It was a bright Saturday afternoon in February, 1988, when Coast Guard searchers spotted the body of Karen Waltz Roston in the ocean off the coast of San Diego.
Her bruised and bloodied face were the first concrete indications that Roston’s honeymoon cruise to Mexico might not have ended as her new husband had said.
Scott Roston had told the cruise ship’s captain that his 26-year-old wife had fallen overboard. The bruises on her forehead and neck belied that explanation, authorities contend.
Coast Guard Lt. Jeff Lee said even his seasoned rescue team was disturbed by its cargo as they headed back for port.
Said a Prayer
“I directed the chief to say a prayer on the Bible, to kind of calm everybody down,” Lee testified Wednesday, opening day of Roston’s trial on charges of second-degree murder on the high seas.
Roston’s lawyer, David Kenner, told a Los Angeles federal court jury that his client was afraid to tell investigators initially that his wife had apparently been murdered by Israeli agents, who had first drugged him into unconsciousness in retribution for a book he had written about Israeli human rights abuses.
“There was no motive or reason or rationale for Dr. Roston to take the life of the woman he had wanted so long to marry,” Kenner said in his opening statement.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Kendra McNally countered by sketching a picture of a honeymoon gone awry, of a bridegroom annoyed by his wife’s lack of social sophistication and her propensity for sweets and of a bride constantly afraid of annoying her new husband.
McNally said that after “a fight,” Roston accompanied his wife to a jogging track on the upper-level deck and began strangling her.
“The force of his hands on her throat was enough to cause bleeding in all the muscles of her neck, but it did not kill her, so he lifted her, still breathing, still alive, over a 3 1/2-foot wall and dropped her into the dark, quiet sea where she drowned,” the prosecutor said.
Roston, a 27-year-old Santa Monica chiropractor, walked to the table tennis room two decks below and told a trio of musicians that his wife had just been blown overboard by strong winds. He explained the scratches on his face by saying he had run into a piece of equipment when he had turned in response to her cries for help.
But McNally said the ship’s captain will testify that Roston asked to use a bathroom immediately after being asked about the scratches, then was seen to examine his face in a mirror, wash it and leave the bathroom without ever using the other facilities.
If convicted, Roston could face up to life in prison.