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 SENTENCED TO 25 TO LIFE FOR STRANGLING AND MURDERING 82-YEAR-OLD WIDOWED MOTHER IN HER LEISURE WORLD HOME
SANTA ANA – An adult son was sentenced today to 25 years to life in state prison for 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 May 5, 2010, of one felony count of first degree murder. On May 13, 2010, the jury found that Rosenfeld, who had entered pleas of “not guilty” and “not guilty by reason of insanity,” was sane at the time of the murder.
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 was 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 considered 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.
During the sentencing today, the victim’s daughter, Catherine Asher, gave an impact statement to the court about the devastation Rosenfeld, her brother, has caused her family. She explained, “I am left feeling angry, confused, numb, depressed and sick. She meant everything to me—my best friend, my guidance, my emotional support. There is nothing else I can say except my heart has been broken. My mother is gone forever.”
Asher went on to ask the court “to please sentence Ethan Rosenfeld to the maximum sentence allowed under the law. I cannot re-write the past, but only hope that this individual not have the chance to impact any other person in the same tragic way he has hurt me and my family.”
The victim’s son, Robert Rosenfeld, also addressed the court and remembered his mother as a loving, caring, independent woman. At the conclusion of his statements, he identified himself to the court as the victim’s “only son.”