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Robinson given life for murder

May 12, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Standing before a Washington County Circuit Court judge Tuesday, a Hagerstown man with a third-grade education stared blankly as he was sentenced to life in prison for killing 87-year-old John Roy Ward in June 2002.

Robert Steven Robinson, 43, formerly of 12463 Gateway Ave., west of Hagerstown, pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony murder after the state said it would drop its pursuit of a life sentence without parole. The state also dropped seven other charges in connection with Ward's murder and an unrelated theft charge in exchange for Robinson's plea.

Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III, after painstakingly questioning Robinson about his comprehension of the proceedings, accepted the man's guilty plea and sentenced him to life in prison.

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Robinson, who has been held at Washington County Detention Center since his arrest, had been found competent to stand trial prior to the Tuesday hearing, which had been set for motions.

Ward's only daughter, Sharon Blickenstaff, extended an emotional thanks to police investigators before telling the court that her father had led a rough life.

"You all know a great deal about Mr. Robinson, but you know nothing about my father except that he was 87 years old and was found lying in a pool of blood," she said.

Ward bought his 12205 Huyetts Lane home in 1942 before he went off to fight in World War II, she said.

Shortly after 7 a.m. on July 1, 2002, Blickenstaff and her husband reported to Maryland State Police that they found Ward lying face down in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor of his home, Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion aid.

Blickenstaff said she blamed herself for believing that her father would be safe in his own home. Ward knew "every bump on the floor" of his house, she said.

"He survived the Depression, he survived World War II in the South Pacific campaign, but he couldn't survive being 87 years old and living in this county. And that's wrong," Blickenstaff said.

A July 2 autopsy revealed Ward had been stabbed multiple times in the back and had major blunt force trauma to his head, Cirincion said. It was determined that Ward was killed about 7 p.m. on June 30.

Cirincion said Robinson was seen June 30 at 5:42 p.m. at Crossroads Liquor Store, near Ward's home, buying a 22-ounce bottle of beer and was seen again at the store at 6:20 p.m. buying two more beers. She said a surveillance tape at the store showed Robinson driving his brown Chevrolet Chevette in the direction of Ward's home about 6:45 p.m.

The morning after Ward's murder, Robinson painted his car black, Cirincion said.

A beer bottle found at the crime scene contained evidence of Robinson's DNA, and fingerprints found on a jewelry box and a southeast entrance door to Ward's home matched Robinson's, she said.

Cirincion said Robinson tried to sell expensive lawn equipment taken from Ward's home.

She said Robinson has a lengthy criminal record dating to 1979 in Martinsburg, W.Va., and has had several charges against him in Hagerstown, most of them related to theft.

One of Robinson's attorneys, Bryon C. Black, an appointed public defender, told Wright that "no less than 21 members" of Robinson's family are mentally retarded. He said Robinson has an I.Q. of 59 and began drinking at age 11.

The average I.Q. is 90 to 109, and those who score below 69 are considered mentally retarded, said Cheryl Strong, Washington County Public Schools' student services director, who oversees special education and guidance in the school system.

Robinson, a short, stocky man with a shaved head, who was wearing a white T-shirt and dark green pants, was given the opportunity to say something, but he appeared bewildered.

"No apologies? No nothing?" Wright asked.

Robinson stared ahead as Wright sentenced him to prison for "the remainder of his natural life.

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