LOS ANGELES -- A man convicted of murdering his bride by choking her and throwing her over the railing of a cruise ship during their honeymoon was sentenced to life in prison Monday by a judge who denounced the crime as one of the 'cruelest' in his experience.
Scott Roston, 38, was convicted in March of second-degree murder in the Feb. 13, 1988, death of his wife of nine days, Karen Roston, 26. Her body was later found floating in the waters 22 miles off San Diego, not far from the cruise ship Stardancer, where the couple had spent their honeymoon.
The penalty guideline for a second-degree murder conviction normally carries a sentence of 11 to 14 years in prison, but U.S. District Judge James M. Ideman, calling the murder 'one of the cruelest crimes this court has ever seen,' said it was his 'express hope that this defendant will never be released from prison' and sentenced him to life behind bars.
Roston argued during his trial that Israeli agents drugged him and framed him in his bride's death as revenge for Roston's book, 'Nightmare in Israel,' which alleged he was abused in an Israeli mental hospital after being arrested on trumped-up burglary charges.
Prosecutors scoffed at that claim, presenting at the trial evidence of a brutal struggle on the ship's deck, including clumps of Karen Roston's hair and an earring torn from her ear that was embedded in the ship's jogging track.
Roston's Israeli spy story was the second he told to explain the disappearance of his wife. For five minutes after he threw her over the 3 -foot railing of the ship's deck, prosecutors said, he wandered the deck, then told ship officials she was blown overboard by the wind.
Karen Roston's mother and Scott Roston's parents were present at opposite ends of the courtroom during the sentencing Monday.
Karen Roston's mother, Roberta Seaquist, of Lantana, Fla., wept as defense lawyer Michael Adelson tried to convince Ideman that Roston's crime was not as heinous as, for example, that of an ax murderer or a child killer.
Adelson argued Roston's crime was 'more akin to manslaughter' than murder and asked for a lighter sentence.
But Ideman wasnot swayed and even rejected a 30-year sentence suggest by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kendra McNally.
'This defendant cruelly killed his wife of nine days for no reason that appears to this court. He saw fit to assault her, beat her, choke her into unconsciousness and throw her body into the sea over 20 miles from land ... knowing for certain that she would perish.'
Although Roston did not visibly react to Ideman's sentence, both his mother and wife's mother sobbed openly.
'Although I will always grieve for Karen, the sentence Scott received today will help me bear the pain,' Seaquist said.