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Archive for Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Barrel bodies suspect guilty

John E. Robinson Sr. convicted; jurors to weigh death penalty

October 30, 2002

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— Jurors found John E. Robinson Sr. guilty Tuesday in the deaths of three women, including two whose bodies were found stuffed in barrels on his rural Linn County property.

Robinson was convicted of two counts of capital murder for the deaths of Suzette Trouten, 27, of Newport, Mich., and Izabela Lewicka, 21, a former Purdue University student and Polish immigrant from West Lafayette, Ind.

Both women met Robinson over the Internet and came to Kansas on the promise of jobs and to become sex slaves in sadomasochistic relationships with Robinson.

Robinson also was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1985 death and disappearance of Lisa Stasi, 19, whose body has never been found.

Robinson, 58, of Olathe, stood in the courtroom with his attorneys as the verdicts were read, but he showed little emotion. His daughter, Christy Shipps, who was the only one of his family members in the room, left without commenting to reporters.

Stasi's family members said they were pleased with the verdict.

"I'm just glad that he's held responsible for his actions. We're just very gratified," her aunt, Karen Moore, said.

Kathy Klinginsmith, Stasi's sister-in-law, was the last family member to see her alive.

"It was real overwhelming for me. I knew in 1985 he murdered my sister-in-law," Klinginsmith said.

Trouten's family left the courthouse without commenting to reporters. None of Lewicka's family members were in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

Attorneys were unable to comment because of a gag order.

Death penalty possible

Jurors were to take today off before the penalty phase begins at 9 a.m. Thursday. They must decide whether Robinson will receive the death penalty or serve a so-called "Hard 50" sentence life in prison without possibility for parole for 50 years.

Defense attorneys were expected to present evidence that Robinson suffered from a mental disease.

Judge John Anderson III said he expected jurors to begin deliberating Robinson's penalty this weekend.

Jurors, who had been sequestered during deliberations, were allowed to go home Tuesday night.

Jurors also found Robinson guilty of interfering with the parental custody of Stasi's 4-month-old daughter, Tiffany, and of arranging her illegal adoption to his younger brother.

The girl was raised as Heather Tiffany Robinson in the Chicago area and is now 18.

Robinson also has been charged in the deaths of three women found in Raymore, Mo., storage locker rented by Robinson. The victims were discovered June 5, 2000, and have been identified as Beverly Bonner, 49, of Cameron, Mo.; Sheila Faith, 45, and her paraplegic daughter, Debbie, 16, both formerly of California.

Jurors also found Robinson guilty of stealing $700 in sex toys owned by a psychologist with whom he had a brief sadomasochistic encounter in April 2000.

Graphic evidence

Prosecutors presented more than 100 witnesses and hundreds of pieces of evidence during their 14-day case. That evidence included numerous witnesses who confirmed the sadomasochistic sex elements of the case linking Robinson with Trouten and Lewicka.

Jurors, in addition to seeing gruesome autopsy photographs, watched a 39-minute video of Robinson and Trouten engaged in sadomasochistic sex at a Johnson County hotel.

Prosecutors also presented evidence that Robinson cashed thousands of dollars in alimony payments intended for Bonner and more than 100 Social Security death benefit checks intended for the Faiths. Investigators said the scheme began in 1994 and continued until Robinson's arrest in June 2000.

The investigation into Robinson began in March 2000 when Trouten's family became concerned for her well being. Carolyn Trouten, the victim's mother, said she received letters that did not sound like her daughter. She contacted Kansas officials.

Authorities also had investigated the disappearance of several other Kansas City-area women who disappeared in the 1980s and had alleged connections to Robinson. However, no bodies or substantial evidence had been found to link Robinson to the women, and no charges were ever filed.

Robinson's criminal history dates to his first conviction in 1969 at age 25 for embezzling $33,000 from his employer. Robinson received a suspended sentence and was placed on probation.

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