Wild Child

“All of a sudden, she–you know, she gets happy, smiles, jumps up and down and says, ‘Let’s kill my mom.’ Me and Adam, we’re–we’re shocked. We’re, like, ‘What?’ She’s, like, ‘Let’s kill my mom.’”
 
“I think it’s a pack of lies. I don’t know why he’s saying what he’s saying.”
 
In the end, that’s pretty much what it boils down to — who do you believe: the teen who got a deal that took the death penalty off the table in return for his testimony, or the troubled girl looking for love who stood accused of inducing her boyfriend and another kid to murder her mother.
 
The Hillsborough County, Florida, jury believed Jon Whispel, and based mostly on his testimony Valessa Robinson was convicted of third-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in 1999. Valessa, who was 15 at the time of the crime in 1998, won’t be eligible for parole until she’s 33.
 
Update: Parole for Valessa came on Dec. 6, 2013.
 
Whispel, 19 in 1998, received a 25-year sentence and Valessa’s 19-year-old boyfriend, Adam Davis was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
 
It was a particularly gruesome crime: in late June 1998, the three teens who were under the influence of LSD first planned to give 49-year-old Vicki Robinson a lethal dose of heroin but eventually ended up stabbing her to death. They made a half-hearted attempt to dispose of her body.
 
After considering and rejecting a plan to flee to Australia, the three decided to go to Phoenix. They were apprehended in Texas, six days after the crime.
 
The winding road to murder began several years before when Vicki and Chuck Robinson divorced. Valessa was 11 and took the breakup hard. It didn’t help that Vicki was working long hours as a real estate agent which left the young girl to fend for herself most of the time and that she was taken from the neighorhood she had always lived in and the school that she attended since she was in kindergarten.
 
“She got a lot darker, a lot deeper,” one friend told the press. “It just hit her harder than (her sister) Michelle. Everything changed.”
 
Almost inevitably, experimentation with drugs followed, accompanied by an interest in violent-themed music by bands like Insane Clown Posse.
 
“She didn’t have to ask her mom if she wanted to go anywhere,” a friend told CBS News during Valessa’s trial. “She just went places, because her mom wasn’t there to ask.”
 
According to the state, Valessa was hanging out with musicians nearly a decade older than her when she was in her early teens.
 
“Acid was the main thing that we did,” Valessa said. “We also did ecstasy.”
 
By this time Vicki had pretty much thrown up her hands and surrendered to her headstrong younger daughter. In the summer of 1997 Vicki Robinson and her friend, Jim Englert, took a vacation and left Valessa home alone because she refused to leave town.
 
“Of course, not having Valessa, you know, was a concern, and if she was safe,” Englert said later. “But we did try to minimize that to some extent and enjoy our trip.”
 
Other family members said they felt that sent a message to Valessa that she was not loved — a throwaway.
 
“I think it said, ‘Hey, no one cares. No one gives a damn,’” her father said later.
 
Valessa’s diary echoes her father’s sentiments.
 
“If I had a choice I would move out of my motherfucking house,” she wrote. “I just think that the whole world and the whole reason for living just sucks.”
 
A few months later Valessa met another throwaway, 18-year-old Adam Davis, whose father was dead and whose mother had abandoned him. Clark was a high school dropout and drug dealer, but he convinced the 15-year-old Valessa that he loved her.
 
At the time Valessa wasn’t so sure of her feelings. She wrote in her diary that she didn’t think she would stand by Davis when he was sentenced to a short stretch for larceny. In another entry, however, she talks about how she was considering having a child with him.
 
Possibly it was Vicki’s negative reaction to Davis that helped Valessa make up her mind. Vicki wanted her daughter to end the relationship, but Valessa refused to do so.
 
Things continued to worsen at home; Vicki contacted a residential school for troubled teens and made arrangements for Valessa to enroll. She did not tell her daughter of her plans.
 
Before Vicki could follow through, Valessa, tripping on acid with Davis and Whispel at a local Denny’s, made the suggestion that they kill her mother.
 
Valessa denies ever making such a statement.
 
Testimony at Davis’s and Valessa’s trials showed that Davis ultimately suggested that they inject Vicki with enough heroin to cause an overdose.
 
Valessa Robinson 2010The three left Denny’s and headed back to the Robinson house. When they arrived, they stayed outside for a while to ensure that they did not awaken Vicki. Whispel and Valessa then went inside the house and opened the garage door. Returning outside, they waited again to ensure Vicki did not awaken. Valessa then opened the keyless entry to her mother’s van and retrieved the set of spare keys. Davis put the car into neutral, and Valessa and Whispel pushed the car out into the street so as not to awake Vicki.
 
Davis then drove the trio to a friend’s house to purchase the heroin. While inside his friend’s house, Davis told his friend that he was looking for enough heroin to kill someone and make it look like an accident. Although Davis was unable to obtain any heroin, he did purchase a syringe.
 
Davis, Whispel, and Valessa returned to the home and parked several houses down the street to avoid waking Vicki. Once inside the home, Davis suggested that Valessa get some bleach and a glass so that they could inject Vicki with bleach and an air bubble.
 
“Half air bubble, half bleach should do the trick,” Whispel quoted Davis as saying.
 
Grabbing his folding knife, Davis and and Valessa headed to Vicki’s bedroom. However, they returned a few minutes later saying Vicki had awakened. Davis put the syringe and the bottle of bleach in Valessa’s closet and put his knife on Valessa’s dresser.
 
Dressed in a pink night shirt, Vicki knocked on the door and finding the two boys still there, angrily told Valessa to get her sleeping bag and come into her room.
 
“She’s like, ‘Well, what are you two still doing here? I thought y’all left,’” Whispel told prosecutors “And she was like, ‘Valessa, get your sleeping bag now.’ So nobody moved, and then she said, ‘Valessa, now.’ So Adam went to grab the sleeping bag and give it to her.”
 
Davis handed Valessa her sleeping bag, and then followed Vicki down the hall and into the kitchen. Davis grabbed Vicki from behind in a “sleeper hold” and attempted to choke her into unconsciousness. Whispel said he and Valessa followed Davis into the kitchen.
 
He said Valessa asked, “What do we do?”
 
“Give me the syringe,” he said Adam told her. Valessa was “all afraid…screaming, “I can’t find the syringe, Adam.’ ”
 
Davis was kneeling and holding the struggling and coughing Vicki in a choke hold, Whispel said.
 
“And (Davis) says, “Valessa, come out here and hold your mom down so I can get the syringe,’ ” Whispel said. “She went out there, straddled her mom, sat down on her …she’s like “Hurry up…she’s trying to get up.’” He testified that Valessa was “pounding with her fists on her mom.”
 
Davis returned with the needle.
 
“What are you doing? What are you doing?” Whispel testified that Vicki said. “After Davis injected her neck, she asked, ‘What was that?’” he said.
 
The injection didn’t kill her, so Whispel grabbed Davis’ knife.
 
“Here,” Whispel said, “use this.”
 
Whispel then returned to Valessa’s bedroom. When Davis and Valessa returned to Valessa’s bedroom, Davis was holding the knife limply in his left hand, and Whispel noticed blood on Davis’s hands and on the knife. Valessa did not appear to have blood on her hands.
 
Later, Valessa told investigators that she had stabbed her mother.
 
“I remember I had stabbed her in the throat and it released a lot of blood. And she wasn’t dead yet and so I stabbed her again twice in her back. And then I couldn’t handle all the blood and everything and I panicked and I went in my room and I had Jon and Adam clean up the blood,” she said in a confession that she later tried to recant.
 
They sat smoking cigarettes in Valessa’s room, Whispel said.
 
“Adam said, “This bitch won’t die,’ ” and went back to the kitchen, Whispel testified. Davis later told Whispel that he stabbed Vicki two more times and tried to break her neck.
 
Davis then asked her if she was all right “because at that point she didn’t look …too happy, too sad, too…nothing.”
 
A few hours later, Davis, Whispel, and Valessa cleaned the kitchen with bleach and towels. Davis put Vicki into a trash can from the garage. The three loaded Ms. Robinson’s van with the towels, the trash can, shovels and a hoe, and drove to a wooded area near the home to bury her. While digging the hole, however, they hit hard ground, so they instead concealed the trash can with some foliage, planning to come back later.
 
The three eventually returned to Vicki’s house and took credit cards, cash, and Vicki’s ATM card because Valessa knew the PIN. Davis, Whispel, and Valessa spent the next three days getting drugs, tattoos, and piercings paid for with Vicki’s money.
 
“We went down to Ybor City,” Whispel’s statement says. “And while we was there I said, you know, ‘Fuck it. Let’s just, you know, take some Ecstasy tonight,’ you know. ‘Let’s just,’ I guess, ‘party,’ if you want to say. And then he (Davis) said, ‘All right. We’ll do that.’”
 
They also went to Home Depot and purchased twenty bags of concrete, a bucket, and a trash can, with the intention of dumping the body in a nearby canal.
 
Meanwhile Joe Englert reported that Vicki was missing. When Davis learned from the news that he and Valessa were wanted for questioning, the three decided to go to Phoenix. Because they needed to leave quickly, they did not complete their plans with regard to the body, which had been left to decompose in the 90 degree heat.
 
They remained on or near Interstate 10 during their trip and continued to use Vicki’s ATM card, which had remained open so police could track the trio. The three were ultimately traced to Pecos County, Texas, where, after a high-speed chase, they were apprehended.
 
In jail, the trio began turning on each other.
 
“She’s to blame for it,” Davis said to Whispel in a phone call.
 
“What do you mean she’s to blame for it?” Whispel replied.
 
“Well, you know, she brought up the subject and everything.” Davis said. “She’s going to take all the blame, and I don’t care.”
 
Valessa denied from the start that there was any planning involved.
 
“Whatever happened that night wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said during a telephone interview with a Florida TV station. “It was not planned at all. I was on acid that night,” she said. “All three of us were. I really didn’t know what was going on until after the fact.”
 
Eventually Whispel was offered a deal that spared him the death penalty and was the lynch pin in the case against Davis and Valessa. Despite her strong denials to the opposite, jurors refused Valessa’s statements that she was too stoned to leave her bedroom during the crime.
 
“I didn’t do this. I didn’t have a part in this. I would never do anything to hurt my mom,” she told CBS’s 48 Hours. “I could’ve been a hero if I wanted to have been, but I didn’t.”
 
Valessa faced the death penalty but after 17 hours of deliberations, the jury opted for a lesser-included offense of third-degree murder.
 
For her part, Valessa, whose father and sister have stood by her, feels her mother understands what went wrong.
 
“I think my mom already has forgiven me,” Valessa said. “I think that she understands what happened that night. I think she knows and she understands.”