Cathy Stroup, James Stroup: Hawthorne, California, Mother’s Murder On ‘Betrayed’–‘Blood In The Water’


The Cathy Stroup and James Stroup murder-for-hire-story will play out on ID’s crime show Betrayed. Cathy Stroup, also known as Catherine Stroup, was found dead in her desert home in Hawthorne, California, in 1983. Investigation Discovery’s producers will interview those close to the case. For a long time, police and Cathy Stroup’s daughter, Cheryl Lynn Stroup Seawright, thought her father, James Stroup, murdered her mother.


It took investigators years to unravel the story, which led to the arrest of Cathy Stroup’s son-in-law Michael Seawright, her daughter’s husband, and the assassins he hired Peter Leach and Paul Leach. Tonight’s Betrayed episode is titled “Blood in the Water.”


Betrayed: “Blood in the Water” Episode on ID

A strong Irish mother is murdered after she uncovers some shocking information regarding the family business’ shaky finances.


True Crime: Cathy Stroup and James Stroup Murder Case

The body of Cathy Stroup, age 45, was found dead in her apartment at 3555 W. Rosecrans Ave on April 5, 1983. When investigators arrived, they found she had been shot to death multiple times. She was part owner of the business called S and S Water Co, along with her husband, James ‘Jim’ Stroup.


Neighbors told California detectives they’d heard arguing in the apartment shortly before the woman was gunned down. Suspicion swooped down on her husband, Jim Stroup, a man described as a bar-drinking cheater. His own daughter, Cheryl Lynn Stroup Seawright, believed her father killed her mother. Later, he was arrested and stayed in jail for a year before he was acquitted. Cathy Stroup’s murder was left unsolved for a decade until evidence pointed police to her son-in-law Michael Seawright, who police say wanted control of the family business, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Michael Seawright ran the family-owned company for James Stroup, who continued to work another job to keep the business expenses paid. Things shifted after Cathy Stroup became suspicious about the company’s finances and decided to investigate. After she examined the money books, she believed Michael Seawright was stealing from them.


Police say what happened next could be the subject of a movie. Michael Seawright hired two hit men: Peter Alan Leach, 22, and Paul Curtis Leach, 21, to enter the desert apartment and kill the businesswoman. All three were sentenced to time in prison.




April 5, 1983–Cathy Stroup is found deceased.

July 1984–The Leach Brothers are arraigned for the murder of Cathy Stroup.

October 1988–Police start looking at Michael Seawright’s involvement. He is not charged.

Peter Leach, the trigger-man in the killing, is finally convicted.

April 1992–Murder trial of Michael Seawright begins nine years later. They say he’s the mastermind.

July 1992–The jury deadlocks. Trial ends in a hung jury.

June 1993–Prosecutors retry the case and head back to trial.

August 1993–Michael Seawright is found guilty and given life in prison.


Tidbit: The killer used a heart-shaped pillow to deaden the sound of the shots.


To find out what happened to the killers and about the movie that inspired the case, read our next article, which also includes an interview, Traciy Curry-Reyes, conducted with James Jim Stroup. Betrayed’s “Blood in the Water” episode airs tonight at 10/9 p.m. Central on Investigation Discovery Channel.
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[Main image via Investigation Discovery Press/Permission Use Granted]

Traciy Curry-Reyes

Traciy Curry-Reyes is the founder and editor-in-chief of TV Crime Sky. She began her career as a true crime & entertainment freelance writer in the 1990's for her website, The Movies Based on True Stories Database/Archives. She has contributed content to other websites, such as and Traciy also appears as a true-crime expert and commentator on TV One's Fatal Attraction, For My Man, and Justice by Any Means; Investigation Discovery's Murder Calls and Scorned; Oxygen's Snapped; FOX's Crime Watch Daily; and Lifetime Television's Killer Kids.