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Daughter-in-law pleads in murder case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Woman played a part in the ambush death of her mother-in-law

Cathleen “Kit” Roth pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit murder and the second-degree murder of her mother-in-law Ellen Roth, a 61-year-old Chelwood Elementary School teacher who was ambushed at her home in 2009.

Roth once faced 40 criminal charges, from first-degree murder and conspiracy to kidnapping, theft of a vehicle, aggravated burglary and tampering with evidence. There was public discussion by law enforcement about the case as a candidate for death penalty prosecution because it occurred before the death penalty repeal.

Her plea before 2nd Judicial District Judge Charles Brown included six counts of tampering with evidence, conspiracy to tamper with evidence and larceny between $2,500 and $20,000.


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There are no agreements about her sentence, meaning she faces up to 37 1/2 years when she next appears before the court, according to District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Kayla Anderson. Brown ordered a presentence report and said sentencing would be in mid-September.

Kit Roth, now 25, reportedly was unhappy because her mother-in-law had called police to report that her adopted son Bryan was stealing from her, and it angered Kit.

Police said Kit Roth and a friend, James Johnson, waited for Ellen Roth in the garage of Ellen’s home in a gated apartment complex on San Antonio NE, and attacked her when she prepared to leave for school. After strangling her, they threw her body into the back of the van wrapped in a blanket, later wrapped it in a tarp and buried her in a shallow grave in the Jemez Mountains while family and friends frantically searched.

Following an investigation, Albuquerque Police Department officers arrested Kit and friends Christopher Donovan, Johnson and Bella Gonzales. All pleaded guilty earlier – Donovan and Johnson to second-degree murder and Gonzales to tampering with evidence.

Kit Roth’s case was delayed by questions about her competency. She was found competent to stand trial last September.

Police said when they found the body that the three accused of the murder had planned the killing, their alibis and the disposal of the body.

Bryan Roth, whom his mother had turned in for stealing jewelry and a debit card, was in jail at the time of the murder. Ellen Roth told police that he had bipolar disorder and that she believed he could be capable of killing her.

Bryan Roth ultimately was convicted of one count of identity theft because he used his mother’s account to purchase drug paraphernalia.