Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Darren O'Neall

'Rockin' Robin

Nearly two months after the attack on the young Oregon girl, in March 1987, O'Neall met attractive Mary Barnes at Baldy's Tavern in Puyallup, where Barnes worked part-time as a barmaid. Baldy's soon became one of O'Neall's favorite haunts, and he began going there almost daily. Attracted to O'Neall's ruggedness, the two instantly hit it off and Barnes soon moved into O'Neall's apartment. Barnes satisfied him sexually at first, but after a couple of weeks he began to fantasize about the perfect woman he wanted for himself, a woman he hoped he could take back into the woods and live out the rest of his life with. It was just a fantasy, of course, one of many that he got from reading Louis L'Amour's western novels.

Early on Saturday morning, March 28, shortly past midnight, O'Neall began eyeing a beautiful young woman from across the bar. Soon afterward his fantasy state took hold, and he immediately felt certain that he had found the perfect woman he'd been looking for in Robin Smith, 22, at Baldy's Tavern. He found Smith, at 5-foot-3, 115 pounds with blue eyes and blond hair, very attractive. But there was a problem, one that O'Neall became starkly aware of almost immediately. Robin was with her fiance, Larron Crowston, 23, however, and did not actually meet O'Neall until later that morning at his apartment. O'Neall, it turned out, had decided early that he had to find a way to separate Smith from Crowston, and shortly before the tavern closed that morning he persuaded Barnes to announce to the tavern patrons that everyone was invited to his place for an "after hours" party. A small crowd, including Smith and Crowston, accompanied O'Neall and Barnes to their apartment, where the drinking continued non-stop into the morning.

At 5 a.m. Crowston suddenly left the party, citing a previously planned fishing trip with friends that he had committed himself to, but there was the question of how Robin would get home. Robin didn't want to leave the party yet, but Crowston could not wait any longer or he would miss the fishing boat. After being assured by O'Neall and Barnes that they would see to it that Robin got home safely, Crowston kissed his fiancée goodbye. He didn't know it, but it would be the last time he ever saw Robin.

****

Robin Pamela Smith was born in New Britain, Connecticut, on April 4, 1965, to Edna and Stuart Smith. A tiny baby, not much larger than a child's doll, Robin weighed a mere four pounds, four ounces. Her mother described her as a good baby, which, in any mother's language, translates into a quiet baby, and the placidity that followed her into adolescence and adulthood would be but one of several traits for which she would be remembered. Somewhat prissy as a little girl, she borrowed her sisters' clothes all the time, and these, too, were characteristics that she would carry with her into young adulthood.

Edna Smith (Gary C. King)
Edna Smith
(Gary C. King)

Robin's mother, Edna, grew up in New Britain, having moved there when she was five, and she lived there for approximately 25 years. Later, after marrying Stuart, her second husband, and giving birth to Robin, Edna and her family moved to Meriden, Connecticut, where they lived on Crown Street for 12 years and made their living for a while by operating a restaurant and bar. Shortly after Robin's 12th birthday, the Smiths decided to leave New England. After considerable soul searching and planning, they packed up their belongings and moved to the state of Washington, leaving behind their friends and relatives to start a new life in the Pacific Northwest.

Robin Smith at age 11 (Edna Smith)
Robin Smith at age
11
(Edna Smith)

Although Robin was considered a generally serene and private teenage girl, she liked to dance. While growing up she often was affectionately called "Rockin' Robin" by her friends, a nickname that was inspired by the old Michael Jackson song bearing that same title, because she always rocked and danced to the music on the radio. But Robin was no rocker at all, at least not in the true sense of the word. She liked to listen to the tunes and move to the beat, but she was not lost in the world of rock 'n' roll. She liked other music as well, as long as it pleased her ear and she could dance to it.

On the surface Robin, in her youngest years, was not always perceived as a friendly child, as often happens to people who are shy. People often mistake shyness for coldness or aloofness, when it is usually nothing of the sort. Deep down, Robin was really a very warm and loving young girl who was devoted to her family and friends. Although beheld by some in her later teenage years as a happy-go-lucky girl, those closest to Robin knew her as being quieter and more reserved than many young girls her age. The shyness, say members of her family, never really left her, and it always took some doing for anyone even to get to know her. She consistently moved slowly with new acquaintances, especially males, perhaps because of the pain that she had watched her mother go through during the trauma of divorce. It was only after Robin had become comfortable with someone that she would open up and talk to them, and even then only rarely would she reveal her innermost feelings and secrets to anyone outside her immediate family.

 

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