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Husband charged with killing Jennifer Rothwell appears in court; second date set

None of Beau Rothwell's family attended the hearing, where he appeared in a jumpsuit with his hands and feet shackled

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — A St. Louis County man charged in his pregnant wife’s death appeared in court Monday as a judge set his preliminary hearing for April.

But Judge Jason Dodson told Beau Rothwell, 29, that he would likely not appear for the hearing as his case is expected to go before a grand jury sometime in late February or early March. Should the grand jury indict Rothwell, the April hearing will become moot as his case will proceed to trial.

Rothwell remains held without bail on charges of second-degree murder and evidence tampering in the death of his wife, Jennifer Rothwell, 28.

He appeared in court in a khaki jumpsuit, with his hands and feet shackled. He conferred with his attorney, Charles Barberio, but none of Rothwell’s family members appeared at the hearing.

In a rare move, the judge in Rothwell’s case approved having a camera in the courtroom for the Monday morning hearing.

Jennifer Rothwell had looked up “what to do if your husband is upset you are pregnant” on her cell phone before she went missing, according to search warrants.

She was about six weeks pregnant, and her husband told detectives where to find her body.

He was also having an affair, according to a source close to the investigation.

Search warrants indicate the following timeline of the crime:

Nov. 11, 2019

Beau Rothwell tells police he and his wife were at home the night before watching TV together. Receipts show Beau Rothwell had purchased cleaning supplies from a grocery store that day, and police found surveillance footage from the Dierbergs where he bought the products.

Nov. 12, 2019

6:20 a.m. Beau Rothwell tells police he saw his wife for the last time as she's leaving their Creve Coeur-area home for her job as a chemical engineer. But, minutes later, cellphone records show he missed four phone calls from her.

9:26 a.m. Creve Coeur police on routine patrol find Jennifer Rothwell’s unoccupied car in the 12800 block of Olive Boulevard and tag it as abandoned. The location is about 1.2 miles from her home.

8:00 p.m. Beau Rothwell tells police his wife’s coworkers called him to say they were concerned that she didn’t arrive at work, and that they had found her car on the shoulder of the Olive Boulevard.

9:44 p.m. Beau Rothwell reports his wife of four years missing to police. He refuses to allow police to search his home, his car and phone and refused to give a DNA sample. He also asks for an attorney, according to the documents.

RELATED: Jennifer Rothwell searched ‘what to do if your husband is upset you are pregnant,' warrants say

Nov. 13, 2019

Police search the couple’s home and arrest Beau Rothwell on suspicion of evidence tampering.

Detectives also search a trash can at the curb of the home, where they found various cleaning supplies, including rubber gloves and paper towels, according to the warrants. Along with the cleaning supplies, police find a receipt showing cleaning items had been purchased Nov. 11 from a grocery store. 

A police source tells 5 On Your Side that Beau Rothwell used a gift card to purchase the supplies in an effort to keep the purchase off of his credit card. He then hid the gift card in the lining of a meal delivery box in the trash, the source said.

“This purchase was oddly at a time during a major snow event involving dangerous driving conditions, and was also contradictory to Beau Rothwell’s statement that he was home with his wife all night,” an investigator wrote in the documents.

Police also found signs that “violent acts had been committed inside the home,” including an “overwhelming” smell of bleach and other cleaners inside as well as several “large areas of red stain” at the base of the basement steps. DNA tests confirmed that the blood found in the home was Jennifer Rothwell’s. Police used DNA samples from Jennifer Rothwell’s parents to confirm the blood was their daughter’s.

There was also damage to drywall in the basement, which had samples of human hair, the warrants state.

The blood-stained areas were wet with detergent and had a circulating fan blowing air over the area, and the basement windows were open even though temperatures that were in the 30s, according to the documents.

Police also found Beau Rothwell’s 2015 GMC Canyon pickup truck inside the couple’s attached garage. A strong odor of bleach seeped from the covered bed of the truck. And a small window to the garage was open, despite the cold temperatures, “in an apparent attempt to dissipate the odor.”

Nov. 18, 2019

Beau Rothwell and his attorney meet with detectives, and Rothwell tells them where they can find his wife’s body.

Police find her body in Lincoln County, about 45 miles away from her home, near the Cuivre River State Park. Police have said they are unaware of any connection Beau Rothwell might have had to the area.

A source familiar with the investigation says Rothwell died from blunt force trauma to her head, and that she was naked and partially covered with branches and brush.

Beau and Jennifer Rothwell’s family members have so far declined to comment.

But friends of the couple say they are stunned, having never seen signs of tension between them even just days before the killing. Beau Rothwell has no prior convictions. Police had never been called to their home.

The couple attended a fundraiser for the SouthSide Early Childhood Center Nov. 9 at St. Mary’s High School.

They had earned degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2013. The couple married in 2015 in St. Louis County.

Jennifer Rothwell had been a chemical engineer since July 2013 for MECS Inc., once a subsidiary of Monsanto that was purchased by the DuPont chemical company in 2010.

Beau Rothwell has no prior convictions and has lived in the St. Louis area since 2013.

RELATED: Husband leads police to dead wife’s body week after her disappearance