothers with money, then disposing of them to fund his lifestyle. Lori Baker, a long time friend of Cynthia's, discovered that her will and other possessions were missing from her safe deposit box, and that Randy Roth was the last person to have accessed the box, two days after Cynthia's death. A second copy of the will was discovered in the county recording office. Roth became extremely agitated when he discovered that Cynthia's will specified Baker and not Roth to be the guardian of her children if she were to die. This meant he would receive no survivor's benefits from Social Security on their behalf. When Baker came to collect the children's belongings Roth told her she had "ruined his scenario" and he would not have enough money to keep his house payments up.

Meanwhile, the Goodwins told investigators about Roth's having seduced their daughter and of a staged burglary he'd conducted on his own house in 1988 for insurance money, but had told nobody about this before because they were afraid of him. Roth had also carried on an affair with his son's babysitter for years, but her husband did nothing either for the same reason.

Investigators also revisited the death of Janis Roth ten years earlier and met with the detectives on that case, who had basically found themselves in the same situation. Roth's story had not quite made sense, he had not seemed like he was particularly upset that his wife was dead, but there was no direct evidence of foul play and the body had been speedily cremated.

Given the apparent pattern and the volume of witnesses to other criminal behaviors they were able to convince a judge to issue warrants for the arrest of Roth and a search of his home in Woodinville. While conducting the search King County detectives uncovered numerous pieces of evidence of several crimes and other dishonest acts. There were large amounts of equipment and materials belonging to the automotive dealership where Roth was employed. He had a large collection of military uniforms, plaques, medals, magazines, and books about the Vietnam War, some of which had fresh receipts from stores where he'd purchased them. A wetsuit was found in a closet, an odd item for someone claiming to be a weak swimmer to possess. There were no firearms in the house, but Roth had a closet full of Japanese throwing stars, nunchucks, knives, and homemade weapons such as baseball bats with nails driven into them. Although he'd often told women he had a vasectomy and found sex painful, the investigative team found several packages of condoms and sex-themed magazines. Cynthia's belongings had been stuffed in trash bags, including various family photos.

A poem written by Cynthia Roth was found in the garage. It began with the words "Randy does not 'love' Cindy, Randy hates Cindy" and went on to detail 44 complaints and criticisms Roth had directed at her regarding her appearance, appetite and sense of style. Investigators also discovered that Roth had telephoned a friend just after being arrested and the friend had already removed further evidence at his behest.

Several re-enactments undertaken at Lake Sammamish determined that it was virtually impossible to generate sufficient wake to flip the raft used by the Roths with type of powerboat used on the day of the drowning.

They also found that the items Roth claimed to have recovered from the lake after the drowning but before heading to shore would have sunk rapidly if they had actually fallen from the boat. They discovered that Roth's brother David was already in prison for murdering a female hitchhiker who had refused to have sex with him, and they found out about Roth's previous conviction for robbery in 1973. They discovered that he had tried to claim survivors' benefits for Janis' daughter although she was not living with him and that he had tried to "double dip", to claim benefits for his own son after Cynthia's death, even though he was already receiving them on behalf of Janis. He had lied to the interviewer at the Social Security office about Cynthia, claiming she had divorced her first husband. All of these inconsistencies and dishonest acts would be of use to prosecutors at the trial.

Trial

Roth's defense team attempted to have the entire case thrown out of court and when that failed, they attempted to suppress evidence and testimony regarding the faked burglaries. This maneuver also failed. Jury selection began in February 1992 and the trial began the following month.

From the beginning, the court room was packed with family and friends of the victim, as well as the press. Roth was visibly thinner and meeker looking than before and he appeared detached and lacking in emotion throughout the proceedings. He almost never looked directly at the jury or at relatives and old friends who testified against him.

His defense team presented him as a man being persecuted because of bad luck, having lost two wives in tragic accidents. The prosecution portrayed him as emotionless, a greedy individual, who cared more about cars and money than his wife and children. Among the visitors to the trial were Roth's own mother and three sisters, thus instantly destroying his various exaggerated stories about the former. After three days, they refused to attend anymore, claiming that the whole thing was "a circus" and their son and brother was not receiving a fair trial.

Over 100 witnesses testified. A scuba instructor testified that he had trained Roth and that he was a skilled swimmer, explaining the wetsuit found in the search and directly contradicting Roth's claim that he was simply too weak a swimmer to have been of any help to Cynthia. Eye witnesses from Lake Sammamish described Roth slowly paddling the raft back to the beach, not appearing panicked and not signaling for help until he had beached the raft, despite the fact that lifeguards were warning him not to bring the raft into the designated swimming area. There was also testimony that despite alleging Cynthia's death was entirely caused by the raft flipping over, Roth had still had several bags of possessions on board when he returned to the beach and he was still wearing his prescription sunglasses, despite claiming to have been in the water himself at the moment the raft flipped.

Jalina Miranda, daughter of Janis Roth, described how her mother had shown her a hidden envelope with money in it only a few days before her fatal fall from Beacon Rock. She told her daughter that the money was for her and that she was to take it if anything happened to her. More than a week after the accident Roth finally told Jalina that her mother was dead she retrieved the envelope from its hiding place, but Roth saw her with it and took it from her, promising he would spend the money on toys and presents for the girl. They never spoke again after that day and Roth never delivered on his promises. Possibly the most damning piece of evidence was the "Randy doesn't love Cindy" poem that had been found during the initial search. The Goodwins told about his staged burglary and seduction of their daughter. Donna Clift told about the terrifying raft trip on the Skykomish River. Mary Jo Phillips told how Roth had suddenly dumped her after finding that she was uninsurable.

Roth eventually took the stand and gave more than twenty hours of testimony over the course of a week. When prosecutors challenged him on the inconsistencies in his account, he would claim others had misunderstood him or that he couldn't recall whatever incident was in question. He was forced to admit his various lies about having served in Vietnam, about being a martial arts instructor and owning a cattle ranch (his father Gordon owned a few sheep and cows), however, he insisted that anyone claiming his story about the drowning was false or inconsistent was mis-remembering what had happened that day. His demeanor on the stand was described as clinical and detached, showing apparent lack of emotion.

After closing arguments, the jury deliberated for eight and a half hours before returning a verdict: guilty of one count of murder in the first degree, one count of theft in the first degree, and one count of theft in the second degree.

Aftermath

The financially strapped Skamania County, where Janis Roth had died, had stated they would not pursue a conviction for that death if Roth was sentenced to more than fifty years. He was sentenced to fifty years for the murder and one year for the theft charges and was therefore never charged with the death of Janis Roth. He will be eligible for parole in 2029. A 1994 appeal of the conviction failed.

After the trial, Roth agreed to a plea bargain on additional theft charges stemming from the stolen materials and equipment discovered during the initial search of his home. Lori Baker, the friend named guardian of Cynthia Roth's sons, filed a lawsuit to bar Roth or his family from benefiting financially from either insurance payments or the sale of the couple's former home.

Randy Roth is prisoner #245201 at the Monroe Correctional Complex. Roth's first wife Donna Sanchez remained a staunch defender of her husband, arguing that their marriage had been a happy one and she had no clue why he'd wanted a divorce.

Books

A Rose for Her Grave by Seattle based true crime writer Ann Rule profiles several murders of women but devotes 341 pages solely to the Roth case. Rule attended the trial in the press section. The book makes an analogy between Roth and the story of Bluebeard, known for murdering his wives after initially showing them great affection. Much time is spent describing the character and personal history of the various women who married or dated Roth in chronological order.

Fatal Charm by Carlton Smith starts off with the drowning of Cynthia Roth and the subsequent trial, and delved much deeper into Roth's early life and upbringing and the pre-trial motions that in retrospect were largely responsible for prosecutors obtaining a conviction.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

Randy Roth Loses Initial Appeal

Seattle Times Staff

September 27, 1994

SEATTLE - Randy Roth, convicted of drowning his fourth wife in Lake Sammamish to collect on a $385,000 insurance policy, lost his initial appeal but will continue to fight his conviction and sentence, his lawyer says.

The state Court of Appeals upheld Roth's first-degree murder conviction and 50-year sentence in a ruling released yesterday.

Roth's wife of less than a year, Cynthia Baumgartner Roth, 34, drowned in Lake Sammamish July 23, 1991. Roth claimed their raft was tipped over by the wake of a passing speed boat and she drowned before he could save her.

Roth's 1992 King County Superior Court trial included evidence about his second wife's fatal plunge off a Skamania County cliff in 1981. The day after her death, Roth called his insurance agent at home to put in a claim.

The jury also heard from Roth's third wife, who said she felt he tried to sink a raft they were taking down a river, and from another woman who testified he was planning to marry her until he found out she was uninsurable.

The appeals court found that the 1981 death and Roth's history of cheating insurance companies were relevant to the 1992 murder case because they showed a pattern, including death after obtaining large insurance policies.

 
 

Roth Stoically Gets 50 Years -- Killer Apparently Hopeful On Appeal

By Richard Seven, Jack Broom - The Seattle Times

June 22, 1992

Convicted killer Randy Roth accepted his 50-year prison sentence with characteristic stoicism, perhaps buoyed by his attorneys' confidence he'll win a new trial on appeal.

Moments after King County Superior Court Judge Frank Sullivan gave Roth an exceptional sentence for drowning his fourth wife in Lake Sammamish last July 23, one of Roth's attorneys turned to him and said, in slightly above a whisper, "on to the Court of Appeals."

Roth declined to address Sullivan, saying he was advised by attorneys not to speak. Roth also refused to be interviewed by a Department of Corrections officer prior to the hearing.

As Sullivan explained his ruling, Roth stared straight ahead.

Roth, a Woodinville mechanic, was convicted two months ago of drowning Cynthia Baumgartner Roth. They had been married less than a year and he was sole beneficiary of almost $400,000 in insurance on her life.

King County prosecutors were asking for a 55-year sentence and were satisfied that Sullivan agreed with them that Roth showed extreme greed and cold-heartedness in killing his fourth wife for insurance money and other assets and leaving her two children orphans.

The standard range for Roth's crime is between 22 and 30 years.

Roth's attorneys, George Cody and John Muenster, were clearly confident his conviction will be overturned on appeal based on one of several potential issues.

"This (the sentencing) was just something Randy had to go through to clear the way for the appeal," Muenster said.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Marilyn Brenneman was equally confident Sullivan's rulings will be upheld and said there is ample case law - including the use of a defendant's past against him - to support them.

Prosecutors, working with little physical evidence, were allowed by Sullivan to examine more than a decade of Roth's life, which included the 1981 falling death of his second wife, Janis, off a Skamania County cliff.

Prosecutors used the similarities of the two deaths and Roth's history of defrauding insurance companies to establish a pattern of greed and cunning.

"He specifically sought vulnerable young women, all single mothers, to wed, insure and then murder for insurance proceeds," argued Senior Deputy Prosecutor Marilyn Brenneman.

Brenneman said an exceptional sentence was justified because Roth abused the commitment of marriage by using it to entrap and kill Cynthia Roth for money. She also said Roth knew during the planning of the murder that his wife's children, who waited ashore, would be traumatized by seeing their dead mother.

Cynthia Roth's children, Rylie, 11, and Tyson, 13, watched the sentencing and have been undergoing therapy since the trial.

Roth also was convicted of two counts of first-degree theft, one involving the staging of a phony burglary to defraud an insurance company.

His trial was spiced with testimony from his third wife, who said she believed he tried to drown her when they rafted in 1985, and from a woman who claimed he wanted to marry her until he learned she had cancer and was uninsurable.

But Cody said he will argue in appeal that Roth was denied a fair trial by the inclusion of his past and was convicted by "character assassination."

Roth was never charged with his second wife's death, and collected $115,000 in insurance payments from it.

Skamania County Prosecutor Bob Leick said last week he was planning to file charges against Roth if he did not receive a sentence in the 50-year range. Leick, who was out of town yesterday, had said he saw no point in draining the small county's resources if Roth would essentially serve a life sentence.

With credit for good behavior, Roth, 37, could be released after serving 34 years.

Cody yesterday called Skamania County's involvement "grandstanding," designed to influence Sullivan and allay its citizens for never filing charges against Roth.

The proceeds from Cynthia Roth's insurance policy have been placed into a court-supervised account until a suit filed by her children's guardian can be resolved. The suit contends Cynthia Roth was coerced, tricked and manipulated into entering the agreements with him.

The state's Slayer's Act bars Roth from access to the money, leaving Cynthia Roth's two boys and Roth's son, Greg, as the beneficiaries. Roth's father, Gordon, was set up as trustee of the money because the children are minors.

Lori Baker, guardian to Cynthia Roth's sons, is trying to prevent Roth's father and son from receiving any life-insurance proceeds.

Roth's third wife said she is convinced of his guilt and felt the punishment was appropriate.

"In my heart, it makes me feel better," Donna Clift said.

Cynthia Roth's parents, Merle and Hazel Loucks of Marysville, were embraced by family members in the courtroom after Roth was led away.

 
 

Randy Roth: Killer Or Martyr? -- Trial's Closing Arguments Paint Wildly Differing Pictures

By Richard Seven - The Seattle Times

April 22, 1992

Randy Roth is a cold-hearted manipulator who trapped young, single mothers with false charm and the promise of love only to kill them shortly after they signed life-insurance documents, say King County prosecutors.

Randy Roth is a single father constantly searching for a family setting who is now being prosecuted on circumstance and attacked more for his personality than on the basis of evidence, his defense attorney contends.

The exhaustive closing arguments that began yesterday were to be completed today.

Jurors, who have heard from 150 witnesses and been led through the details of Roth's past six different times, will review the two portraits of him during deliberations.

Roth is accused in King County Superior Court of drowning his fourth wife, Cynthia Baumgartner Roth, 34, for $385,000 in insurance. The first-degree murder trial began March 10. No one saw Roth struggle with his wife, but no one has corroborated his story that their raft capsized, either.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Marilyn Brenneman, during closing arguments that lasted more than three hours, dwelled upon the striking similarities in Roth's relationships and in the deaths of his second wife, Janis Miranda Roth, in 1981 and of Cynthia Baumgartner Roth in 1991.

(He has not been charged in Janis Roth's death.)

Roth married both women, who had small children, after brief, intense courtships. Each time, the newlyweds bought a new home and took out life insurance simultaneously.

In both cases, the relationships seemed to sour quickly over issues of money and freedom and to end abruptly when the women died in what appeared to be accidents on recreational outings.

In both cases, he described failed attempts to save them, but most witnesses at the trial depicted him as emotionally detached.

He collected more than $100,000 in insurance when Janis fell 300 feet off a cliff in Skamania County and was in line to receive $385,000 from an insurance policy on Cynthia, who drowned in Lake Sammamish July 23.

Brenneman said Roth was buoyed by the relative ease he found in collecting insurance money for Janis Roth's death, so he tried the same formula last summer.

"He was stalking his prey not with the traditional weapons, but with a smile, flowers, and a marriage proposal," she said.

With alarming suddenness and shortly before her death, Cynthia Baumgartner Roth, a homemaker with no earning power of her own, found her life insured for $385,000.

She also changed the beneficiary of her existing life-insurance policy from her two sons to Roth because he falsely told her he was changing his policy to name her, Brenneman said.

The prosecutor also highlighted a series of conflicting accounts Roth gave in both deaths as well as some of his testimony that stretched logic.

A month before Cynthia Roth drowned, Roth called prospective employers and, according to them, said he could not report to work because his wife had been in a critical accident in Idaho. On the stand, he said he told them that he may have said "I dunno." That may have been mistaken for "Idaho," he claimed.

Brenneman called Roth's account "absurd," but said it represented several times in which he adjusted his story during his testimony.

But defense attorney George Cody claimed prosecutors have used faulty circular logic in which the two alleged murders are not strong enough cases in themselves but each is somehow being presented as proof of the legitimacy of the other.

Cody said prosecutors fell short of proving Roth pushed Janis off the cliff and were depending on events that took place 10 years in the future to retroactively build the case. Without proving that murder, the prosecution's contention that Cynthia's drowning was a pattern of murder also falls short, he said.

Cody claimed most of the prosecution's case was made up of "collateral issues designed to go to your gut," not on direct evidence. He pointed to several cases in which Roth's version was proved more credible than prosecution witnesses':

-- A time card apparently shows Roth didn't take a lunch break from his job as a mechanic the day before his wife died. A female co-worker at the auto dealership testified he talked over lunch that day of how the "contract" between him and Cynthia Roth would soon expire.

-- Phone records seemed to refute prosecutors' claims that Roth called a man in an effort to buy a red Corvette hours after Cynthia Roth died. Roth seemed to be returning the man's initial call about an ad Roth had placed.

Cody attacked several of the prosecution's 131 witnesses. He said Tim Brocato, who testified that Roth talked hypothetically about killing Janis Roth, holds a grudge against him.

The prosecution said that Roth had wanted to marry Mary Jo Phillips until he found out she was uninsurable. But Cody called Phillips "flighty" and said the relationship fell apart because Phillips had tried to rid Roth's home of Janis Roth's ashes.

 
 

Roth's Credibility Under Attack -- Cross-Examination Begins In Murder Trial

By Richard Seven - The Seattle Times

April 14, 1992

After explaining in court for two days, and in great detail, the events surrounding his wife's drowning last summer, Randy Roth found himself today fending off a prosecutor's cross-examination intended to make jurors believe he is both a killer and a liar.

Roth, charged with first-degree murder in King County Superior Court, told jurors it was his wife's idea to go rafting on Lake Sammamish on July 23.

In fact, he testified, Cynthia Baumgartner Roth called him twice that Tuesday morning to make sure he'd come home early from work and take her there. Within hours, according to Roth, his wife was lying face down and unconscious in the water underneath his capsized raft.

Roth told jurors yesterday he tried his best to save her.

"I got to her and tipped her over and tried to put two breaths into her," said Roth. "It was the only thing I could remember from the life-saving classes. But I couldn't. It was like blowing into one of those long birthday balloons in which you can't seem to get enough air."

Roth said he then righted the raft, climbed in, and pulled her up at the back of the vessel. He retrieved two plastic bags that had spilled out of the raft because one contained his glasses and he feared he couldn't find shore without them.

Roth said he tried to row ashore as fast as possible, using the lifeguard towers that rise above Idylwood Beach as landmarks. He got to shore quickly, seemingly in only a few minutes, he testified, but had to change rowing positions at least once because he got tired.

"I was thinking just a few minutes, just a few minutes, just a few minutes to get to the lifeguard," he said, his voice wavering for the first time. "When I got there I told the boys (Cynthia Roth's two sons), `Run over to the lifeguard as quick as possible but so you don't create a panic so everyone gets in the way.' "

Roth's voice cracked again as he described disassembling the beached raft as paramedics worked to revive his wife.

"At that point I was sick to my stomach," she said. "I pulled the air vents in the raft because I wanted to be ready to go when the medics took her."

The account conflicts with that of several witnesses at the beach who said Roth rowed leisurely toward shore and never waved or called for help, even though a lifeguard was yelling at him to stay away from the swimming area.

Paramedics who tried to revive his wife said Roth appeared so casual that they were surprised he was related to her.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Marilyn Brenneman wasted no time today quizzing Roth about the similarities in the deaths of his two wives.

In both cases, Roth has testified, it was the idea of each woman to go to the scene where each eventually died. And in both cases, he initially resisted the outings, according to his version of events.

His second wife, Janis Miranda Roth, died in 1981 in a fall from Beacon Rock in Skamania County. Roth testified today that, although he felt it was a little cold, he agreed to go hiking because it was "her day" to choose an activity.

In that vein, Roth told police that Cynthia was the one who wanted to raft to the other side of Lake Sammamish because it would "be romantic."

Roth was as evasive today as he was direct and complete during previous days of questioning by his own attorney, George Cody.

Roth testified yesterday that in last summer's drowning, Cynthia used one hand to grab an oarlock when the raft was tipped over, apparently by a combination of a boat wake and her weight. But the prosecutor said Roth never mentioned that detail until he saw the raft tip over in a defense expert's videotaped re-enactment, in which the woman grabbed the oarlocks.

Roth said no one had asked him specific questions about the position of her hands. But police have testified he told them she was grabbing the rope.

Roth led the jury on a detailed trip across the boat-filled Lake Sammamish and back near Idylwood Park, where Cynthia Roth's two children were waiting. Just past the main lane of boat traffic, the raft stopped because Cynthia wanted to go swimming, he testified yesterday.

Between 5 and 15 minutes later, he said, she got a cramp, paddled to the bobbing raft and grabbed hold of the rope and oarlock.

As he began swimming around to the other side of the raft to stabilize it, a wake from a passing speedboat swamped his wife from behind and capsized the raft atop her, he said. Roth said his attempts to rescue her were hampered because he had tucked his glasses in a bag inside the boat.

Roth also rebutted a series of other claims made by prosecution witnesses:

-- He denied taking his fourth wife's will and valuables from a safe-deposit box. He said that when he checked the box for the first time a few days after the July 23 death, it was empty.

Lori Baker, whom Cynthia Baumgartner Roth designated in her will as guardian of her two sons, testified that on Aug. 7, Roth denied the existence of both the will and the safe-deposit box. A copy of the will had been filed in Snohomish County, but the valuables were never recovered.

Roth admitted he accused Baker of taking custody of the two boys to gain Social Security checks.

-- He denied he repeatedly called a woman at his job in the days following his wife's death, and denied asking her to fly with him to Reno with tickets originally purchased to celebrate his one-year wedding anniversary.

Roth claimed he tried to give the woman both tickets because he could not get a refund.

-- He denied that on the night of his wife's death he called a man to see if he was selling a red Corvette. Roth claimed the man had left a message on his answering machine and was asking about an ad Roth had placed in a buy-and-sell publication.

-- He denied he tried to stop Cynthia Roth's children from retrieving their possessions from their home. He said he only stopped them in cases in which he wasn't sure what belonged to them or to his own son.

Prosecutors are claiming Roth killed his fourth wife to collect on a $385,000 insurance policy. He said he and Cynthia Roth had agreed to buy the policy, which was recommended to them by a life-insurance agent.

Roth's mother, Elizabeth Roth, and one of his sisters - until now absent from the proceedings - were in court today.

 
 

Roth Portrayed As Cold Killer

By Stephen Clutter - The Seattle Times

October 11, 1991

Several witnesses described Randy Roth as cold and aloof as he "methodically deflated the raft" while medics were performing "aggressive resuscitation" on his wife, according to King County prosecutors.

Roth, 36, of Woodinville was charged yesterday with first-degree murder in the drowning of his wife on Lake Sammamish last summer. Bail was set at $1 million.

Roth showed little emotion today as his attorney, George Cody, entered a plea of not guilty. An Oct. 24 hearing date was set by King County Superior Court Judge Carmen Otero, who kept Roth's bail at $1 million.

A 20-page document filed yesterday by King County prosecutors to support the murder charge says detectives interviewed several witnesses who described Roth's behavior in the water and later on shore as "odd."

Roth is not only an insurance company's worst nightmare, say prosecutors, he's a man who will stop at nothing - including the murder of his wife - for money.

"The case is based 100 percent on circumstantial evidence," said Cody. He said he will try "to hold the state's case up to the light" and would begin doing some of that during an arraignment hearing today.

Roth, who remains in King County Jail today, was the sole witness to the deaths of two of his four wives - Janis Louise Roth, 29, who died in November 1981 while rock climbing in Skamania County, and Cynthia Roth, who drowned July 23.

In both deaths, according to documents filed by Senior Deputy Prosecutor Marilyn Brenneman, Roth gave conflicting accounts about what happened. Both women were cremated shortly after their deaths.

Roth collected $365,000 from two insurance policies on Cynthia and $100,000 worth of insurance on Janis, according to court documents. Skamania County Sheriff Ray Blaisdell said yesterday that his office had reopened the investigation into the death of Janis Roth.

King County prosecutors contend new evidence should play a powerful part in buttressing their case.

On the day of Cynthia's death, Roth said he and Cynthia and her two sons had gone to Idlywood Park near Redmond to cool off in Lake Sammamish.

While the boys were swimming in a wading area, Cynthia suggested it would be "romantic" to take the raft across the lake. While swimming, Cynthia was hit by a cramp, then the wake from a power boat flipped the raft on top of her, Roth said.

After he righted the raft, he said, he found Cynthia face down in the water.

Witnesses said Roth rowed slowly back to shore, which seemed unusual in an emergency. Medics on shore tried unsuccessfully to revive her at the scene, then transported her to Overlake Hospital, where she was officially pronounced dead.

Prosecutors also point to tests that they performed on Roth's raft in an attempt to simulate the incident. Detectives were not able to tip the raft despite repeated attempts, in many cases allowing power boats to pass within 10 yards.

A female officer, who was portraying Cynthia Roth in the videotaped re-enactment, was only able to overturn the raft after grabbing it from underneath and pulling it over with her full body weight. A large air pocket was created between the bottom of the raft and the water.

Prosecutors also indicate that there is evidence that the raft never overturned at all. They point out that there were several plastic bags full of towels and clothing. In the simulation, many of the items sank within five seconds. When Roth returned to shore, all the items were wet but intact.

"Investigators conclude it would be impossible for the defendant to have gathered several bags of loose clothing items from the water, as many or most would have already sunk," Brenneman wrote.

In their 2-month-long investigation, King County detectives focused on the 10-year span of Roth's life beginning shortly before the death of Janis Roth. Through statements of friends and family members, they have painted a picture of a cold, calculating man, who on several occasions staged burglaries to obtain insurance money and bilked the 8-year-old daughter of his first dead wife out of her Social Security payments.

Roth, who was raised in the Everett area, was divorced from his first wife, Donna Sanchez, when he married Janis Miranda in March 1981, after a monthlong courtship.

Shortly after a $100,000 insurance policy went into effect, Janis died in a 300-foot fall on Beacon Rock in Skamania County.

Janis' 8-year-old daughter, Jalina, "received no portion of the insurance money or of the proceeds from the later sale of the home," Brenneman wrote.

Shortly after her mother's death, the girl moved to Texas to live with her natural father. According to court documents, Roth later lied to an insurance investigator, saying the girl was not home because she was "visiting relatives for the holidays."

Also, Roth applied for Janis' Social Security benefits in the girl's name and collected the money for several months before federal officials discovered he did not have custody of the girl.

Detectives interviewed Jalina, who is now 18, and she recounted several things about the events leading up to and after her mother's death, including the fact that Roth took money her mother had been hiding from Roth.

Jalina said her mother showed her the money, which was in an envelope behind a dresser drawer, shortly before she died in the fall, and said she wanted Jalina to have it if anything happened to her. Jalina went to get the money after her mother's death, but Roth saw her retrieve it.

Roth "told Jalina he would buy gifts for her with the money. Jalina never saw any of the money or received anything from Roth after that day," Brenneman wrote.

Other information comes from a man Roth worked with at the time. The man and his wife often socialized with the Roths.

On Halloween, a month before Janis died, the man said he and Roth were taking their children trick-or-treating when Roth began asking the man if he could ever kill his wife. The man told Roth "the conversation was weird," and changed the subject.

Later, after Janis died, the man told police that he asked Roth for more details about what happened, and Roth answered that he didn't want to tell the man anything that the man may later "have to lie about."

The man also told police about two phony burglaries Roth committed, including one at the man's own house.

In 1985, Roth married Donna Cliff. Shortly after the wedding, she said Roth showed her a large insurance policy that he had obtained on her. Cliff left Roth a few months later, after discovering Janis' ashes in a box in Roth's closet. Roth had never told her about Janis, she told detectives, and she "was scared of him."

Another woman told authorities that she began a relationship with Roth in 1986. She said Roth told her that Janis died in a mountain-climbing accident on Mount Rainier. He elaborated, the woman said, that Janis' ropes became loose and she slipped from his arms as she was trying to retie the ropes.

The woman said she and Roth were planning to be married and eventually Roth brought up the subject of life insurance. When the woman told Roth that she had once been diagnosed with cancer and couldn't obtain insurance, he grew cold toward her and ended the relationship, she said.

Roth met his fourth wife, Cynthia, last summer while she was working at a Little League concession stand. Cynthia's first husband, Thomas Baumgartner, died of cancer in 1985, leaving Cynthia and their two young sons financially secure, Brenneman wrote.

After a month-long courtship, Cynthia married Roth in August 1990, and he and his son moved into her Lake Stevens home. Later, they sold the house and bought a bigger house in Woodinville.

Dr. David Roselle was on duty at Overlake the day of Cynthia's death. He told a detective that Roth requested that an autopsy not be performed on his wife.

Shortly after Roselle told Roth that autopsies were mandated by state law, Roth was asked by a detective if he had attempted to perform CPR. Roth said he had not, which contradicted an earlier statement he had made at the scene, when he told Cynthia's son that he had performed CPR on Cynthia.

Shortly before Cynthia's death, Brenneman added, she had reserved two airline tickets to Reno for a first-year wedding anniversary trip. A week after Cynthia's death, though, Roth approached a woman co-worker and asked her to go with him to Reno; otherwise the tickets would be "wasted."

The co-worker declined Roth's offer.

 
 


Randy Roth

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
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