Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead

PHOTO:  Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead & son Matthew Whitehead

A Pennsylvania mom allegedly strangled her 11-year-old son with a belt because she didn’t want him growing up with the family’s financial struggles, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead, 50, was hit with murder charges for killing little Matthew Whitehead after the boy was found dead inside their Horsham home Tuesday morning, according to The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office.

The mom told investigators her sixth-grade son was “crying off and on all day” over the family’s financial problems, according to a criminal complaint.


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DiRienzo-Whitehead admitted that she strangled the boy so he wouldn’t have “to grow up with these struggles.”

Police were called to the family’s home just after 7 a.m. Tuesday after the boy’s father discovered his body in the master bedroom where he’d gone to sleep with his mom a night earlier.

The dad had found the bedroom locked and his wife and their SUV missing, prosecutors said. It wasn’t immediately clear where DiRienzo-Whitehead’s husband slept before making the grim discovery.



Prosecutors allege DiRienzo-Whitehead fled the home after strangling her son and drove 120 miles to Cape May, New Jersey, where she drove her SUV into the ocean.

Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead
Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead, 50, was charged Wednesday with murdering her 11-year-old son, Matthew Whitehead.
Matthew Whitehead
Matthew Whitehead was strangled to death with a belt as he slept, prosecutors said.

The belt used in the slaying was later discovered in the vehicle, according to prosecutors.

DiRienzo-Whitehead was nabbed by cops a short time later after walking six miles to a nearby neighborhood where the family has a beach home.

She was slapped with first and third-degree murder charges, as well as possession of an instrument of crime after an autopsy carried out Wednesday concluded the boy’s death was due to strangulation.

DiRienzo-Whitehead is currently being held in Cape May and will be extradited back to Montgomery County to be arraigned on the charges, prosecutors said.

The family home
Police were called to the family’s home in Horsham, Pennsylvania on Tuesday morning after the boy’s body was discovered.
ABC 6 Philadelphia

“I want to thank Cape May Police, Wildwood Crest Police and Cape May Prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland’s Office for their assistance with apprehending this mother who killed her son and with other aspects of this investigation,” Montgomery County DA Kevin Steele said.

“Their quick action and help in this investigation will play an integral part of holding the defendant accountable for the terrible killing of this boy.”