Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
ADULT SON CONVICTED OF STRANGLING AND MURDERING 82-YEAR-OLD WIDOWED MOTHER
IN HER LEISURE WORLD HOME
SANTA ANA – An adult son was convicted today of strangling and murdering his 82-year-old widowed mother, with whom he was living in her Leisure World home. Ethan Emanuel Rosenfeld, 52, Laguna Woods, was found guilty by a jury of one felony count of first degree murder. As the defendant entered pleas of “not guilty” and “not guilty by reason of insanity,” Rosenfeld now faces the sanity phase of his trial (see below). Opening statements in the sanity phase are scheduled to begin May 11, 2010, at 9:30 a.m. in Department C-30, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana. Rosenfeld faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison in this case.
Between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. on May 30, 2005, Rosenfeld strangled and murdered his 82-year-old widowed mother, Helen. He put her dead body in her bed, crossed her arms across her chest, and wrapped her body in a sheet. The defendant, who was unemployed and living with his mother in her Leisure World home in Laguna Woods, then fled taking the victim’s credit card and car.
Rosenfeld went to Starbucks and a gas station and tried to use his murdered mother’s credit card to buy coffee and chewing tobacco. He drove around for a while before returning to the house. At approximately 10:00 a.m., Rosenfeld called 911 and claimed that he found his mother dead and that she had passed away in her sleep.
As Rosenfeld entered pleas of “not guilty” and “not guilty by reason of insanity,” the trial will be held in two phases. In the guilt phase, during which the court heard evidence about the crime, the prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt to the jury that the defendant is guilty of the charged crime. In the sanity phase, the same jury will consider evidence to determine if the defendant was legally sane at the time of the crime. When a defendant pleads “not guilty by reason of insanity,” the burden is on the defense to prove that the defendant was more likely than not legally insane when he committed the crime. To be considered legally insane, the defense must prove that the defendant had a mental disease or defect when he committed the crime and that this defect kept the defendant from understanding the nature of his act or from understanding that his act was morally or legally wrong.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ebrahim Baytieh of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.