Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Harvey Robinson: Adolescent Serial Killer

Background

Dieruff High School
Dieruff High School

Robinson is multiracial, although he normally passed for white, and his half-black, half-Hispanic father, who was dead, had once been convicted of manslaughter.  For that, he served a seven-year prison term. The man had frequently gotten drunk and quarreled with Barbara Brown, Robinson's mother, sometimes hitting her.  (Robinson denied having been physically abused himself.)  His parents divorced when he was three years old and he remained with his mother, although one source indicates that he idealized his father and occasionally saw him.  Robinson's older stepbrother had also gone to prison.

Robinson had been an impulsive child with little ability to focus, a great deal of moodiness and a hair-trigger temper.  He was nine years old when he was first arrested, and over the next eight years, he piled up a dozen more arrests, mostly for theft and property crimes.  He fought with authority figures, had a history of substance abuse, and had been diagnosed with conduct disorders that were precursors to an adult antisocial personality disorder. 

The family frequently changed its residence, but Robinson spent many years on and off in different juvenile facilities. Due in part to his undisciplined behavior, he was to repeat the first grade.  "I was very hyper," he would later say. "I was always disruptive."  He once assaulted a male middle-school teacher who was assigned to watch emotionally disturbed youths in the classroom, and female teachers reportedly felt threatened by Robinson.  He was fifteen when he committed his first known burglary, and two years later, he became a rapist and murderer.

Yet he did have his good points.  At Dieruff High School, he wrestled, participated in cross-country sports, and played soccer and football, receiving trophies for his skill and ability.  He was also a good student, excelling academically and earning awards for his essays.  Some teachers believed he showed promise, even though he would need a great deal of support and guidance.  But awards and trophies are difficult to reconcile with the rash of multiple rapes and brutally violent murders.

 

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