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Death of Bride of 9 Days a Bizarre End to an Unusual Courtship

February 22, 1988|PATT MORRISON and ANN WIENER | Times Staff Writers

They arose early and got themselves all decked out: she in a midcalf dress of some soft beige, he in a jacket and tie--the first tie Scott Roston's roommate had ever seen him wear.

Scott Roston and Karen Waltz raced to Las Vegas on Feb. 4 in his leased red Toyota two-seater and were wed in a $25 civil ceremony in a marriage commissioner's office enlivened by some blue and white artificial flowers.

Then they raced back to Santa Monica. On their wedding night, when the roommate, Damone Schraier, came home to the condominium about 9:30 p.m., they were still dressed up. "You kids look like you've been to a wedding," he teased. Karen kissed Scott, and Scott laughed and flashed his wedding ring and said, "Don't tell anybody." Then Karen went back to "puttering" in the kitchen, and Scott sat watching "Star Trek," Schraier remembers.

Nine days later and 30 miles out to sea, Karen Waltz Roston, 26, the bride who had polished her body with years of dance and exercise and even gentle self-defense training, fell or was pushed overboard from her honeymoon cruise ship, the Stardancer.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday February 23, 1988 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 5 National Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
A photo caption in Monday's Times incorrectly reported that a book by Scott Roston, a suspect in the death of his wife of nine days, was published in 1978. The book was published in 1987.

Found embedded in the rubberized jogging track on the deck were strands of her blonde hair and a single earring, one of the pair she was wearing in a photograph of a happy shipboard dinner. A dozen hours later, her body was pulled from the ocean, still clad in jogging clothes, a victim of strangulation associated with drowning, the San Diego County coroner found.

And her new husband, Scott Robin Roston, 36--a fitness buff, a chiropractor and a man convinced that his life is in jeopardy because of his vanity book about his "torture" by Israeli agents--was soon under arrest on a federal murder charge.

Wrote Statement in Cell

At first, according to an FBI affidavit, he said his bride had been blown over the ship's 4-foot railing by the wind, and he had scratched his face in lunging to save her.

Then, from his cell, he wrote out a statement that his lawyer read to reporters three days later at Roston's instruction. Israeli agents killed his "beloved wife," he wrote, "because I published an expose last year of the countless crimes of that (Israeli) government," a charge that Israeli consular officials deny.

Roston, in three phone calls to The Times, denied any role in her death and said he was unconscious--"drugged" by the same agents--while she was attacked. His tale of her being blown overboard was a product of the drug: "I was not able to control my reasoning.

"I didn't kill her," he said in a choked voice, "but I know the people that did." He said Israeli agents had ambushed him last year outside a Florida shopping mall, but he fired at them with the gun he kept in his car and escaped.

It was a bizarre end to an unusual long-distance courtship.

From her Florida home, Karen Waltz Roston's mother, Roberta, said she had worried about her "sweet" younger daughter's six-months' cross-country relationship--so much so that she had the "pretty little" pear-shaped diamond engagement ring appraised; "I wondered if he'd given her a cubic zirconia.

"I'd give anything if she hadn't met Scott," she said tearfully.

Roston says Karen Waltz proposed to him three times and "was anxious to get married."

But Karen, although she seemed smitten, "had her reservations about Scott," Roberta Waltz said, and wanted to put off the wedding for six months. She recalled that he told Karen: " 'I want to marry you the minute you get out here.' Karen said, 'I need to get to know you better.' " A family friend said Karen had confided: " 'Well, you can always give back an engagement ring.' "

The night before the wedding, her mother telephoned the condo. "I said, 'Scott, she's going to be yours now, and please take care of her for me.' And he said, 'I'm taking care of her right now, and I'll take care of her for you, Robbie.' Then Karen got on the phone and said, 'Mom it's OK, I've made up my mind now; I'll be happy' . . . and that's the last I heard."

They met in a Florida country club in June. Karen Waltz, a state-licensed massage therapist since December, 1986, gave Roston a massage when, according to her mother, his usual masseuse "was not available."

They had a lot in common, it seemed, including just coming off other relationships--Karen's of several years' duration. But, most of all, was their devotion to fitness.

Years of devotion to ballet, modern dance, tai chi and other forms of physical discipline had left the 5-foot-3 woman strong and agile. She was a strong swimmer, said Waltz, and walked 10 miles a day. Friends like Karen Johnson Zysk, who graduated with Karen from the Academy of Healing Arts in Lake Worth, Fla., said she was "very quiet, very gentle."

"She wasn't an aggressive person," said Zysk. "I can't see her going up to someone and proposing . . . or being attacked by Israeli agents. Love is blind, right?"

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