Independence woman admits using hammer to kill husband after argument

A 53-year-old woman pleaded guilty in Independence on Thursday to manslaughter, admitting that she beat her husband to death in 2010 after they argued about infidelity.

Ronnie and Catherine Ashworth had quarreled at the Eagles Club in Independence the evening of Aug. 20, 2010, after she had accused another woman of having an affair with him, according to court records. At one point, Ronnie Ashworth said it was over and wanted a divorce.

Just two days later, Catherine Ashworth called an area funeral home and said, “My husband is dead and I need you to pick him up,” according to court records. The funeral home instructed her to call the Police Department.

Emergency workers later found Ronnie Ashworth, 64, dead on the garage floor of their home in the 18500 block of Blackhawk Trail. Elsewhere, they found blood and evidence that someone had tried to clean it up, possibly with bleach, court records said.

Earlier, Catherine Ashworth had explained to a police dispatcher, “We were both out and we got drunk, and I went upstairs and took some antidepressants and passed out, and he fell down in the basement while he was drunk down there.”

A medical examiner, however, ruled that Ashworth died from “blunt force injuries to the head and neck” and that his death was a homicide.

Prosecutors charged Catherine Ashworth with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in August 2011.

In exchange for her plea Thursday, prosecutors agreed to drop the murder charge to manslaughter and dismiss the armed criminal action charge when Ashworth is sentenced, which is set for Jan. 9. They also agreed to a maximum 10-year sentence.

Under questioning from her attorney Thursday, Ashworth acknowledged that she and her husband had argued after returning home, and that she struck him several times in the head with a hammer.

By pleading guilty, she gave up her right to argue self-defense.

According to court records, several weeks after the killing, a bowling alley employee asked Ashworth about her husband’s death.

She is reported to have replied: “It was just a stupid drunk moment.”