Hamilton man charged in fatal beating of wife Suspect is also accused of attacking mother-in-law

October 08, 1997|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

A man arrested Monday afternoon in the death of his wife and the beating of his mother-in-law was charged with murder yesterday as city police described a bizarre plan by the man to blow up his and a neighbor's Hamilton houses in a cover-up attempt.

Police said that when the man failed in an attempt to destroy the homes by disconnecting a natural gas line, he returned to hide the bodies. But his 81-year-old mother-in-law wasn't dead.

Detective Marvin Sydnor of the homicide unit said a screaming Rose Meyer was crawling out the front door when the suspect pulled up about 3 p.m. in the Northeast Baltimore community.

Neighbors called police, who found the suspect leaning against a tree and crying in front of the house, his clothing stained with blood, a police spokeswoman said.

Bruce Ruth, 43, of the 5300 block of Tramore Road was charged yesterday with first-degree murder, two counts of using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony and two counts of attempted arson.

Police said Ruth is a cardiology technician at St. Joseph Medical Center and Maryland General Hospital. He is being held without bail at the Central Booking and Intake Center pending a bail review hearing.

Meyer was treated for head injuries at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, and police said she was expected to be released last night. Her daughter, Nora Ruth, 35, was pronounced dead at the scene. All three lived at the two-story, single-family house.

Police and neighbors told reporters that Mr. Ruth suffers from a terminal illness and was distraught. But Sydnor said he has not been able to confirm that information. He said the couple has no history of violence, and he has been unable to ascertain a motive.

Sydnor said he interviewed Meyer but found "she wasn't able to help us with anything."

Sydnor said detectives recovered what they believe is the weapon used in the killing, but he would describe it only as an "everyday utensil" used in the kitchen. He said he wouldn't comment further until the medical examiner confirmed it as the weapon.

Police said Mrs. Ruth was found beaten to death in a first-floor room of the house. She had suffered massive head injuries that Sydnor said indicated rage. The detective said evidence indicates she tried to defend herself.

Meyer also was beaten in a downstairs room. Sydnor said police believe that the women were attacked about noon, and that the suspect left when he thought both were dead.

Police charge that Mr. Ruth then used a key to get into his neighbor's basement. Police said they found that the safety valve on the water heater's gas line had been broken, a household timing device had been plugged into an electrical outlet and a table lamp plugged into the timer. The lamp had been turned on, and a piece of paper had been placed on top of the lighted bulb.

Police said they also found that the gas line in the suspect's house had been disconnected. Investigators said they believe it was set up so that if the neighbor's house blew up, the house with the bodies would also explode.

Police ordered neighbors out of their homes briefly until workers for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. could shut off the gas. If the plan worked, Sydnor said, "We would have had two big holes in the street, and no one would have ever suspected a murder."

Pub Date: 10/08/97

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