John Edward Robinson (born December 27, 1943) is a convicted serial killer, con man, embezzler, kidnapper, and forger who was found guilty in 2003 of three murders and received the death sentence for two of them. He subsequently admitted responsibility for five additional homicides, and investigators fear that there might be other, undiscovered victims as well.
Because he made contact with most of his post-1993 victims via on-line chat rooms, he is sometimes referred to as "the Internet's first serial killer".
Robinson was born in Cicero, Illinois, the third of five children of an alcoholic father and a disciplinarian mother.:4 In 1957 he became an Eagle Scout, and reportedly traveled to London with a group of Scouts who performed before Queen Elizabeth II. Later that year he enrolled at Quigley Preparatory Seminary in Chicago, a private boys' school for aspiring priests, but dropped out after one year due to disciplinary issues.
In 1961 he enrolled at Morton Junior College in Cicero to become a medical X-ray technician, but dropped out after two years. In 1964 he moved to Kansas City and married Nancy Jo Lynch, who gave birth to their first child, John Jr., in 1965, followed by a daughter, Kimberly, in 1967, and twins Christopher and Christine in 1971.
Robinson was arrested for the first time in Kansas City in 1969, after embezzling $33,000 from the medical practice of Dr. Wallace Graham, where he had secured a job as an X-ray technician using forged credentials. He was sentenced to three years' probation.
In 1970 Robinson violated probation by moving back to Chicago without his probation officer's permission, and took a job as an insurance salesman at the R.B. Jones Company. In 1971 he was arrested once again for embezzling firm funds, and ordered back to Kansas City where his probation was extended. In 1975 it was extended again after another arrest, this time on charges of securities fraud and mail fraud in connection with a phony "medical consulting" company he had formed in Kansas City.
During this period, Robinson cultivated and maintained the outward appearance of a community-minded citizen and family man; he became a Scoutmaster, a baseball coach and a Sunday school teacher. In 1977 he talked his way onto the board of directors of a local charitable organization and forged a series of letters from its executive director to the mayor of Kansas City, and from the mayor to other civic leaders, commending his generous volunteer efforts and generally singing his praises. Robinson later hosted an awards banquet in honor of an anonymous "Man of the Year", where he awarded the title to himself.
In 1979 Robinson finally completed probation; but in 1980 he was arrested again on multiple charges, including embezzlement and check forgery, for which he served 60 days in jail in 1982. After his release he formed a bogus hydroponics business and swindled $25,000 from a friend, to whom he promised a fast investment return so that he could pay for his dying wife's health care.:4 At this time he reportedly began sexually propositioning his neighbors’ wives, resulting in a fistfight with one of the husbands. He also claimed to have joined a secret sadomasochism cult called the International Council of Masters, and to have become its “Slavemaster”, whose duties included luring victims to gatherings to be tortured and raped by cult members.
In 1984, having started two more fraudulent shell companies (Equi-Plus and Equi-2), Robinson hired Paula Godfrey, 19, ostensibly to work as a sales representative. Godfrey told friends and family that Robinson was sending her away for training. After hearing nothing further from her, Godfrey's parents filed a missing persons report. Police questioned Robinson, who denied any knowledge of her whereabouts. Several days later her parents received a typewritten letter, with Godfrey's signature at the bottom, thanking Robinson for his help and asserting that she was "OK" and did not want to see her family. The investigation was terminated, as Godfrey was of legal age and there was no evidence of wrongdoing. No trace of Paula Godfrey has ever been found.
In 1985, using the name John Osborne, he met Lisa Stasi and her four-month-old daughter, Tiffany, at a battered women’s shelter in Kansas City. He promised Lisa a job in Chicago, an apartment, and daycare for her baby, and asked her to sign several sheets of blank stationery. A few days later Robinson contacted his brother and sister-in-law, who had been unable to adopt a baby through traditional channels, and informed them that he knew of a baby whose mother had committed suicide. For $5,500 in "legal fees", Don and Helen Robinson received Tiffany Stasi (whose identity was confirmed by DNA testing in 2000) and a set of authentic-appearing adoption papers with the forged signatures of two lawyers and a judge. Lisa Stasi was never heard from again.:4
In 1987 Catherine Clampitt, 27, left her child with her parents in Wichita Falls, Texas and moved to Kansas City to find employment. She was hired by Robinson, who reportedly promised her extensive travel and a new wardrobe. She vanished in June of that year. Her missing persons case remains open.
From 1987 to 1993 Robinson was incarcerated, first in Kansas (1987–91) on multiple fraud convictions and thereafter in Missouri for another fraud conviction and parole violations. At Western Missouri Correctional Facility he met 49-year-old Beverly Bonner, the prison librarian, who upon his release left her husband and moved to Kansas to work for him. After Robinson arranged for Bonner's alimony checks to be forwarded to a Kansas post office box, her family never heard from her again. For several years Bonner's mother continued forwarding her alimony checks, and Robinson continued cashing them.
By then Robinson had discovered the Internet, and roamed various social networking sites using the name "Slavemaster", looking for women who enjoyed playing the submissive partner role during sex. An early online correspondent was Sheila Faith, 45, whose 15-year-old daughter Debbie was wheelchair-bound due to spina bifida. Robinson, portraying himself as a wealthy businessman and philanthropist, offered to pay Debbie's medical expenses and give Sheila a job. In 1994 the mother and daughter moved from Fullerton, California to Kansas City and immediately disappeared. Robinson cashed Faith's pension checks for the next seven years.:6
Gradually, Robinson became well known in the increasingly popular BDSM online chat rooms. In 1999 he offered a job and a bondage relationship to Izabela Lewicka, a 21-year-old Polish immigrant living in Indiana. When she moved to Kansas City, the still married Robinson gave her an engagement ring and brought her to the county registrar where they paid for a marriage license that was never picked up. It is unclear whether Lewicka believed she and Robinson were married; she told her parents she had married but never told them her husband's name. She did sign a 115-item slave contract that gave Robinson almost total control over every aspect of her life, including her bank accounts. Sometime during the summer of 1999 she disappeared. Robinson told a Web designer he employed that she had been caught smoking marijuana and deported.:8
Around the time of Lewicka's disappearance, a licensed practical nurse named Suzette Trouten moved from Michigan to Kansas to travel the world with Robinson as his submissive sex slave. Trouten's mother received several typed letters signed by her daughter and purportedly mailed while the couple was abroad, although the envelopes all bore Kansas City postmarks. The letters were, her mother said, uncharacteristically mistake-free. Later, Robinson told Trouten's mother that she had run off with an acquaintance after stealing money from him.:9
Over time, Robinson became increasingly careless, and did a progressively poorer job of covering his tracks. By 1999 he had attracted the attention of authorities in both Kansas and Missouri as his name cropped up in more and more missing persons investigations.
Robinson was arrested in June 2000 at his farm near La Cygne, Kansas, after a woman filed a sexual battery complaint against him and another charged him with stealing her sex toys. The theft charge, in particular, finally gave investigators the probable cause they needed to obtain search warrants. On the farm, a task force found the decaying bodies of two women, later identified as Izabela Lewicka and Suzette Trouten, in two 85-pound chemical drums.:9
Across the state line in Missouri, other members of the task force, searching a storage facility where Robinson rented two garages, found three similar chemical drums containing corpses subsequently identified as Beverly Bonner, Sheila Faith, and her daughter Debbie Faith. All five women were killed in the same way, by one or more blows to the head with a blunt instrument.:9
In 2002 Robinson stood trial in Kansas for the murders of Suzette Trouten, Isabella Lewicka and Lisa Stasi, along with multiple lesser charges. After his conviction on all counts, he received the death sentence for the murders of Trouten and Lewicka, and life imprisonment for Stasi's (because she was killed before Kansas reinstated the death penalty). He also received a five-to-20-year prison sentence for "interfering with the parental custody" of Stasi's baby, 20½ years for kidnapping Trouten, and seven months for theft.:9
After his Kansas convictions Robinson faced additional murder charges in Missouri, based on the evidence discovered in that state. Missouri is far more aggressive in its pursuit of capital punishment convictions, and Robinson's attorneys were anxious to avoid a trial there. (Kansas has not executed anyone since reinstating its death penalty statute in 1986.) Chris Koster, the Missouri prosecutor, insisted as a condition of any plea bargain that Robinson lead authorities to the bodies of Lisa Stasi, Paula Godfrey and Catherine Clampitt. Robinson, who has never cooperated in any way with investigators, refused; but Koster still faced pressure to make a deal because his case was not technically airtight. (Among other issues, there was no unequivocal evidence that any of the murders had actually been committed within his jurisdiction.) Robinson, on the other hand, faced pressure to plead guilty to avoid an almost certain death sentence in Missouri, and failing that, yet another capital murder trial back in Kansas.
When it became clear that the women's remains would never be found without Robinson's cooperation, a compromise of sorts was reached: In a carefully scripted plea in October, 2003, Robinson acknowledged only that Koster had enough evidence to convict him of capital murder for the deaths of Godfrey, Clampitt, Bonner and the Faiths. Though his statement was technically a guilty plea, and was accepted as such by the Missouri court, observers remarked that it was notably devoid of any contrition, or specific acceptance of responsibility.:15 He received a life sentence without possibility of parole for each of the five murders.
Robinson currently remains on death row at the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas, and could become the first convict executed by lethal injection in that state.
In 2005 Nancy Robinson filed for divorce after 41 years of marriage, citing incompatibility and irreconcilable differences.
In 2006 Lisa Stasi's daughter—known since her "adoption" as Heather Robinson—filed a civil suit against Truman Medical Center in Kansas City and social worker Karen Gaddis. The suit accused Gaddis of putting John Robinson in contact with Stasi and her newborn daughter in 1984, after he told Gaddis that he ran a charitable organization providing assistance to "unwed mothers of white babies." In 2007 Heather Robinson and the hospital reached a settlement for an undisclosed sum, which Robinson said she would split with her biological grandmother, Patricia Sylvester. Heather Robinson won a second judgment, in 2007, preventing John Robinson from profiting from any future potential book sales or film rights.
In 2006 the body of a young woman was found in a barrel in an area of rural Iowa where Robinson reportedly had a business partner. The identity of the victim—whose remains, forensics experts say, could have been in the barrel for 20 years or more—and Robinson's possible involvement, remain open questions. Kansas and Missouri police note that long stretches of Robinson's time remain unaccounted for, and they fear that there are additional undiscovered victims. "He's maintained the secrets about what he's done with the women, he won't ever tell, it's the last control that he's got," said one investigator. "There are [probably] other barrels waiting to be opened, other bodies waiting to be found."
Robinson is known to be responsible for eight homicides, but his total victim tally remains unknown. The following is a chronological summary of the eight victims identified thus far:
- 1984: Paula Godfrey (age 19); remains never recovered
- 1985: Lisa Stasi (19); remains never recovered
- 1987: Catherine Clampitt (27); remains never recovered
- 1993: Beverly Bonner (49): remains discovered at storage facility in Raymore, Missouri
- 1994: Sheila Faith (45) and Debbie Faith (15): remains of both discovered at storage facility in Raymore, Missouri
- 1999: Izabela Lewicka (21): remains discovered at Robinson's ranch near La Cygne, Kansas
- 2000: Suzette Trouten (28): remains discovered at Robinson's ranch near La Cygne, Kansas
In popular culture
A 2001 book by John Glatt, Internet Slave Master (ISBN 0312979274), documented Robinson's life up to the time of his Kansas trial. A second book by Glatt, Depraved (ISBN 0312936842), published in 2005, focused on the lives of Robinson's victims and others affected by his crimes. A third book, Anyone You Want Me to Be: A True Story of Sex and Death on the Internet (ISBN 1439189471) by John Douglas and Stephen Singular, was published in 2003.
Robinson's criminal activities were also profiled on episodes of the A&E series Cold Case Files, Investigation Discovery's FBI: Criminal Pursuit, Sins & Secrets, Vanity Fair Confidential and Deadly Doctors, as well as The New Detectives on the Discovery Channel.