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Friday, March 13, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Stepdaughter: Roth Took Dead Wife's Hidden Cash

Just before Thanksgiving 1981, Janis Roth took her 8-year-old daughter, Jalina Miranda, into the bedroom of their Mountlake Terrace home and showed the girl where an envelope full of money and checks was hidden behind a drawer.

Janis, who had been married to Randy Roth for just under a year, instructed her daughter to take the money if anything ever happened to her.

Randy Roth, a 37-year-old Woodinville man on trial on charges of drowning another wife on Lake Sammamish last summer, kept his head down and didn't look up yesterday as Miranda, now 18, sat on the witness stand yesterday and told the jury how she responded to her mother's secret.

"I said, nothing is going to happen to you."

The little girl was wrong.

A few days after the conversation, on Nov. 27, Janis died when she fell off Beacon Rock in Skamania County while hiking with Roth.

Prosecutors continued to focus yesterday on events surrounding Janis Roth's death more than a decade ago.

Roth, prosecutors say, drowned his fourth wife, Cynthia, last year to collect $385,000 in insurance money.

Despite Skamania County authorities' suspicions about what happened on Beacon Rock in 1981, Janis Roth's death was ruled an accident, and Roth collected $115,000 in insurance money.

Janis was Roth's second wife. He was divorced from his first and third wives.

Miranda, who now lives in Dallas, provided some of the most stunning testimony yesterday.

Remembering her mother's secret, Miranda said she retrieved the envelope, but Roth saw her with it and asked to see it.

"He said, `Oh, she's been hiding it from me,' " Miranda said. Roth then took the envelope, promising to use the money to buy her toys and presents.

"Did he?" asked Marilyn Brenneman, senior deputy prosecutor.

"No," Miranda said. "I never talked to him after that."

A short while later, Miranda moved to Texas to live with her natural father, Joe Miranda, who also testified briefly yesterday that Roth never sent toys, school documents, immunization records and other items that he promised to mail.

Jalina Miranda was also one of many witnesses yesterday who said Roth at first lied about Janis' death, telling some people that she was in the hospital after the fall when in fact she was dead.

Miranda didn't learn her mother was dead until the next week, when Roth got a phone call and said, "Jalina, that's the hospital, your mother just died."

More damaging testimony came from Ray Johnson, who told the jury that his wife baby-sat for Roth's young son, and he suspected that Roth was having an affair with his wife.

Less than a month after Janis' death, Johnson said he came home early from a night class and caught Roth and his wife lying on the floor in front of the fireplace. Johnson said he threatened Roth that he would tell the Skamania County prosecutor about the alleged affair if Roth didn't stop seeing his wife.

The contact stopped, Johnson said.

Defense attorney John Muenster, however, gained some ground yesterday in cracking the prosecution's portrayal of Roth as a cold, aloof man who showed little emotion when Cynthia Roth drowned last summer.

In cross-examination of several witnesses, including Jalina Miranda, Muenster concentrated much of his questioning on the fact that Roth broke down in tears several times following Janis' death and acted tenderly toward Miranda when he first broke the news that her mother had fallen.

"I kept saying where's my mommy?" Miranda said. Although Roth didn't tell her her mother was dead, Miranda said he took her on his knee and told her about the fall and that her mother was in the hospital.

Roth rocked her and held her while she cried, Miranda said.

Other witnesses, including Janis Roth's mother, Billie Ray, also told the jury that Roth showed grief during the memorial service for Janis.

And Skamania County Sheriff Ray Blaisdell, who was with Roth when paramedics were lowered from a helicopter to tend to Janis shortly after her fall, recalled how Roth seemed relieved when he heard over the radio that his wife might still be alive.

Later, when Blaisdell told him she was dead, he wept.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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