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Love Her To Death

Love Her To Death

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by M. William Phelps

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One of our most engaging crime journalists. --Katherine Ramsland

True Love Kills

In the midst of Pennsylvania's Amish country, on a peaceful summer night in 2008, the body of 45-year-old Jan Roseboro was found at the bottom of her backyard pool. Her husband Michael, a successful businessman and member of a prominent family, showed no emotion as


One of our most engaging crime journalists. --Katherine Ramsland

True Love Kills

In the midst of Pennsylvania's Amish country, on a peaceful summer night in 2008, the body of 45-year-old Jan Roseboro was found at the bottom of her backyard pool. Her husband Michael, a successful businessman and member of a prominent family, showed no emotion as he learned of her death. But the next day an autopsy revealed Jan had been savagely beaten and strangled before being tossed in the water to drown. Soon Michael's secret lover, pregnant with his child, stepped into the media spotlight. And a horrifying true story of illicit passion, deadly deceit, and cold-blooded murder unfolded. . .

Praise for M. William Phelps

"One of America's finest true-crime writers."--Vincent Bugliosi

"Phelps creates a vivid portrait." --Publishers Weeklyy

Includes 16 Pages Of Shocking Photos

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Love Her to Death



Copyright © 2011 M. William Phelps
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7860-2201-4

Chapter One

She was fighting for her life. That was about all East Cocalico Township Police Department (ECTPD) patrolman Michael "Mike" Firestone knew as he sat behind the wheel of his cruiser, flipped on the lights and siren, and sped off.

It took Firestone five minutes to get to the Roseboro residence in Reinholds, Pennsylvania, from the ECTPD, in nearby Denver, after the call from Lancaster CountyWide Communications (LCWC) had come in. "The reporting person," Firestone was told along the way, meaning the 911 caller, "had woken up and found his wife in a swimming pool on the property."

And that was all Patrolman Firestone knew going into the situation. Yet, that name, Roseboro ... It was synonymous in this part of Lancaster County with wealth, status, good standing. You mention the name Roseboro to any store clerk or Denver native and you'd likely hear, Don't they own that funeral home?

Indeed, the Roseboro family had been morticians for over a century.

On that night, July 22, 2008, at nine minutes after eleven, Firestone pulled into the Roseboros' driveway off Creek Road, a half-tarred, half-gravel, slight uphill path heading toward a white garage off to the right. The massive home took up the entire corner lot of West Main Street (Route 897) and Creek Road. The smaller garage Firestone had pulled up in front of faced the east end of the Roseboros' pool, the back of the home itself. This smaller garage stood about twenty to thirty feet in front of a much larger and longer cooplike structure used years ago to house turkeys when the land was a farm. On either side of the smaller garage were walkways, one heading toward the house, the other into the pool area. Looking, Firestone spotted emergency medical technician (EMT) Cory Showalter, who had been called on his pager and had driven from his house a half mile down the road, beating Firestone to the scene. Showalter, a thirty-year volunteer for Reinholds Ambulance, six years with the Adamstown Fire Department, was performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on a middle-aged, white female, with long, flowing blond hair, who was lying on the ground next to the pool. By trade, Showalter was a full-time painter, and he was quite familiar with the layout of the Roseboro house. He knew the Roseboro family personally, having been hired by Michael Roseboro to paint part of a new addition on the house.

"I saw," Showalter later said, "when I got there ... I saw it was Mike that was—he was kneeling beside Jan."

Jan Roseboro, the forty-five-year-old wife of the undertaker, was on the ground.

Lifeless and unresponsive.

Firestone had an "immediate view" of the back side of the Roseboros' house as he parked and dashed from his car toward the pool deck area. After having trouble getting into the patio through the iron gate, because he could not get the latch to open, Firestone said later that he thought maybe Michael Roseboro had walked over and opened the gate from the inside for him. Either way, when Firestone got close enough to Roseboro, he noted that the husband appeared calm. His breathing was normal. Roseboro didn't appear to be sucking in or gasping for air, as if winded. He wasn't sweating, either. In fact, Roseboro seemed fairly "with it" for a man who had, only moments before, found his wife comatose inside the family swimming pool. Moreover, he "was not dripping wet, if he was wet at all," Firestone remembered. Calling 911 minutes prior, Roseboro said he had just pulled Jan out of the water.

Heading for the victim, Firestone noticed that Showalter was kneeling beside Jan, his hands crossed over her chest, shoulders hoisted upward, chest out, performing CPR. Jan was wearing a sweatshirt and shorts. She was on the ground, a halo of water stain on the concrete surrounding her body.

Because the Roseboros owned such a large corner lot (probably the biggest in the neighborhood), to the south of the pool area, heading toward the turkey house, was a wide open space, a grassy knoll fenced in by a line of trees and thorny pricker bushes and a swamplike ravine. Beyond that were three additional homes (all facing Creek Road), their backyards edging that wooded area, which was actually part of the Roseboros' property.

As Firestone came upon Showalter, he nodded to the EMT, who was working arduously to get Jan's motionless body to show any signs of life. Sirens were going off around them. The fire department, located on West Main Street, almost diagonally across from the Roseboro home, was but a five-minute walk from where they were.

Around him, Firestone noticed several—he wouldn't know the number until he later counted (six)—tiki torches set around the pool, on the opposite side of where Jan's body was positioned. All of them were burning. What was more, the entire area was well lit by spotlights from the house.

"Once I went through the gate and walked up to the edge of the pool," Firestone later said, "... I noticed there were interior pool lights on, as well as that dusk-to-dawn light, which was on the freestanding garage."

Michael Roseboro was dressed in what appeared to be (but no one was certain) red boxer shorts, nothing else. "It was either boxer shorts or a swimsuit," someone on the scene later said.

Roseboro stood nearby, Firestone observed, with no expression on his face.

"It was noticeable how not upset he seemed to be," Firestone later remarked.

Perhaps the guy was in such a state of shock, denial, or both, he didn't know what to do with himself. Besides, it was better that the husband of the victim stayed back at this point.

Jan was positioned between the (deep end of the) pool and the main house, her head facing the back of the home, her feet partially in the water, hanging over the pool coping (edge mold). Her body was on a slab of the concrete decking bordering the pool. That sweatshirt and a sports bra she was wearing had been cut off her body.

Showalter had not seen any vomit around Jan. This told the experienced medic that she had not coughed up any water. Coming up on the body and Michael Roseboro moments before Firestone had arrived, Showalter had started CPR immediately, yelling to Roseboro, "Open my bag.... Get my airways out!"

Roseboro reacted quickly. He dug in the bag, found the piece of plastic, and then handed Showalter the oral airway, a small half-moon-shaped tube that medics stick in the mouth to keep the tongue down so air can get into the lungs as quickly as possible.

Firestone reacted like the pro he was, kneeling beside Jan, asking Showalter, "Do you need the AED?" The cop had the machine in his hand.

"Yes ... please," Showalter said breathlessly.

"Get her feet out of the water." Firestone said it would be impossible to use the automated external defibrillator (AED) if the person's feet were in the water, or the person was wet.

Firestone prepared the AED he had brought from his cruiser. The machine analyzes the rhythm of the heart. It would take a reading of Jan's vital signs and indicate whether to deliver a shock to Jan's heart with the paddles or continue manual CPR. Showalter wasn't getting a pulse. It didn't mean Jan was gone; it told them, perhaps alarmingly, that they needed to get her heart beating again before any major brain damage occurred, or there was no chance of getting a rhythm back. Neither Showalter nor Firestone had any idea how long Jan had been unconscious.

During this critical process of utilizing the AED, which Firestone, like all cops, had been trained to use, Showalter continued working on Jan. As they conducted this procedure together, an ambulance arrived, additional EMTs running toward the pool. Fire trucks pulled up and parked along Creek Road. Roseboro family members were beginning to arrive as well.

After briefly talking to Michael Roseboro, Firestone noticed that Jan's husband had walked off to the side and, smoking a cigarette, was talking on his cell phone.

Once the AED was hooked up to Jan's chest, the apparatus advised them not to shock Jan's heart, but to continue CPR, instead.

Was this good news? Did it mean Jan Roseboro was still alive?

Technically, she was. There was no doctor on scene to make a pronouncement of death. By all logical assumptions, however, it seemed Jan Roseboro had breathed her last. She was listless, cold to the touch, not moving. Pale. She had no heart rate or pulse. None of this, of course, was ever mentioned or talked about among those at the scene. To anyone there, watching the events transpire in front of them, it appeared that there was hope for Jan. EMTs were focused on reviving Jan Roseboro and getting her from the ground into the ambulance, then to the nearest hospital emergency room. By all accounts, Jan had only been unconscious and not breathing for minutes.

As Showalter continued CPR and, as Firestone later told it, "people more qualified than me" took over, the patrolman stepped away from Jan, looked around, found Michael Roseboro, and explained to Jan's husband that he needed to ask him a few questions.

You know, procedure. Formalities. For starters, "What happened?"

Roseboro was standing by a patio table, smoking, quietly watching what was going on, cell phone in hand. "I have no idea how long [she has] been in the pool," Roseboro said.

"Okay. But what happened?" Firestone asked again.

"I went to bed at approximately ten o'clock," Jan Roseboro's husband of nineteen years stated, "but Jan stayed outside in the pool area to watch the night sky. I was inside sleeping when I got up to go to the bathroom and noticed that the pool lights and outside torches were still lit." So Roseboro, after finishing up in the bathroom, walked outside to extinguish the tiki lamps and shut off the remaining lights. "When I entered the pool area ... I noticed my wife in the deep end of the pool, retrieved a telephone, and immediately called 911. The operator advised me how to perform CPR, which I did until [everyone] arrived."

All Firestone had to do was some quick math to realize that Jan could have been in the water anywhere between one and sixty minutes, according to her husband's timeline. Roseboro said he went to bed at ten. The 911 call had been made at 11:02. Either way you added it up, it did not look good for Jan. Yet, Firestone never said any of this to Roseboro.

"Was Jan drinking?" Firestone asked. He was standing closer to Roseboro now and could smell alcohol on his breath.

"No," he said.

"Have you been drinking?"


"Were you swimming earlier tonight, Mr. Roseboro?"


"Jan was not wearing swimming attire. Had she been swimming, too?"


A gurney was wheeled toward Jan as EMTs continued working on her. One of the medics put a suction device in Jan's mouth to extract any vomit that might have been lodged in her throat. Showalter later said he believed they were able to suction a small amount of vomit from Jan's mouth.

By now, maybe five minutes since Showalter and Firestone had responded to the scene, it seemed there were people everywhere.

Michael Roseboro—his and Jan's three youngest children inside the house sleeping through all of this—stood by and could only watch as his wife was hoisted onto a gurney and wheeled off toward the driveway and a waiting ambulance.

"His demeanor was sort of flat and calm," Firestone later said, referring to this moment. "Even rote."

One of the officers who had arrived on scene was off to the side calling into the station to get an investigator out there. Another cop regulation. Just a routine matter to check things out. Standard procedure after an incident like this.

Firestone and Roseboro stood together watching the medic wheel Jan away. There was "an uncomfortable lull there," Firestone remembered, "where we were kind of standing and staring at each other."

Breaking that silence, Firestone asked Roseboro, "Hey, is there a pastor or anybody I can call for you?"

"Yes ...," Jan's husband said. For some reason, before giving Firestone one of the names, Roseboro felt the need to then explain that he and Jan had separate churches they attended.

Roseboro never approached the ambulance. Nor had he asked Firestone or anyone else which hospital his wife was being taken to, how she was, if she was alive, or if she had died at the scene. Instead, he walked off and put his cell phone to his ear, lit another smoke, and dialed a number.

Firestone assumed Roseboro was calling family and friends. Maybe he was still in shock? Too upset to think or react.

"You can have your suspicions," Firestone commented later, "but you do your best to maintain a neutral and open mind."

Who knew what the guy was going through?

Just then, as the team worked to get Jan secured in back of the ambulance, Firestone noticed two young males walking hurriedly about the scene. They had that what-in-the-world-is-going-on look. One of them, the patrolman learned, was Michael and Jan Roseboro's oldest son, seventeen-year-old Samuel (Sam, they called him).

But where had the boy come from? Why had they shown up at this moment?

Then, as Firestone looked around the property for Michael Roseboro, it was as if the guy had vanished.

Michael Roseboro was nowhere to be found.

Maybe he finally got into the ambulance with his wife?

Quite shockingly, as medics got Jan Roseboro's heart beating again—if only mechanically—inside the ambulance as it took off, blood poured out of the back of her head, turning the pillow underneath red as paint, as if a vessel had burst.

There had not been a spot of blood out on the pool deck or inside the water.

Where in the world was all this blood coming from?

Chapter Two

Someone yelled, "Ephrata Community Hospital."

Michael Roseboro was back outside and heard the comment. He had not gotten into the ambulance. He was also told by several professionals on scene where his wife was being taken. Jan was en route to a hospital about fifteen minutes across county. The ambulance attendants would continue CPR all the way to the emergency room (ER), where the mother of four would receive the best medical care available.

There was still a chance. Everyone has heard stories of people being dead fifteen, twenty, or even thirty minutes, only to be brought back to life at the hospital before telling a story about white lights and clouds and people from beyond.

Patrolman Firestone had watched the ambulance prepare to drive off. The vehicle was "very well lit" inside. From where he was standing inside the pool deck area, he'd had a clear view of what was going on and who was there. Additional family members arrived. Phone records from the night indicate Michael Roseboro called his father, Ralph, at home, and then the family business, the Roseboro Funeral Home, which was closed at this hour, for some reason.

Michael had stayed at the house while Jan was whisked off. Perhaps he wanted to take his own vehicle and follow the ambulance? Or maybe wait for additional family members to show up? Still, there were plenty of people at the house to watch the kids if he wanted to be with Jan.

Why wasn't he leaving?

Firestone took a walk around the pool area. He had an eye and instinct for crime scenes, having worked in the Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Unit for a time.

"I was looking for any signs of a struggle," Firestone said. "Anything that might stand out as suspicious."

Again, standard procedure. It wasn't that Firestone suspected anything—in fact, quite to the contrary. If nothing else, the Roseboro family, because of who they were and the business they ran, were given the benefit of the doubt more than most others might have been. The problem Firestone encountered from within was that he was trained to think outside the box and search for a reason why this woman—a seemingly healthy adult who had not been drinking—ended up fully clothed and unconscious inside her pool. There was an answer somewhere. Probably an explanation that was going to make a lot of sense as soon as the ECTPD uncovered it.

After a careful walk around, Firestone didn't see anything out of place. Every item—patio furniture, tables and chairs, and anything else associated with the pool area itself—"looked normal." Nothing had been disturbed. In addition, the scene didn't appear to be overly perfect, either, as if someone had gone around and tidied up. The area was well maintained and practical. At least by Firestone's opinion.


Excerpted from Love Her to Death by M. WILLIAM PHELPS Copyright © 2011 by M. William Phelps. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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