Although Russell Armstrong's mid-August death was ruled a suicide, grieving family members of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star suspect foul play.
"We want a murder investigation," Armstrong's mother, John Ann Hotchkiss, told Us Weekly. "We will do whatever is necessary to proceed."
Russell, the estranged husband of Taylor Armstrong, was found hanging from an electrical cord tied to an exposed beam in a private L.A. home Aug. 15. He was 47 and left behind three children.
Although his grieving mom acknowledges that Russell was "feeling a little overwhelmed because of finances" (he had been accused of defrauding investors, amid other woes), Hotchkiss insisted he was never suicidal.
"Russell was personable and warm and had a giving heart more than anyone I have ever known," she said. "He cared about people, and loved his children almost to a fault. Knowing him as a person and how he valued life, I don't think he would do this,” she said.
"The general consensus of everyone we know who loved and knew Russell," she explained, is that "he was murdered and there was a set up."
Hotchkiss didn't go into further detail about her late son's potential killer. "No one is accusing Bravo. We think someone conspired to have him murdered and it is open as to who did it."
Still, she faults reality TV for damaging Russell and Taylor's marriage beyond repair. "If they hadn't been signed up for the show, I honestly believe in the bottom of my heart they would still be together," she said of the "emotionally brutal show."
Bravo had no comment when reached by Us.
Russell's family had a memorial service last Friday in his native Texas. (After his remains were cremated, his ashes were divided between Taylor, 40, and his parents; some of his ashes were interred in the family plot.)
"It went beautifully. It was lovely, low key and a good attendance."
Meanwhile, Hotchkiss was put off by Monday's second-season premiere of RHOBH.
"[It] was a total slap in the face," she said. "It just showed how superficial and shallow [Bravo] is…they don't care about anyone. They just care about ratings."
Still, she was touched by Kyle Richards' and Camille Grammer's demeanor during the special sit-down segment that started off the show. "I thought Kyle was kind and I appreciate what she said. It was as kind as those ladies can be in that atmosphere. And Camille was her usual reserved, lady-like manner," she said.
Hotchkiss also hopes that her late son is not featured in any way as the show's second season progresses. "I don't want his name mentioned. I don't care how it affects the show."
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