It all started with a simple request.
Maureen Petrie, 67, asked her 32-year-old son Michael to take his lunch dishes into the kitchen. According to police, an angry Michael Petrie sidled up to his mother while she watched television in October 2012 and struck her on the left side of her head with a martial arts weapon called a sai. He then stabbed her repeatedly.
But the grisly crime soon became even more macabre. According to prosecutors, Petrie left his mother’s corpse in the living room of their Barberton, Ohio, home. The murder weapons sat at her feet.
In April 2013, investigators performed a welfare check on Maureen Petrie after relatives reported that they hadn’t spoken to her in six months. When no one answered the door, officers went into the house and discovered Petrie’s body in the chair where she had been murdered six months earlier.
The case is eerily similar to that of Chava Stirn, a 28-year-old Brooklyn woman whom police say lived with the remains of her mother for between one and three years.
A Bizarre Trial
Petrie pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. When he went to trial earlier this week, he calmly watched the proceedings. Even as prosecutors dropped bombshells, his face remained expressionless.
During opening statements, a jury of seven women and five men heard about Petrie’s matter-of-fact confession.
“When police asked him about the welfare of his mother, Mr. Petrie said, ‘Don’t be stupid. I killed her,’ ” prosecutor Justin Richard said.
But Petrie’s attorney, Jeff James, argued that Petrie was a paranoid schizophrenic. According to James, Petrie suffered from delusions that his mother exerted “inner control” over him, and that the only way to escape was to kill her.
“Even moving out was not an option because she would still have this control,” James said in opening statements. “He believed that [killing her] was the only escape.”
Both the prosecution and defense agreed that Michael and Maureen Petrie loved each other, but classified their relationship as codependent. According to the defense, Maureen Petrie homeschooled her son, and they slept in the same bed until he was 12.
A Six-Month Cover-Up
During the six months after Maureen Petrie was killed, Michael tried to keep up the appearance of normality. According to prosecutors, he continued to pay the bills, but lied to family and friends about his mother’s well-being. According to Cleveland.com, neighbors suspected that Maureen Petrie had died.
Petrie also covered up the windows with garbage bags and tried to mask the odor with carpet cleaners and air fresheners.
“That was intentional,” said prosecutor Richard. “He knew what he was doing.”
The jury of seven women and five men agreed. On July 24, after less than two hours of deliberation, they found Petrie guilty of aggravated murder and abuse of a corpse.
On Wednesday, Petrie was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He declined to comment as he was sentenced.