AP NEWS

Jurors To Begin Deliberations In Gruesome Slaying Case

November 7, 2016 GMT

STROUDSBURG — There is no dispute that Stacy Marie Britton played some role in the grisly cold-case slaying of an Edwardsville man more than 14 years ago. But the extent of her involvement — and whether her shocking, gruesome statement to police was given voluntarily — is something a Monroe County jury will soon decide. The panel was expected to begin deliberating Monday afternoon to determine whether Britton, 48, of Twentynine Palms, California, is guilty of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, abusing a corpse and other charges related to the July 2002 slaying of Robert Forrest Roudebush. Prosecutors alleged Britton and her ex-husband, James Arthur Britton Jr., 36, 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 and the couple brought the corpse to Jackson Township, Monroe County, and set fire to it in burn barrels at a waste disposal cite, 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. A key piece of evidence against Stacy Britton has been a series of recorded interviews she gave to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in August 2015 — 13 years after the slaying. During closing arguments, her attorney Brandon Robert Reish, said her admission to being present for the crime came only after she told detectives 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. It doesn’t mean that they’re beating it out of her.” First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso, however, argued that by 2015 the Brittons had “gotten away with murder.” But their downfall was a tumultuous post-divorce relationship in which Stacy Britton continued to live with James Britton and his new wife in California. Text messages between the pair showed that both were aware of the murder and that they frequently held it over each other’s heads for leverage, he said. “This is a form of mutually assured destruction,” Mancuso said, describing threats to go to the police as the “nuclear option” during arguments. “She beat him to the launch.” Faced with eviction in the wake of a fight with her ex-husband’s new wife, Stacy Britton reached out to police trying to pin the crime on James Britton. She claimed he had grown disillusioned with his one-time idol, Roudebush, because he felt disrespected when Roudebush stole cocaine from him. The couple hatched a plot to execute Roudebush by distracting him with a plate of pork chops long enough for Stacy Britton to crack his skull with a hammer, she told investigators. But Stacy Britton 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. Just before James Britton sliced Roudebush’s throat, the victim asked for a moment to pray, according to her account. During closings, Reish told the jury to consider whether those statements were voluntary. He noted that his client only said she was present for the murder after “hours and hours” of police interrogations. The shocking story she finally gave was “completely ridiculous” that didn’t match up with the extent of the injuries Roudebush suffered, he said. “That whole run through really didn’t make a lick of sense,” Reish said, adding that Stacy Britton’s recollection of the dismemberment was so graphic and detailed because “she clearly remembers dismembering a body.” Mancuso, however, countered by noting it was Stacy Britton who contacted police, not the other way around, and that her statement was fully voluntary. He replayed for the jury a section of her interview with detectives in which Stacy Britton said she understood her rights and was “perfectly capable of making a statement.” Mancuso also noted that in addition to the description of the dismemberment, the rest of Stacy Britton’s statement was pretty descriptive as well. She described in great detail the planning stages of the crime and how they rehearsed the scheme, even going so far as to demonstrate to police the maneuver she planned to use to bash Roudebush’s skull while he admired the pork chops in her left hand. “The defendant gave you how it happened, every step of the way,” Mancuso said. Jurors were expected to start deliberations this afternoon. 570-821-2058, @cvjimhalpin