Springfield man charged with killing his mother

Wednesday, June 3, 2009 | 3:16 p.m. CDT; updated 3:34 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 3, 2009

SPRINGFIELD — A southwest Missouri man has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of his mother, whose body was found at least three days after she was beaten to death.

Police said the body of 54-year-old Judith Roth was found Tuesday in a bedroom in her Springfield home. According to a probable cause statement, her arms were spread out as if on a cross, with religious items scattered about the home and duct tape crosses outside. The word "DEATH" was written on the underside of Roth's right arm.

Greene County prosecutors filed murder charges Wednesday against her son, 23-year-old Skyler Russo, who shared the duplex with his mother.

A neighbor told detectives that she heard a disturbance coming from the duplex early Friday morning, but that things went silent after she heard Roth say, "God help me." It was unclear whether Roth was killed Friday or Saturday.

Investigators said Russo admitted during interrogation Tuesday night that he was responsible for his mother's death.

"Skyler Russo admitted that he was involved in a verbal argument with Roth that later turned into a physical altercation," the probable cause statement says. "Skyler Russo admitted he struck Roth 20 to 30 times in the throat with his fist until she was unconscious. Skyler Russo also admitted that he stuffed a T-shirt into Roth's mouth during the assault.

"Russo advised he knew Roth was dead after he assaulted her."

Neighbors told KYTV in Springfield that Russo often used duct tape to stick crosses on vehicles with notes that said, "Do you know Jesus?" He also was known to pass out figurines of the Virgin Mary.

Russo surrendered to officers Tuesday evening at a different residence after about an hour of negotiations for him to come out, police said.

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