Bodies In The Barrels
John Robinson By Martin Smith
At 10:15 am on Friday, the 2nd of June, 2000, at 36 Monterrey Lane, Santa Barbara Estates, Kansas, two police officers knocked on the door of John Robinson Sr. and told him he was under arrest. He would be later charged with the aggravated sexual battery of two women. His wife, Nancy, would be bought in for questioning but had nothing to offer the investigation.
The next day a team of detectives and forensic investigators set up base on Robinson’s farm. Five large metal barrels would be quickly found with the use of cadaver dogs. When opened, the first barrel would uncover a naked, blindfolded and decomposing body lying face down in the fetal position. A second barrel was opened where another decomposing body would be found. The bodies are removed from the scene and taken to Dr. Donald Pojman for autopsy.
Over the weekend, search warrants would be signed approving a search of two storage lockers owned by Robinson in Raymore. Monday, June 5th ,the task force moved in and opened locker #E2 finding inside 3 barrels each marked “Rendered Pork Fat”. Kevin Winer (Kansas City PD Crime Lab) opens the first barrel, in which he finds, among other items, a shoe, which when picked up has a leg attached to it. Immediately the barrel is resealed. All 3 barrels are taken away for autopsy to Dr. Thomas Young in Jackson County.
The First of Many
That afternoon John Robinson made his first appearance since the discoveries on his property. Wearing standard issue prison orange, Robinson was in Johnson County Courthouse where he would here that his bond was being raised to $5 million. Tuesday afternoon at another press conference DA Chris Koster would announce that each of the 3 barrels found in the storage locker would contain a female body. Wednesday morning, one of the bodies would be named as Suzette Trouten, who has been missing since March 1st 2000. On June 12th ,Beverley Bonner would be named as the first of the three bodies found in the storage locker barrels.
The next day, June 13th, John Robinson was charged with 5 counts of first degree murder for the bodies found in Kansas and Missouri. The death penalty would be sought by both states. In Johnson County District Court, Kansas, Robinson is formally charged with 2 counts of murder for the deaths of Suzette Trouten and Izabela Lewicka in addition to the kidnapping (aggravated) of Suzette. In Cass County, John Robinson was charged with the murders of Beverly Bonner and the 2 still unidentified women found in the storage locker. They would be identified in late June via their dental records as Sheila Faith and her disabled daughter Debbie.
John Edward Robinson was born in the Chicago suburb of Cicero on December 27th 1943, born the third of five children to his parents Henry and Alberta. At twelve years old, encouraged by his father, he joined the Boy Scouts and by 1957 he was named eagle scout. He was chosen as the sole American representative to lead 120 boy scouts at the Royal Command Performance in London in front of Queen Elizabeth II. At age 21, he married Nancy Lynch, but soon left Chicago, after being accused of embezzling money from the hospital where he worked, ending up in Kansas.
In 1969, John Robinson was arrested for embezzling over $100,00 from his latest employer, Fountain Plaza X-Ray Laboratory. In August he was found guilty of embezzling $33,000, receiving a suspended sentence and placed on probation for 3 years. In 1971 and several more cases of theft from employers, Robinson set up his own business but would continue forging documents to pay for his growing family.
This would peak in 1975 when John Robinson was caught forging signatures and letters attempting to claim thousands of dollars via a shares scam. But an investigation into Robinson’s company by the US Securities and Exchange Commission led to a 4 count indictment for securities fraud, mail fraud and false representation. Robinson was fined $2,500 and placed on 3 years probation.
In 1977, in an effort to raise his public profile John Robinson invented a new award, which he claimed in its first year, he was now Kansas City “Man of the Year”. An award he tricked state senator, Mary Gant, into presenting him with a plaque. The Kansas City Star ran a story about the luncheon in its next edition, however, the paper received numerous protests about the false story resulting in a reporter, Mack Edwards, being sent to investigate the claims. Embarrassed, the Star ran another story exposing Robinson’s criminal history and his guilt in the embezzlement charges.
December 30th 1980 and Robinson was fired from another job, Employee Relation Manager at Guy’s Foods in Liberty – Missouri. In June the following year Robinson was charged with Felony Theft. He was eventually ordered to pay back $50,000 to Guy’s Foods. December 31st and Robinson pleaded guilty to stealing a check worth $6,000. Facing 7 years in jail, John Robinson made a deal with the prosecutor and received 60 days in jail with 5 years probation. His jail time was served from May 8th 1982 before being released in July.
Summer 1984 and John Robinson advertised for a sales representative for his company, Equi-II. Paula Godfrey, a 19 year old graduate, applied for the job and was successful, with Robinson even promising a trip to San Antonio for training. Excited about her prospects, Paula would tell her parents about the job and her employer. September 1st 1984 John Robinson turns up at the Godfrey house to pick up Paula for her San Antonio trip. It was to be the last time Paula would be seen by her family.
With no contact from his daughter after 4 days, Bill Godfrey would fly to San Antonio himself. There he discovered that Paula hadn’t booked into the hotel where she was supposed to be staying. Returning back home Bill confronted Robinson at his offices and demanded that his daughter contact him within 3 days. After 2 days a handwritten letter appeared with a Kansas postmark on it. The letter, supposedly written by Paula, stated that she was safe. Bill Godfrey dismissed the letter as having been written by his daughter and took it directly to the police.
A second handwritten letter would be posted to the Overland Park police department, again reportedly written by Paula. This letter, again posted in Kansas, stated that she was OK, thanking John Robinson for all his help, and also stating that she did not want to see her family again.
Once again Paula’s family dismissed the letter, however the police took the letter as genuine and removed Paula from the list of missing persons.
January 1985 and John Robinson was again allegedly involved in the disappearance of another woman. Lisa Stasi, a 19 year old mother of a little girl, Tiffany, separated from her husband after a short but violent marriage, was staying at Hope House (a shelter for battered women), in Kansas. Her social worker, Cathy Stackpole, met with Lisa to give her good news of a charity organisation willing to help her by offering her a job – with training and a home – rent free as part of their program.
Lisa went to her sister-in-laws house (Kathy Klinginsmith) to await collection by the group. John Robinson soon arrived to pick up Lisa and her baby, Tiffany, and drove away, Lisa promising to return soon to collect the remainder of her things. A few days later, after staying at the Overland Park Rodeway Inn, the threesome booked out on January 10th 1985. Lisa would not be seen again.
Fifteen years later Tiffany would resurface as the adopted niece of John Robinson. On Friday, January 11th ,1985 Robinson met his brother Donald (and his wife Helen) at Kansas City International Airport with their newly adopted daughter, informing them that the mother had unfortunately committed suicide recently. Donald and Helen were unaware of the true story.
On January 13th, Cathy Stackpole received a typed letter from ‘Lisa Stasi’ dated January 10th, stating how grateful she was for their help. Lisa’s mother-in-law, Betty Stasi, would receive a similar letter, but Betty knew that Lisa could not type. A few days later John Robinson would make phone calls asking if anyone had heard from Lisa, claiming that she and her daughter had disappeared from the Inn. At this time Robinson’s probation officer, Steve Haymes, was becoming suspicious of his business dealings after hearing rumors of illegal activities and begins an investigation into their dealings.
Irv Blattner, an assistant (and fellow parolee), to Robinson walked into the Secret Service office in Kansas City on March 19th and offered to turn government witness into Robinson’s activities. The previous week the Secret Service had questioned Robinson about a $741 check which had been illegally cashed by a friend of Robinson. The check was meant for a student named James Hargrove. Blattner believed that Robinson was setting him up to be a fall guy. Special Agent John Guerber asked Blattner about any involvement Robinson had in an organization assisting young women with babies. Blattner would tell the agent of a plan to help pregnant women give birth, then put the babies up for adoption (Blattner refused to be involved in the idea). At the end of the interview Blattner would sign a statement giving details of Robinson’s illegal activities. On March 21st at 11.55 am, John Robinson was again arrested. He would later post a $50,000 bond and be released from custody.
The FBI was involved in the investigation into John Robinson and were interviewing women at the outreach program. Agent Levin had gained evidence that a building used by Robinson’s Equi II business was being used as a brothel. March 26th saw Robinson and his attorney, Bruce Houdek, present at a parole violation meeting held at Missouri State Probation Office. Robinson had to answer counts of parole violation of forgery (illegally cashing the check) and consorting with someone with a criminal record (Irv Blatter). John Robinson denied both charges, claiming it was Blattner who was responsible for the check and also that he was unaware the Blattner was on probation. Steve Haymes was frustrated that it was proving difficult to pin Robinson down with any crimes.
The FBI continued to keep Robinson’s business at Troost Avenue under surveillance. On June 12, while Robinson was away, they moved in. In the apartments they found Theresa Williams, she thanked them for saving her from John Robinson then began to relate her story to the agents. Befriended by Robinson in April of 1985 Robinson led Theresa into prostitution. She also agreed to allow Robinson to become her pimp. As the relationship continued, Robinson began to assault Theresa regularly and soon was able to persuade her into a plot to frame Irv Blattner. John Robinson instructed Theresa to write a diary with dialogue that he gave her, this diary was to culminate in her apparent murder by Irv Blattner on June 15.
John Robinson told Theresa that she would actually be going to the Bahamas. While the FBI was able to take Theresa away from John Robinson, probably saving her life, they did not make any move on Robinson himself. For three weeks following Theresa’s apparent disappearance from Troost Avenue, with the aid of the FBI, Robinson employed a private investigator, Charles Lane, to search for Theresa. On July 10, 1985 she was found. Robinson instructed Charles to monitor the house where she was living to find out the cause of her walking away. However Lane was interviewed by the FBI and Theresa was again moved, this time well away from the reach of John Robinson.
On July 29, 1985 Robinson returned to the courthouse in Clay County to find that he was guilty of breaking the conditions of his parole on 3 counts. On August 21st, Judge Hutcherson ordered that Robinson’s probation be revoked, thereby forcing Robinson to serve the remainder of his 7 year sentence behind bars. An appeal was lodged which allowed Robinson to remain on bail ($250,000) during the appeal process. In May or 1986 at the appeal hearing, Robinson came away with a satisfactory conclusion. The decision was overturned, allowing John Robinson to stay out of jail, albeit on parole.
But it didn’t last long. In January 1986, while on bail pending his appeal hearing, John Robinson was in court defending a charge of felony theft. Robinson’s company, Equi-II, had been commissioned by Back Care Systems International to market their range of products. The plan included publishing brochures to advertise the company. Back Care Systems International became suspicious that the requested work was not being carried out. Robinson forced Irv Blattner to forge invoices, but the trick failed landing Robinson in court.
The three day trial ended on January 30 1986 and resulted in Robinson being found guilty of felony theft to the tune of $3600. The District Attorney for Johnson County, Steve Obermeier, observed Robinson’s criminal past and persuaded the judge to take it into account when sentencing. Judge Herbert Walton agreed with the D.A. and sentenced Robinson to 5-14 years in addition to a fine of $5000. Defense lawyers tried to appeal the decision, but they were denied.
On July 10 1986, John Robinson was charged again. This time on four counts of attempted fraud on a business deal with Gerhard Kuti. Robinson offered Gerhard part ownership on a land agreement, to which he paid Robinson $150,000 for the opportunity, which he later discovered that Robinson had fraudulently modified the sales agreement to read $100,000 and pocketed the remainder.
Despite these additional charges, John Robinson was still out of custody and continued to run his business. In January 1987 he employed Catherine Clampitt as his secretary. The job required Catherine to travel across the country on business on behalf of Robinson. Catherine’s family were mildly suspicious of this opportunity and warned her to be careful. In Spring 1987, Catherine disappeared. She was declared a missing person on June 15th. John Robinson was questioned, but with no clear evidence, the case was dropped.
On May 16 1987, Robinson gave himself in to the Johnson County Jail, the sentence was a minimum of 5 years, he was soon transferred to the Kansas State Penitentiary in Hutchinson as prisoner number 45690. During his stay at the facility, John Robinson suffered a series of strokes, which resulted in the right side of his face partially paralyzed.
On January 23 1991, Robinson had now served the minimum time at Kansas and with his good behavior he was granted parole. However, Robinson was immediately handed over to Missouri prison officials to serve the remainder of his original sentence there after breaking his parole terms. Due to his ill health, Robinson’s sentence would be carried out at Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron. Here he would serve the remainder of his sentence before being released in the spring of 1993.
Beverley Bonner met John Robinson during his time at the Missouri prison. She was responsible for the library in the facility and Robinson was made her assistant. The two became friends. (She and Robinson had actually met 20 years earlier, having worked at the same company in Kansas City).
Once Robinson was released from prison, he offered Beverley the job of running his company Hydro-Glo (which sold organic vegetables). Beverly agreed. Robinson set up a home in Florida. Beverley divorced her husband, Dr William Bonner, after he found out her affair with Robinson. She moved to Florida to be with John, who was still married. Beverley Bonner’s family never saw her again.
Bonnie’s ex-husband would receive the occasional typed letter bearing her signature, telling him that the company was sending her on various assignments around the world, travelling to Australia and across Europe. William never doubted the authenticity of the letters. However, he did think it very odd that in December 1995 Beverley failed to attend the funeral of their eldest son Randy.
In 1994 Sheila Faith (Howell) was 46 when she became smitten by John Robinson, who she first encountered on the internet. She had been depressed since her first husband, John, died in 1991. Sheila was left to raise her 15 year old disabled daughter, Debbie, on her own. Sheila fell deeply in love with her knight in shining armor such that she announced to her friends that she and Debbie were going to move in with him at his home in Kansas. Her friends were shocked by this sudden decision and warned her that it sounded to good to be true. But Sheila would not listen. In the summer of 1994, John Robinson arrived at Sheila’s door to help them move. They were never seen again.
Shortly after they left for Kansas, Sheila’s brother William Howell received the first of many typed letters, signed by Sheila, telling him what a wonderful time she was having. But William was suspicious and asked the social security to track down his sister and niece via the social security checks they were receiving for Debbie’s disability. However, the administrator refused to divulge such information as it was considered private. In Autumn of 1994 the social securities administration received a typed letter signed by Dr. William Bonner informing them that Debbie was now completely disabled and required full time care. This in turn made an increase in the checks payable to Sheila Faith.
Born in Poland, Izabela Lewicka emigrated to America in November 1993 with her family when she was 15. At nineteen, Izabela became involved in the BDSM scene where, in 1997, she made contact with John Robinson over the internet. Within 9 months of the initial contact, Izabela moved away from the family home in Indiana to be near Robinson in Kansas City, where she offered herself as a permanent sex slave. During their time together, Izabela would proudly tell people that Robinson was her husband. however, he would say that she was his cousin.
Izabela often visited Robert Meyers bookstore in Overland Park. She had gone to the store on many occasions previously and could be considered a regular. She and Robert would chat about the books she was purchasing. On July 18, 1999 Izabela made one of her visits to the bookstore. This time she was accompanied by John Robinson whom she announced as her husband, as he purchased some books for her. The pair were about to leave when Izabela mentioned to Robert that she was moving away. That was the last time Robert Meyers saw Izabela. Her parents would receive typed letters from ‘Izabela’ telling them of her adventures around the world.
Suzette Trouten had experienced the BDSM scene for several years, particularly in the Gorean practices, becoming the slave to several masters and using the internet to find willing partners. In 1999 Suzette ‘met’ a man in an internet chat room who went by the name of JR (Robinson) who described himself as a wealthy businessman from Kansas City. After several months of contact by email, JR made a job offer to Suzette to nurse for his diabetic father on a round the world trip. Suzette was very tempted by the offer, but suggested that she spent some time in Kansas meeting both JR and his father before making a decision.
In October 1999, Suzette and JR met. John Robinson managed to persuade some colleagues to pose as various members of his family to entrap Suzette. At the end of the 5 days, Suzette agreed to the job offer and on February 14th of 2000 she moved to Kansas to begin her new life. For the next 2 weeks Suzette rented an apartment on Robinson’s credit card. He would visit regularly explaining that he had some business deals to conclude before she could begin her new career. The pair had regular sex, taking photographs of the moments, which Suzette would email to her friend, Crystal Ferguson. The emails between the two friends would continue long after March 1st, when Suzette actually disappeared. The tact of the emails suddenly changed after that date. Suzette no longer talked about past friendships or events in her life. All correspondence would talk of how good her life is and how happy her boss and new master made her. All the emails were signed ‘Suz’, a nickname she had never used before.
Playing With The Master
Crystal continued to receive emails from ‘Suz’. She explained that because her new master was treating her so well, she wanted Crystal to experience a relationship similar to hers. Crystal was highly suspicious that it was not her friend sending the emails and so, to expose the author, Crystal decided to play along. A man named JT, who advertised himself as a stern but fair master, soon contacted her. Crystal noticed that the email style was very similar to those from ‘Suz’ and suspected that they were from the same person. After a few weeks of playing along with her master JT, Crystal began receiving phone calls from him. Then a second male named Tom began emailing and offering to be Crystal’s master, but again she was suspicious. Tom gave Crystal a series of phone numbers with which he could be contacted at any time. Using a police friend, Crystal had the numbers traced. Each of them led back to John Robinson.
At the end of March, John Robinson called the Trouten household and spoke to Suzette’s mother, Carolyn. He complained that her daughter had let him down. She had run away from him and her job with a man she had only just met and that he hadn’t seen her since. Carolyn’s other daughter, Dawn, contacted Overland police to give them the story and found out that John Robinson was already under investigation there.
Oblivious to any investigation into his businesses, Robinson, in his many guises, continued with his emails to Crystal, attempting to persuade her to visit him in Kansas. On March 29th Crystal was contacted by Detective Jack Boyer of the Lenaxa Police department. He contacted her because of her friendship with Suzette. The detective explained that he was part of a task force investigating the disappearance of her friend. After discussing the case with Crystal, she mentioned the emails she was receiving from ‘Suz’ and the new contacts JT, JR and Tom and her suspicions. Detective Boyer agreed with her thoughts and requested Crystal to continue emailing them but pass copies onto him as well. Crystal said she would.
John Robinson was known to stay at the Extended Stay America hotel in Kansas, in March he stayed for a few days with an unnamed woman. During their stay at the hotel the woman was only seen once asking for photocopies of a document. The desk clerk witnessed the document and was horrified to read that it was a slave contract. Kansas law requires the all hotels provide a list of long stay guests to police. The hotel was sure to notify police as to the document and the owner of it. The visiting detective left instructions to inform police immediately should Robinson return.
In the search for Suzette Trouten, detectives discovered that she and Robinson stayed at the Guesthouse motel in February. Here forensic tests discovered blood stains in the room they rented, but were unable to determine the source. Back at the Extended Stay America hotel an unnamed woman, from Dallas, booked in. Her stay was paid for by Robinson, who soon joined her in room 120 on April 23. The FBI were staking out the hotel, gathering evidence against their suspect.
After 5 days Robinson ordered his slave back to Dallas and be ready to move to Kansas. Robinson promised to help her with the move, but he never turned up. She tried calling Robinson but he was not contactable. He had taken a number of photographs of his ‘slave’ in various bondage poses and she wanted them back. Unable to reach John Robinson, she called the police. Two officers from Lenaxa interviewed the woman. After listening to her story, the detectives talked to the FBI, where, for the first time, they learned of the FBI file on John Robinson that included suspicion of prostitution and white slavery.
On May 19, 2000, John Robinson was again the subject in a complaint from another unnamed slave. As before, Robinson used room 120 at the Extended Stay America. She told detectives that during her stay, John Robinson repeatedly overstepped the ‘safe’ mark. As with the previous women, he beat her and took several photographs. When she complained, Robinson quickly left. The Lenaxa task force, followed by the FBI, interviewed the woman to gain important information about Robinson.
The task force decided that John Robinson was becoming too dangerous and so the decision was made to arrest him. District Attorney Paul Morris approved the arrest warrant and on June 2, 2000 detectives moved in.
The charges against Robinson were increased on July 28th 2000 when he was charged with the murder of Lisa Stasi, who had disappeared in 1985, and the aggravated interference with parental custody in the case of Robinson’s ‘niece’ who is believed to be Lisa’s daughter, Tiffany.
In late January 2001, Missouri prosecutor, Chris Koster, backed up the 3 murder charges with 56 counts of forgery. John Robinson was accused of forging the social security checks intended for Sheila and Debbie Faith. If found guilty of these forgery charges, Robinson could face a 382 year sentence.
Despite a last minute appeal by the defense team, citing slow release of prosecution evidence, the trial of John Edward Robinson Sr. began on September 16th 2002 in the Olathe courtroom of Judge John Anderson III. Robinson’s case was the first in the state to potentially end with a death sentence.
The prosecution, headed by District Attorney Paul J Morrison, had charged Robinson with 8 counts, including the murders of Suzette Trouten; Izabel Lewicka and Lisa Stasi. Morrison had also successfully argued, prior to the trial, that although John Robinson was to be tried separately for the murders of Beverly Bonner and Sheila & Debbie Faith in Missouri, they were so crucial to Robinson’s activities that they can be included as evidence of an ongoing pattern.
On October 8th, testimony began. Outside, in a radio station stunt, t-shirts were being sold with the phrase ‘Roll Out the Barrels’ emblazoned on them. For two weeks, and 100 witnesses, DA Paul Morrison presented his case to the jury. Robinson’s wife, Nancy, testified that she knew that her husband used the alias James Turner and that he was having affairs with other women. She also admitted that Robinson enjoyed a BDSM lifestyle.
Deputy Coroner Donald Pojman described how each woman was killed having received heavy blows to the left hand side of their skull. Each would be instantly killed. However, Izabel Lewicka did not. She somehow survived for a short period of time before succumbing to her injury.
The defense argued that the prosecution case was entirely based on circumstantial evidence. They admitted that evidence presented did link John Robinson to the five women, but not to their deaths, hence the case was not proven. Patrick Berrigan, for the defense, pointed out that no other potential suspects were investigated and that Robinson was the sole focus for the police investigation. Despite the fact that other unknown persons had ample opportunities to have committed the murders, these potential suspects were overlooked.
On October 28th 2002, the testimony ended and the jury began their deliberations. The following day at 3 pm, after only 11 hours of discussion, they returned with a guilty verdict on all charges. John Robinson gave no reaction to the verdict.
Three days later and the penalty phase of the trial began. Under Kansas State Law the options were simple, a life sentence or death by lethal injection. To be sentenced to death the jury must be unanimous in their decision. The defense pleaded for a life sentence, using members of the Robinson family to request mercy. Nancy Robinson once again took the stand. When questioned, she accepted that her husband was guilty because the jury had found him so. The jury however rejected the pleas and announced their decision of death by lethal injection. Once again John Robinson stood to hear the verdict and offered no response. He was taken back to his cell at Johnson County Jail and placed on suicide watch until he received his formal sentencing. Meanwhile, his defense lawyers filed an appeal against the verdict. The appeal was rejected when, on January 21st 2003, Judge John Anderson III formally gave Robinson a death sentence and a life sentence for the murder of Lisa Stasi, who’s body has never been found.
In March 2003 Robinson agreed to be extradited to Missouri to face 3 murder charges, those of Beverly Bonner, Sheila Faith and her daughter Debbie Faith. On April 24th 2003 Robinson pleaded not guilty to the 3 murder charges. Judge Joseph Dandurand set a trial date of March 8th 2004.
On October 16th 2003, Robinson returned to court to announce, via his lawyers, a change in his plea. Robinson had negotiated with prosecutor Chris Koster to give a guilty plea for the three Missouri murders. In exchange for this plea, Robinson received a life sentence. However as part of the plea Robinson confessed to two further murders that he was not charged with. These two additional victims were identified as 19 year old Paula Godfrey, who disappeared from Olathe in 1984, and 27 year old Catherine Clampitt who vanished in 1987.
credit murderpedia / Martin Smith