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Husband charged with murder in St. Louis County in wife's disappearance

Husband charged with murder in St. Louis County in wife's disappearance

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CLAYTON — Authorities filed a murder charge on Friday against St. Louis County resident and chemical engineer Beau Rothwell, as the search continued for his missing wife, Jennifer Rothwell.

Law enforcement also released new details in the case that has stretched over the week:

St. Louis County police said they used DNA samples from Jennifer Rothwell’s parents to confirm that blood found inside the Rothwell’s home was their daughter’s.

And court records revealed that police believe Beau Rothwell killed his wife on Monday.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell said in a statement issued Friday that the police department’s investigation led him to file the murder charge. He did not elaborate on the case, and wrote that he would not be answering any additional questions about it.

“Justice compels us to move forward,” he wrote.

Jennifer and Beau Rothwell, both 28, earned degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2013. The couple married in 2015 in St. Louis County.

Jennifer Rothwell has been a chemical engineer since July 2013 for MECS Inc., once a subsidiary of Monsanto that was purchased by the DuPont chemical company in 2010.

Police first said on Wednesday that Rothwell was missing.

“Jennifer has no history of leaving and is normally in contact with family members and friends on a daily basis,” police said in a statement. She had not been in contact with anyone since she disappeared, it said.

On Wednesday afternoon, about four hours before his arrest, Rothwell’s husband posted a message on his Facebook page. “Some of you may have heard already, but last night my wife Jennifer went missing,” he wrote.

He went on to say that he had filed a police report and that the search was ongoing. He gave his cellphone and the police report number.

Missing person posters with Jennifer Rothwell’s photo were posted on trees and in business windows around the area.

But court records and police reports now make this timeline clear:

Beau Rothwell reported Jennifer Rothwell missing at 9:44 p.m. Tuesday. He told police he last saw her early Tuesday. Her car was found abandoned near Fee Fee Road and Olive Boulevard, about 1½ miles from her home.

But detectives saw Beau Rothwell on video buying cleaning supplies, including bleach, carpet cleaner and gloves, on Monday.

And when police on Wednesday searched the couple’s home in the 12600 block of Northwinds Drive, north of Creve Coeur, detectives found wet carpet soaked with bleach and large areas of blood in carpet and carpet padding.

Beau Rothwell, the court documents said, “purchased and applied cleaning products to a large area of blood in effort to destroy or remove physical evidence with the purpose to impair its availability in an investigation into the murder of Jennifer Rothwell.”

Police arrested him at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday and booked him on suspicion of first-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence. He would have been released from custody after 24 hours had he not been charged.

But a few hours before that deadline Thursday, prosecutors charged him with tampering with evidence, a felony.

Detectives had spent hours that day searching the area where Jennifer Rothwell’s 2011 Hyundai Sonata had been found. The search area included a field near an Ameren substation on Fee Fee Road near Old Fee Fee Road.

An evidence van arrived at dusk on Thursday near Robinwood West Park, north of the Rothwells’ home. Crime-scene tape was posted for a time in that area and police could be seen with flashlights.

Beau Rothwell appeared in court briefly on Friday. He wore a khaki jail jumpsuit and his hands were cuffed in front. He sat motionless waiting to be escorted back to his cell.

Beau Rothwell has no prior convictions, police said. He has family in Columbia, Missouri, and has lived in the St. Louis area since 2013.

St. Louis County police have not responded to any calls for service to the home in the past five years.

Prosecutors asked that no bond be allowed on the murder charge, and the judge agreed.

Relatives of the couple did not return messages from the Post-Dispatch seeking comment.

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