Germantown Academy student allegedly strangled by mother who fled to New Jersey

Matthew Whitehead, a 6th-grader at Germantown Academy, was allegedly murdered by his mother, 50-year-old Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead.

From the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Facebook post:

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin R. Steele and Horsham Police Chief Scott Fida announce the charging of Ruth DiRienzo-Whitehead for the murder of her 11-year-old son, Matthew Whitehead.

The homicide was discovered at approximately 7 a.m., April 11, 2023, when the boy’s father found the door to the master bedroom locked and DiRienzo-Whitehead and the family’s Toyota Highlander missing. The father called 911 and Horsham Police responded to the family home in the 500 block of Privet Road. Police found Matthew obviously deceased in the bed of the master bedroom, where he had gone to sleep with his mother. Detectives observed that the boy had ligature marks on the front and rear of his neck, as well as swelling of his face and obvious petechia to his eyes, all signs of strangulation.

A joint investigation into the boy’s death by Montgomery County Detectives and Horsham Police found that the defendant had killed her son after he went to sleep at approximately 9:30 p.m., then drove the family’s SUV to Cape May, N.J. and proceeded to drive the vehicle into the ocean just off Beach Avenue, where it was found at by Cape May Police. After the vehicle was no longer operable, the defendant walked to Wildwood Crest, where she was taken into custody by the Wildwood Crest Police and interviewed by detectives from Montgomery County Detective Bureau and Horsham Police. A search of the SUV by law enforcement discovered a black men’s dress belt on the floor of the driver’s side of the vehicle.

An autopsy on the boy’s body was conducted on April 12, 2023, by Dr. Valerie Sorokin, a forensic pathologist with the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. Dr. Sorokin opined that the cause of death was ligature strangulation and the manner of death was homicide.

“I want to thank Cape May Police, Wildwood Crest Police and Cape May Prosecutor Jeffrey Sutherland’s Office for their assistance with apprehending this mother who killed her son and with other aspects of this investigation,” said DA Steele. ““Their quick action and help in this investigation will play an integral part of holding the defendant accountable for the terrible killing of this boy.”

DiRienzo-Whitehead has been charged with First-Degree Murder, Third-Degree Murder and Possessing an Instrument of Crime and is awaiting arrest. She is being held in Cape May County and will be extradited back to Montgomery County for arraignment on the charges.

The official police criminal complaint form can be found here:

Photo courtesy of 6ABC