Police close 1983 cold case murder

Friday, August 7, 2009 at 4:04pm
Staff reports

Metro Police Cold Case detectives investigating the 1983 beating death of Ruthe Roberts have concluded that her husband, Curtis, who committed suicide last October in the midst of the renewed investigation, is responsible for killing his wife 26 years ago.

The District Attorney’s Office, after reviewing the entire case file, concurs with the Cold Case Unit assessment and would have initiated prosecution of Curtis Roberts had he not killed himself.

Ruthe Roberts, 28, was reported missing by her husband on Aug. 25, 1983. He said that she left their Concord Drive home en route to a Bingo game the prior evening and never arrived. Roberts was found dead on Sept. 3, 1983, in the rear of her 1979 Ford Fiesta, which was discovered parked outside a Chattanooga Holiday Inn.

Curtis Roberts was considered a potential suspect early in the investigation, police said. Friends, associates and even family members have come forward in recent years, as late as July 2008, to advise detectives they believed Roberts killed his wife. Those beliefs were rooted in Curtis Roberts’ actions and statements over two decades.

On July 10, 2008, while Curtis Roberts was an inmate in the Rutherford County Jail, Metro police paid him a visit and relayed that the Ruthe Roberts case was being actively worked by the Cold Case Unit. Three months later, in October 2008, Curtis Roberts, at age 64, committed suicide in Smyrna by funneling carbon monoxide fumes inside his motor home. He left a rambling suicide note.

Given the totality of the evidence and information received from family members last summer, Curtis Roberts is believed to have killed his wife and transported her body to Chattanooga, police said.

The murder of Ruthe Roberts will be reflected as a cleared case.

Police said it is possible, however, that Curtis Roberts had assistance after the fact in removing the body from the house to the car, or potentially in the transportation to or from Chattanooga. The investigation remains open to the possibility that someone may still be identified as being involved, or will admit to being involved after the fact.

Anyone who has information about the circumstances surrounding Ruthe Roberts’ movement from Nashville to Chattanooga is urged to contact the police department’s Cold Case Unit at 862-7329.

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