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Worker charged in assault, robbery of 72-year-old woman

November 26, 1998|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W. Va. - A migrant orchard worker has been charged in the October assault and robbery of a 72-year-old woman at the Tanger Outlets, according to court records.

An arrest warrant was issued Tuesday in Berkeley County Magistrate Court charging Joseph M. Roberts, 45, with unaggravated robbery.

He hit a woman in an outlet's bathroom shortly after noon on Oct. 21, 1998, and took $150 in cash from her, according to allegations contained in court records.

Martinsburg City Police Sgt. George Swartwood said the victim, a Myersville, Md., resident, suffered facial bruises and contusions in the attack.

Police initially questioned Roberts after the robbery, when it was discovered he had been at a walk-in clinic near the Tanger Outlet, according to court records.

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He gave police a false name and denied the robbery, but according to court records allowed police to take a photograph of him to show the victim, the records allege.

The victim did not identify Roberts as her assailant when shown the photo, according to court records.

Further investigation led police to reinterview Roberts after the woman said her assailant had mentioned a bottle of hot sauce during the incident, according to court records.

Workers at the clinic had told police Roberts was seen carrying a bottle in his pocket while in the clinic on the day of the assault, according to court records.

He admitted to the robbery and assault when police interviewed him a second time and police asked the woman to make another identification attempt from a police videotape of Roberts questioning, according to allegations in court records.

Swartwood said police did not arrest Roberts at the time, because the case was still under investigation.

When shown the police videotape on Nov. 9, the woman said it was possible the man on the tape was her attacker and the woman's husband said Roberts looked "very familiar," according to court records.

Roberts, however, had left the Falling Waters, W. Va., migrant camp where he had been living, according to court records. Swartwood said he believes Roberts has moved out of the area.

The woman told police she was in a stall in the Tanger Outlet women's restroom when she saw a pair of "dirty white sneakers" standing outside, according to court records. The woman asked what the person wanted and was told the person had returned for a bottle of sauce that had been left behind, according to court records.

The woman told police something was thrown over her head when she opened the stall door and she was struck several times in the face, according to court records. The man asked the woman for money, taking $150 in cash and giving an unspecified amount of cash back to the woman, according to court records.

Ignoring his orders to stay in the bathroom, the woman followed her attacker outside and began screaming, according to court records. The woman's husband chased the suspect across the parking lot, but lost track of him when the man crossed West King Street, according to court records.

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