AP NEWS

Woman Gets Life Without Parole For Gruesome 2002 Slaying

November 8, 2016 GMT

STROUDSBURG — More than 14 years after the corpse of Edwardsville resident Robert Forrest Roudebush was discovered at a Monroe County waste disposal site, his alleged killer on Monday was found guilty as charged.

After a little over an hour of deliberations, a jury convicted Stacy Marie Britton, 48, of Twentynine Palms, California, on charges of first-degree murder and other counts related to the July 2002 slaying.

Prosecutors alleged Britton and her ex-husband, James Arthur Britton Jr., 37, beat Roudebush with a hammer and repeatedly stabbed him at a home on Dougher Lane in Wilkes-Barre because of a drug dispute.

After leaving the body to rot in the basement for days, Stacy Britton ultimately dismembered Roudebush with an ax. The couple then brought the corpse to Jackson Township, Monroe County, and set fire to it in burn barrels at a waste disposal site, authorities say.

James Britton pleaded guilty last month to third-degree murder and was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison for the crime. For her conviction, Stacy Britton faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

As the jury foreman read the verdict, Stacy Britton only blinked, showing no further reaction. She declined to comment as sheriff’s deputies escorted her out of the courtroom.

First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso said prosecutors extended Stacy Britton the same offer James Britton got.

“I always viewed them as equally involved in the plotting and in the murder, and I really couldn’t see a distinction between the two,” Mancuso said.

Defense attorney Brandon Robert Reish said he intends to continue representing Stacy Britton on an appeal that will in part challenge the admissibility of recorded statements she gave to police in California.

“It’s a very tough case, a dismemberment case,” Reish said. “Just getting over that, it’s very difficult, I think, for a jury to do, to get to the smaller details we would have wanted them to spend more attention on.”

The discovery of Roudebush’s remains set off an investigation that spanned the nation. Although police identified the Brittons as suspects fairly early in the case, they didn’t have enough evidence to press charges until Stacy Britton, faced with eviction in the wake of a fight with her ex-husband’s new wife, reached out to police trying to pin the crime on James Britton.

During questioning by detectives from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Stacy Britton claimed her ex had grown disillusioned with Roudebush because he felt disrespected when Roudebush stole cocaine from him. She told investigators the couple hatched a plot to execute Roudebush by distracting him long enough for Stacy Britton to crack his skull with a hammer. But she claimed to have had a change of heart at the last minute, prompting James Britton to do the job himself. She described in graphic detail seeing her ex-husband armed with a knife, slashing Roudebush as he desperately tried to escape. Stacy Britton did not dispute that she alone dismembered the body, an act her attorney said she “clearly remembers.”

During closing arguments, Reish said her admission to being present for the crime came only after prolonged questioning and her statement that she wanted to lie and say she was there so they would have a better case against her ex-husband.

“That’s what they want. She gives them what they want,” Reish said. “I think that’s a good example of what an involuntary statement looks like.”

Mancuso, however, replayed for the jury a section of her interview in which Stacy Britton said she understood her rights and was “perfectly capable of making a statement.”

570-821-2058, @cvjimhalpin