Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John E. Robinson, Sr.: The Slavemaster

Hard Evidence

The task force arrived at the La Cygne ranch and found the place barren and overrun. There was a large pond surrounded by marsh grass that was home to hundreds of snakes. The main building was an old mobile home with windows covered with black plastic wrap. Near the trailer was a rickety pole barn with a dirt floor, where the team began its search.

They dug up the ground in the barn while divers plumbed the depths of the algae-filled pond. The only item of interest found in the water was an old pickup truck, but running the vehicle identification revealed it had been left in the water by a former property owner. The searchers in the barn were having similar luck, while crime scene investigators went over the trailer in excruciating detail.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation brought in cadaver-sniffing dogs who went over the property, noses to the ground in search of a scent. When the dogs went around the side of the pole barn, where two yellow, 85-gallon chemical drums stood in overgrown weeds, they sniffed, stopped and sat down facing the drums -- the sign that they had sensed something.

One of the agents who testified at Robinson's trial recalled the moment when the drums were moved and investigators realized what they had.

"It was horrendous," said Sgt. Rick Roth about the scene. Prying the lid off the first drum, investigators were physically thrown back by the smell of decayed flesh. In the barrel, sitting in about a foot of fluid that had once been body fat, was the corpse of a young woman. The body was so decomposed that it was impossible to identify her at the scene and eventually medical examiners used dental records to identify Suzette Trouten. Back at the county morgue, the second barrel was opened and Izabela Lewicka's remains were found in a similar state.

Across the state line in Missouri, other members of the task force were serving a search warrant on a storage facility where Robinson rented two garages. This time, investigators knew what to look for. In one of the garages, they found three similar chemical drums. There was cat litter on the floor of the garage, which Robinson had placed there to absorb fluid from the leaking containers and to try to minimize the smell of death that hovered. It would take several days, but eventually the M.E. was able to identify these bodies as Beverly Bonner and Sheila and Debbie Faith.

All five women were killed in the same way, by one or two blows to their head. The attacks left two-inch holes in their skulls, and the coroner said death was almost immediate in each case. The method of murder left no doubt in anyone's mind that the killings were all premeditated and that none had occurred as a result of sex play that had gone too far.

Even with the bodies, investigators continued their search for evidence. They obtained permission to examine the apartment where Lewicka stayed while she was Robinson's slave. The landlord later testified that the living room of the apartment was dusty and unkempt when Robinson moved Izabela's furniture out, but that the bedroom looked as if it had been scrubbed clean and possibly painted. When crime scene technicians applied the chemical Luminol to the walls and illuminated them with ultraviolet light, the blood spatters reappeared as if the walls had never been cleaned.

Although no sign of the bodies of Paula Godfrey or Lisa Stasi was found, in Robinson's home authorities found copies of a hotel receipt with Lisa's name on it and a typewriter that matched the type face of the letter Paula sent to police. Other evidence revealed the shocking fact that John Robinson had sold Tiffany Stasi to his unwitting brother.

John Edward Robinson Sr
John Edward Robinson Sr

Armed with the physical evidence, Morrison increased the charges against Robinson from theft and sexual battery to three counts of murder. Because Lisa Stasi was killed before Kansas reinstated the death penalty, just the charges involving Lewicka and Trouten were capital crimes. In Missouri, prosecutors filed three more capital murder charges against Robinson.

From their place in seclusion, Robinson's family released a statement that denied any knowledge of his deeds and said they were unable to explain the two different men the world knew as John Robinson.

"While we do not discount the information that has and continues to come to light, we do not know the person whom we have read and heard about on TV," the family said in a statement. "The John Robinson we know has always been a loving and caring father."

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