Matthew Whitehead death: Pennsylvania woman accused of strangling 11-year-old son, fleeing state

Mother then accused of driving family SUV into ocean near Cape May, New Jersey

By6abc Digital Staff WPVI logo
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Child found dead in Pa. home, mom's SUV found at Jersey shore: DA
A child was found dead in a Pennsylvania home on Tuesday, and investigators say the mom's SUV was discovered partially submerged at the Jersey shore.

HORSHAM, Pa. -- A mom stands accused of murdering her 11-year-old son in Horsham, Pennsylvania.

The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office said 50-year-old Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Matthew Whitehead.

Police were called to the family's home just after 7 a.m. Tuesday after the boy's father found him dead.

Raw video: Chopper 6 was over the home where a child was found dead on Tuesday morning in Horsham, Pa.

According to the D.A.'s office, an autopsy confirmed Whitehead had been strangled.

Investigators said DiRienzo-Whitehead killed her son after he went to sleep around 9:30 p.m. Monday, then drove the family's SUV to Cape May, New Jersey.

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She drove the vehicle into the ocean, investigators said, and once the vehicle could no longer be driven, she walked to Wildwood Crest, New Jersey.

That's where DiRienzo-Whitehead was taken into custody. She was then questioned by Montgomery County detectives and Horsham, Pennsylvania police.

A search of the SUV turned up a black men's dress belt on the driver's side floor of the vehicle, the D.A.'s office said.

There was no immediate word on a motive for this killing.

DiRienzo-Whitehead is currently being held in Cape May County and is awaiting extradition to Montgomery County.