On August 29, 1995, a 40-year old upper class insurance executive argued with his wife over a pan of burnt ziti, which led him to kill her and mutilate her body.
Richard Rosenthal strangled his wife to death, carried her out to their backyard in Framingham, and dissected her body. With a rock, he smashed her face beyond recognition, and placed her heart and lungs on a stake as a symbolic gesture or trophy.
The Burnt Ziti Murder Case is one of the most grotesque crimes in the history of the state, and brought to the forefront major concerns about violence against women in the Commonwealth.
Richard Rosenthal did not have a criminal record. He was a highly paid executive in a prominent insurance company. One would not believe him capable of such a crime, but the shocking murder was committed. Laura Rosenthal was dissected with her heart and lungs removed. There was so much blood in the backyard that the fire department decided to hose down the lawn and wash it away. It was reported that she was referred to as "Jane Doe" on the arrest report because she could not be visually identified.
After Rosenthal mutilated his wife, he partially concealed her body under a pile of mulch, took a shower, packed their 4-month old baby girl up with diapers and car seat, and drove off. He later followed a car to a house in Marlboro and made strange comments about gun control, and the residents called the police. When officers confronted him in his car, Rosenthal was quoted as saying "That is blood. I had an argument...I overcooked the ziti."
He was charged with first-degree murder, and pled not guilty by reason of insanity. Quite strangely, he claimed that he believed Laura was an alien when he attacked her, and was essentially defending himself. Presumably, the alien delusion explained why he ritualistically removed her vital organs after killing her and placed them on an 18 inch stake; to assure the "alien" was really dead. He also claimed an encounter with a supernatural dead rat, either as a false idol or sign of prophecy.
At the trial, the prosecution procured witnesses that said Laura had gone to work with black eyes in both 1990 and 1993. The assertion was that there was a pattern of domestic abuse by the Rosenthal. He countered by saying she had fallen on her face on one occasion, and had punched herself in the face the other time. On November 7, 1996, the jury rejected Rosenthal's insanity defense, and he was found criminally responsible and given a life sentence without the possibility of parole as punishment for this shocking crime.