Christine Roush wasn’t raised by her birth mother, Teresa Poehlman, but she did follow in her footsteps by abusing drugs and becoming a teen mom. While the two eventually reunited, their brief relationship would tragically end in murder.
The trouble started a generation earlier. Teresa Poehlman (birth name: Teresa Gruber) was born in 1969 in Morton, Illinois. Her father was a biker who ran out on the family and her mother moved her and her sister to Texas.
“By the time she was 12, Paulette [Teresa’s mom] would take her to the bar with her so other guys would buy them drinks,” Teresa’s ex-husband, Nick Poehlman, told Oxygen's “Snapped,” airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen. “Her mom was doing cocaine with her.”
Subsequently, Teresa struggled with mental health issues and addiction throughout her life. “Her bipolar disorder and her self-medicating took over her life,” ex-boyfriend Joel Ritchie told producers. “At first it was self-medication to cope with the bipolar and then it spiraled into more of an addiction and once it started, it snowballed.”
In 1995, Teresa gave birth to a daughter, Christine Roush. She moved back to central Illinois to be near family during this time — but sadly, this would be a dark period for Christine.
When Christine was a toddler she was sexually and physically abused, The Pantagraph, a newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois, reported in 2018.
“Chrissy was abused as a child by her birth mother’s boyfriend,” friend Rachel Chung told producers. “She went in and out of her birth mother’s life for the first two and a half years of her life and that’s when she was abused.”
Then, when Christine was 3 years old, she was adopted by Teresa’s first cousin Tami Riggenbach and her husband, Kim. She grew up in a big family, one of several children. Teresa stayed away and continued to battle her demons.
In the early 2000s, she and Joel Ritchie had a son, Ryan, and she seemed to get her life in order. It wouldn’t last. By 2009, Teresa had married Nick Poehlman, but her addiction destroyed the relationship.
“She kept running off and I kept taking her back. It ripped my heart out every time she left. We were only married just a touch over a year,” Nick told producers.
Christine had a normal childhood, but she began abusing drugs and alcohol at the age of 13, according to court documents. Chung believes she began acting out after learning of the abuse she suffered as a child.
“Chrissy was told by a family member about the abuse that had happened to her when she was a baby,” Chung told producers. “At that point there really was a difference in Chrissy. She changed.”
Christine dropped out of high school at 16. She fought with her adoptive parents and later moved in with Chung. While still a teenager, she became pregnant and had a daughter.
Then, when Christine was 18, she had an ill-fated reunion with her birth mother.
“Teresa told her once they got back in contact that she hated her and she never wanted her and there was a physical altercation where Chrissy’s birth mom attacked her physically,” Chung told producers.
Teresa was arrested for assault, and due to a prior conviction, she spent nearly two years in prison, McLean Chronicle, a local newspaper, reported in 2017. Despite the disaster of their last encounter, after her release, Teresa and her daughter, who was 23 at the time, made yet another attempt at rekindling their relationship. It would be the final try.
On the evening of July 2, 2017, a couple on a nature walk in Funks Grove, Illinois came across the body of a dead woman.
“I would like to report a possible dead body found out by the Maple Grove Nature preserve. It looks like a female with just like blood all over her chest,” a man can be heard saying on tapes of a 911 call obtained by “Snapped.”
An autopsy revealed over a dozen stab wounds to the victim’s neck and chest, including two which pierced the heart. She had also been strangled and showed evidence of blunt-force trauma to the back of the head, according to the Associated Press in 2018.
On July 3, Teresa’s father called the McLean County Sheriff’s Department and said the dead woman's description matched that of his daughter. Once the body was identified, detectives raced to uncover what happened to Teresa.
Detectives learned Teresa had been staying at a Days Inn in Bloomington, Illinois. In Teresa's room, detectives found drug paraphernalia.
“There were items collected that were indicative of heroin usage,” McLean County Sheriff’s Detective Cory Beverlin told producers.
In reviewing the hotel’s security footage, detectives observed Teresa and Christine on the evening of July 1, 2017. Teresa was wearing the same clothes she was found dead in. A man identified as 20-year-old Matthew Isbell visited Christine's room she had personally rented that night. Then, at 2:15 a.m., Teresa, Christine, and Isbell were seen leaving the hotel. Two hours later, they returned without Teresa.
Christine spoke to detectives on July 5, and claimed she and Isbell had dropped her mother off in the nearby town of Heyworth, Illinois. Detectives then contacted Isbell at his job. When asked what happened on the night of July 1, he simply claimed he couldn’t remember.
This vague information wasn't enough for detectives. On July 7, Isbell and Christine were brought in for questioning. When asked about her mother’s murder, Christine proclaimed her innocence and requested a lawyer.
Isbell, however, changed his story from his initial statement, and noting numerous inconsistencies, detectives hammered away at him until he finally admitted the truth.
Isbell said he and Christine were hanging out in her hotel room that night, and Teresa arrived later, intoxicated and belligerent. Christine then told Isbell they had to "take care of her mom because she was going to turn her in for prostitution," The Pantagraph reported in 2017.
“Teresa was preparing to report her to DCFS [Illinois Department of Healthcare & Family Services] for acting as an escort which was going to prevent her from obtaining custody of her daughter in this long, drawn-out custody dispute that she’s been having,” Beverlin explained to producers.
Isbell claimed the trio left the hotel to get alcohol, and afterward, they drove to Funks Grove. Chrissy and Teresa got out of the car, at which point Chrissy struck her mother in the head with a crowbar.
“Chrissy puts Teresa in a chokehold and drags her to the ground until she stops moving. After Teresa’s lifeless body is laying on the ground, Chrissy drags Teresa off into the woods,” David Fritts, an attorney, told producers.
Isbell later told detectives where to find the crowbar Christine used to strike her mother. Blood was also found on the inside of his truck and on a shirt belonging to Christine, according to the McLean Chronicle.
Christine and Isbell were arrested and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Teresa Poehlman.
One of the most incriminating pieces of evidence was a message found on Christine's phone that showed on the night of the murder she had texted a friend, “I’m killing my bio piece of s--t tonight,” according to court records.
Christine pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in December 2017. She was sentenced to 40 years in prison on Jan. 31, 2018, WJBC a radio station in Bloomington, Illinois reported.
Because he had cooperated with investigators, Isbell was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in July 2019 and will be eligible for parole in 2023.
Christine Roush will first be eligible for parole in 2057, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. She will be 62 years old then.
For more information on this case and others like it, tune in to "Snapped" on Oxygen on Sundays at 6/5c or stream any time on Oxygen.com.
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