Pa. Woman Pleads Guilty to Killing Mant
By Associated Press
January 8, 2005, 10:06 AM EST
ERIE, Pa. -- A woman once acquitted in the death of her boyfriend has pleaded guilty but mentally ill to charges she killed another boyfriend, whose body was found stuffed in a freezer.
Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, 55, of Erie, was sentenced to seven to 20 years in prison Friday for third-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in the August 2003 shotgun slaying of live-in boyfriend James Roden, 45.
Diehl-Armstrong had denied killing Roden, blaming a friend who later admitted he helped her clean up the crime scene, dispose of the shotgun and store Roden's body in a freezer at his home.
However, in a surprise plea before trial Friday, she said her mental illness had prevented her from understanding that her actions were wrong. A prosecutor said she suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and had a deep hatred of men.
"I'm not going to be any more trouble, your honor. I've learned my lesson," she told Erie County Judge Shad Connelly. "If I get another chance at life, I am not going to lose it."
Although she was sentenced to prison, Diehl-Armstrong will first be sent for mental treatment at Mayview State Hospital near Pittsburgh. If doctors determine she no longer needs care, she would then begin serving her prison term.
Erie County District Attorney Brad Foulk said he believes she would have killed again if she were set free. But with her plea, "she gets the treatment she needs, and the community gets the protection it needs."
William Rothstein was the friend who called police to tell them that Roden's body was in a freezer in his garage and that Diehl-Armstrong had paid him $2,000 to help get rid of the body and weapon, and clean up the bedroom where the killing occurred.
Rothstein, charged with abuse of a corpse and evidence tampering, was cooperating with authorities before he died of cancer in July.
Foulk dropped several lesser charges pending against Diehl-Armstrong, including aggravated assault and evidence tampering, in exchange for her plea.
According to court records and law enforcement officials, Diehl-Armstrong, then known as Marjorie Diehl, was charged in 1984 with the shooting death of her boyfriend, Robert Thomas. She said she had been a victim of physical and sexual abuse and shot Thomas before he killed her. She was acquitted of homicide in 1988 and put on probation for carrying a firearm without a license.