Wendy Rittenhouse is the mother of the Antioch, Illinois, teenager, Kyle Rittenhouse, who is on trial for the shooting deaths of two men in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the wounding of a third.
A single mother who has worked as a nurse’s assistant, Rittenhouse’s mom has defended him in interviews. She was controversially at his side when he was photographed with members of the Proud Boys organization in a Wisconsin bar, but his attorneys say he is not affiliated with that group. As such, Wendy Rittenhouse has emerged as a controversial figure who has repeatedly given interviews to advance her son’s defense.
Kyle Rittenhouse was found not guilty by a Kenosha jury of all charges on November 19, 2021. Read more about the verdict here.
During dramatic testimony on the witness stand on November 10, Kyle Rittenhouse explained that his father lived in Kenosha, which is why he was in that city, in addition to working in the area as a lifeguard. Rittenhouse broke into tears when testifying about the first shooting, of Joseph Rosenbaum, who was chasing him into a corner, video shows. His mother was present in court and also was sobbing during that testimony.
Watch Rittenhouse’s emotional testimony here.
Kyle Rittenhouse was a supporter of police who filled his Facebook page with pictures of guns and law enforcement advocacy; his lawyers say he went to Kenosha to protect people and property, but prosecutors have charged him with criminal homicide and other serious charges. Rittenhouse shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz. His lawyers are claiming self defense.
Through it all, Wendy Rittenhouse has emerged as a controversial figure because of Kyle’s age and her comments on the case; he was only 17 years old when the shootings occurred, although he is being tried as an adult. His jury trial began on Monday, November 1, 2021.
The shootings broke out on August 25, 2020, during Kenosha, Wisconsin, unrest over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Blake, 29, survived the August 23, 2020, shooting by Kenosha police and is paralyzed, his family’s lawyer has said. The officer who shot Blake was later cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Kenosha County district attorney.
Read the full criminal complaint against Kyle Rittenhouse here.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rittenhouse’s Mother Has Worked in Healthcare; Divorced From Kyle’s Dad, Wendy Rittenhouse Once Sought an Order of Protection When Kyle Was Threatened by a Classmate
Rittenhouse’s mother’s Facebook page indicated she works in health care and is a law enforcement supporter. Her name is sometimes given as Wendy Lewis but was given in court as Wendy Rittenhouse. The Washington Post described her as a single mom and nurse’s assistant.
According to Forbes, she is “a single mother of three,” who says she slept late the day of the shootings “after a 16-hour shift as a nursing assistant.”
She previously sought “an order of protection from police in January 2017, claiming that a classmate of her son’s had been threatening him and calling him ‘dumb’ and ‘stupid,'” The Post reported.
Heavy reached out to Wendy Lewis/Rittenhouse for comment through her Facebook page but hasn’t heard back.
According to The Washington Post, Kyle Rittenhouse was a “high school dropout who viewed law enforcement officers as his personal heroes.” However, the Chicago Tribune reported it wasn’t clear if Rittenhouse attended school. He attended Lakes Community High School in 2017-18 but is no longer enrolled and went to Lake Villa School for one semester in 2017, the newspaper reported.
A profile in the New Yorker reported that Wendy is divorced from Kyle’s father, Mike Rittenhouse, whom she married in 2000. They had three children, including Faith and McKenzie.
Mike was a machine operator who struggled with alcohol and drugs and unemployment and was accused of domestic battery against Wendy, but he denied the charges, which were later dismissed, according to The New Yorker, which said Wendy and her kids lived in a homeless shelter for a time.
According to The New Yorker, Mike is now sober and wants to be more connected to his family, but Wendy continued to struggle financially, even being evicted. She is dyslexic and has had health issues, The New Yorker reported, so Kyle, as a teen, worked jobs to help support the family.
2. Rittenhouse & His Mom Discussed Social Media in the Hours Right After the Shootings; She Was With Him When He Posed With Members of the Proud Boys Group
According to The Chicago Tribune, Rittenhouse and his mother “fixated on social media comments about them” after the shootings.
Video filmed at the Antioch police station captured those moments after Kyle turned himself in.
His mother was present, according to The Tribune, and she said he needed a lawyer, but he responded, “Can you stop talking, Mom?”
Wendy said that police were trying to reach his father and told Kyle he was a “train wreck,” putting her head in her hands. She started swearing about posts on Facebook, saying that people were calling Kyle a “piece of sh**” and her a “piece of sh** mother.”
She told him to deactivate Snapchat.
At age 18, in January 2021, Kyle and his mother went to Pudgy’s Pub in Mount Pleasant after he was arraigned in court, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which says he “had three beers.”
While there, he posed with men associated with the Proud Boys group and made the “OK” sign, which is a hand signal associated with white supremacy, according to The Kenosha News, which reported that he and his mother were accused of meeting Proud Boys in Florida. The defense denied that Rittenhouse was affiliated with the Proud Boys or white supremacy.
Some donations raised in the case were to help Wendy with “living expenses such as food, rent, and health care for her children,” The Journal Sentinel reported.
After he was released on $2 million bail, Wendy told WISN-TV, “”He’s with me, he’s not leaving my side. Kyle is a strong young man, I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
She added, “I wish he would have stayed home, but no one should have never went down to Kenosha. People were rioting, looting, burning down the city.”
She declined to discuss the gun, which prosecutors say he had illegally. “If he did not have that gun, he would have been dead,” his mother said to WISN. “When I heard the charges, I was like, ‘How?’ You look at the videos, it’s all self-defense. My son didn’t go down there to hurt anybody, he was there to help people.”
3. Kyle’s Mother Defended Him in an Interview, Declaring He’s ‘Not a Monster’
Wendy Rittenhouse sat down for a televised interview in which she defended her son, according to ABC 7 Chicago.
“They need to watch the video,” Wendy Rittenhouse said of the people who criticize her son. “He’s not a monster.”
“The last text I sent Kyle was, ‘Where are you at? Are you okay?’ He said, ‘Yes, I am okay. Doing medic.’ That was at like 11:30 and then I fell asleep,” his mother said. “Then I jolted out of my sleep and knew something was wrong. I knew I had to go find him.”
She continued, “If he didn’t have that gun, he would have been dead,” Wendy Rittenhouse said. “Point-blank. It was all self-defense. I saw it. If I wasn’t his mother, I would have said the same thing – it was self-defense. He was chased by a bunch of mob.”
She added, “People need just to watch a video. And they need to go step by step on it. He didn’t, he didn’t do nothing wrong. He was attacked by a mob. The first guy to the second and to the third guy.”
“The police should have helped the businesses out instead of having a 17-year-old kid helping. The police should have been involved with these people that lost their businesses. They should have stepped up,” Wendy said, according to KBTX3.
4. Photos on Wendy Rittenhouse’s Facebook Page Showed Him in a Police Cadet Uniform
Photos on Rittenhouse’s mother’s Facebook page show him in what appears to be a police cadet uniform and a firefighter’s uniform. One picture contains the words, “We Back the Blue” and a heart with a thin blue line flag in it.
A now-deleted Facebook post indicates he was part of the Grayslake-Lindenhurst-Hainesville Public Safety Cadet Program in 2017. A photo shows Rittenhouse participating in a program for youths who showed an interest in law enforcement. Heavy has contacted the police department there for comment. The Washington Post reported that he was in a cadet program through the Antioch Fire Department and the Grayslake Police Department and also worked as a YMCA lifeguard.
In 2018, according to the Post, he started a Facebook fundraiser for Humanizing the Badge, a nonprofit to “forge stronger relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.”
Rittenhouse’s TikTok page showed in a now-deleted video that he was in the front row at a January rally for President Donald Trump. “Trump rally!” the caption said. It was one of only two videos on his page. The rally was in Des Moines, Iowa. Rittenhouse worked as a lifeguard at a YMCA, according to Buzzfeed.
Trump’s campaign said he had nothing to do with it. “We’re not responsible for the private conduct of people at our rallies any more than … all the crazy people who have been involved with the Obama/Biden campaigns or other things,” Kellyanne Conway said, according to The Tribune.
On a second TikTok page, according to The Chicago Tribune, Rittenhouse posted a “video of himself firing a semi-automatic rifle at a target.” It appears to match the rifle he carried when the shootings unfolded.
5. Rittenhouse’s Facebook Page Was Filled With Pro-Law Enforcement Memes, Blue Lives Matter Support & Gun Photos
Screenshots from Rittenhouse’s Facebook page, which has now been deleted, show that his profile picture indicated support for Blue Lives Matter. It showed Rittenhouse holding a large weapon with the words “Blue Lives Matter” in a circle around him. His Facebook cover photo showed him with a large weapon. The photos were filled with law enforcement graphics, some honoring fallen officers and others showing a thin blue line flag.
People saved the screenshots of his page before it was taken down.
A photo from the suspect’s Facebook page showed him in a thin blue line flag shirt as far back as 2018, when he would have been around age 15.
Another old photo showed him in camouflage as a young kid.
One photo showed him wearing a large weapon and American flag slippers.
He has open Kenosha County traffic cases from August 19 on accusations of speeding on the freeway and operating without a valid license. Those records also give his address as being in Antioch.
According to Dan Lamothe of the Washington Post, Kyle Rittenhouse “attempted to join the Marine Corps in January, but was disqualified from serving after discussing his options with recruiters.” The military didn’t release the reason for the disqualification.