No one batted an eye when Randy Roth's second wife fell off a cliff in 1981, but the death of his fourth wife in 1991 — along with the large insurance policy he had on her life — aroused suspicion.
Randy Roth was married four times. Two of those marriages ended with his wife’s death.
First was his second wife Janis Roth, who fell to her death during a hike at Beacon Rock. The second was his fourth wife Cynthia Baumgartner Roth, who drowned in Lake Sammamish — the very same lake where Ted Bundy had abducted two women a few years before.
In both instances, Roth was the only witness. In both instances, he had the bodies cremated as quickly as possible.
At first, it seemed as if Roth may have been an unfortunate victim of tragedy, doomed forever to be a single father. But police soon noticed that Roth was quick to cash in on his fourth wife’s large life insurance policy. When they questioned him about the events that led to Cynthia’s death, holes in Roth’s story emerged and became difficult to ignore.
Had Roth murdered his wife? Investigators knew it would be difficult to prove, but as they dug deeper into his past, the image of the real Randy Roth began to take shape. Roth had repeatedly attempted to defraud insurance companies and steal from past employers, for example, and his lifestyle was far more lavish than his reported annual income could have provided for.
Soon enough, his motive became clear: Roth had killed his wife Cynthia to collect on her life insurance — and he may very well have done the same to Janis.
David And Randy Roth, The Killer Brothers
Born on Dec. 26, 1954, Randy Roth was one of five children born to Gordon and Lizabeth Roth. The family moved to Washington soon after Roth’s birth, and he grew up there.
Throughout his life, Roth bonded with his father more than his mother, and after his parents’ divorce, he effectively cut his mother out of his life entirely.
Lizabeth Roth would later express that Gordon had been a strict and abusive father who specifically had discouraged his sons from showing any emotions, which he considered to be too feminine.
“Randy and his brother were brought up by their father, who didn’t allow them to show emotion,” she told the Seatle Times, explaining that “He (Randy Roth) was reprimanded for it. That’s just the way he was brought up.”
Unfortunately, this had a lasting impression on both Randy and David.
As crime writer Ann Rule detailed in her book A Rose for Her Grave, David and Randy Roth both lacked empathy as adults — and each became a killer.
On Aug. 13, 1977, 20-year-old David Roth was arrested for possession of marijuana after being stopped for a minor traffic violation in the tiny hamlet of Gold Bar in Snohomish County, Washington. While searching the vehicle, police also found a rifle and ammunition.
A day later, a couple collecting blackberries discovered the body of a young woman who had been strangled and shot seven times. At first, these seemed like unrelated events.
However, a few days later, a friend of David Roth’s walked into the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office with an alarming bit of news: David Roth had confessed to him that he murdered the girl. She was hitchhiking near the Boeing Company’s Everett plant when David Roth spotted her and picked her up. They bought some beer and went to the woods to drink it.
David Roth told his friend that he tried to have sex with the girl then, but she rejected him. In retaliation, he strangled her with an elastic cord, took a rifle from the trunk of his car, and shot her.
The Seattle Times reports that David was due to appear in court on Aug. 22 for a pre-sentencing interview on a marijuana possession charge, but he never showed. He was on the run for more than a year until he was arrested on Jan. 18, 1979 in Port Orchard, Washington.
David Roth spent 26 years in prison before being released in 2005. He died of cancer on Aug. 9, 2015 — almost exactly 38 years to the day after he killed the hitchhiking girl. Five years later, The News Tribune reported, she was finally identified with DNA testing. Her name was Elizabeth Ann Roberts.
“Randy Roth had told a number of women about his brother, ‘the murderer,'” Rule wrote. “This was one of Randy’s stories that appeared to be true.”
The day David Roth was sentenced to life in prison, in February 1980, Randy was 25. That same month, Randy Roth and his first wife, Donna Sanchez, divorced. Before the winter was over, Roth met Janis Miranda, and within a year they were married.
Then, on Nov. 27, 1981, Janis Miranda Roth fell to her death off Beacon Rock.
Janis Miranda And Randy Roth’s Fateful Whirlwind Romance
Randy Roth met Janis Miranda at a Parents Without Partners social. Roth had had a son with his first wife, Donna Sanchez, in 1977, a boy named Greg, and Roth used his status as a father to his advantage. Janis also had a child, a daughter named Jalina, from an earlier marriage.
“Sometimes Janis leapt without thinking,” Rule wrote, “making decisions based on emotions rather than on common sense. She seemed to change her mind as often as she changed her clothes. The one thing she was absolutely steadfast about was her daughter. Jalina always came first. Janis would have given up her life for her little girl.”
Roth appealed to this aspect of Janis, telling her about Greg and showing her a photo of him that he kept with him always. They connected, Janis felt, over their mutual love for their own children. To her it seemed that Randy Roth was different from other men who had come into her life, so when he asked if he might call her, she agreed with enthusiasm.
“The more time she spent with Randy, the more she thanked her lucky stars,” Rule wrote. “All he seemed to care about was her happiness. She had never known anyone like that before.”
Roth showered her with love and affection at first, but that quickly faded after they married. He was closed off, inattentive — even their sex life suddenly died away.
Not long after they returned from their honeymoon, Janis Roth’s car was stolen, and Roth collected the insurance money. He convinced his wife to quit her job and together, in September 1981, they bought $100,000 in whole life insurance.
The insurance took effect on Nov. 7 of that year.
Three weeks later, Randy Roth suggested the two go on a hiking trip to Beacon Rock — and Janis Miranda Roth was never seen alive again. Roth, the sole witness to his wife’s death, claimed that she fell while they were hiking.
Within a few months, he had collected the $100,000 in life insurance proceeds.
He was never charged with Janis’ murder.
The Murder Of Cynthia Roth
By the spring of 1990, Randy Roth had once again been married and divorced, this time to a woman named Donna Clift, another single mother, and tried to defraud several insurance companies.
A timeline of the events from Radford University’s Department of Psychology shows that Roth was also fired from two different jobs — one at Vitamilk, the other at Cascade Ford — filed for unemployment benefits, and reported a robbery at his home totaling $57,000 in losses.
Then, he met Cynthia “Cindy” Baumgartner. Like the other women in his life, Cindy was a single mother. She had two children, Tyson and Rylie. Within just a few months, Roth and Cindy were married, and he and Greg had moved into Cindy’s home in South Everett.
Notably, Rule wrote, “Cindy was far better established financially than Randy was.”
In early January 1991, Randy and Cindy Roth purchased more life insurance — $385,000 worth, according to the Seattle Times. She even changed the beneficiary of her life insurance from her sons to Roth, as he claimed he had made her the beneficiary of his. This was, however, a lie.
But just as he had done with Janis, Roth’s attitude towards his new wife quickly changed. She started to become unhappy in their marriage, as friends noted, and even wrote in a journal that she felt Roth hated nearly everything about her.
In one journal entry, she wrote:
Randy hates the swamp that Cindy made him move to.
Randy hates Cindy’s house.
Randy hates Cindy’s things
Randy hates Cindy’s money.
Randy hates Cindy’s independent nature.
Then, on July 23, 1991, Roth suggested they take a family trip to Lake Sammamish. He left the children to play on their own and took a raft out onto the lake with his wife.
When he returned, she was dead. Roth claimed that a speedboat wake had capsized their raft and that Cynthia drowned as a result.
Roth wasted no time in trying to collect on Cindy’s life insurance, either. And only a mere two days after her death, Roth emptied out her safe deposit box, which contained her will and jewelry from her ex-husband.
Meanwhile, in early August, a woman named Kristina Baker notified police that she had seen Roth and Cindy out on their raft — and that it had not flipped over, as he claimed.
Roth was arrested for murder on Oct. 9, 1991, with his trial taking place from January to April 1992. He was ultimately found guilty of the murder of Cynthia Baumgartner Roth and sentenced to 55 years in prison at the Washington State Penitentiary where he was once again reunited with his brother, David.
And though Randy Roth was never charged with the murder of Janis Miranda Roth, many people believe that he killed her to collect on her life insurance, just as he had done with Cynthia.
After reading the disturbing story of Randy Roth, read about another depraved killer, Shelly Knotek, the serial killer mom who brutalized her own family. Then, read the story of Larry Gene Bell, the killer who shocked even “Mindhunter” John Douglas.