Written by Kevin Jennings
Once you start reading this post or listening to this podcast, you must finish it. For every friend you forward this episode to, Bill Gates will donate $5 to the “Unicorns for Orphans” relief fund. If you do not forward this to at least 15 of your friends before the day is over, your mother will die and your crush will never speak to you again. Consider yourself warned.
If you had the internet in the 1990’s, this should sound all too familiar to you. Our inboxes, chat rooms, and IMs were filled with chain letters ranging from innocently cute to the downright threatening. Maybe Bloody Mary was going to come to your house and kill you if you didn’t forward the e-mail. Maybe your crush would talk to you the next day if you did. They were all full empty promises or empty threats, because ghosts and magic aren’t real so of course breaking a chain letter isn’t going to have any effect on your life. Still, there are a lot of superstitious people in the world, and there were more than enough of them to keep this nonsense going. Admittedly, I would sometimes pass them on if they were particularly funny, but even as a stupid teenager I didn’t believe any of this stuff.
By the time 1999 rolled around, these chain letters had been around for years, long enough for us to developed the word “spam” to describe them. That also meant they had been around long enough for everyone to ignore them, so if you were hanging out in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine chat room on AOL, it would be easy to ignore the following message:
“If a guy by the name of SlaveMaster contacts you, do not answer. He has killed 56 women that he has talked to on the internet. Please send out to all the women on your buddy list. Also ask them to pass this on. He has been on AOL, Yahoo, and Excite so far. This is no joke! And please send this to men too, just in case. Send to everyone you know!”
I’ve cleaned up the spelling and formatting for Simon’s sake, late 90’s internet writing was atrocious, but even in its more legible form, this sounds like absolute bullshit. Sure, they’re not proposing mystical powers like Bloody Mary, but this chain message is aware of the presence and identity of a mass murderer, yet somehow he hasn’t been arrested? It makes as little sense as any other spam, and was easily ignored. I honestly don’t know if I ever encountered this message personally or not. It’s not as memorable as being hit by the “sexy bus”, or 7 year old Timmy who had no eyes and whose face was covered in blood. If I did see this message, however, I can guarantee you I was already far too bitter and jaded from years on the internet to ever forward it. If you were on the internet in those days, there’s a very strong chance you saw this chain letter and ignored it just like I would have.
But enough introduction. It’s time to sit back, relax, and feel the crushing weight of guilt on your chest as you realize that by forwarding that message, you might have actually saved a woman’s life. The story was true. SlaveMaster was real, and he was still actively killing when that message circulated. This is the story of the internet’s first serial killer.
The Early Years
John Edward Robinson was born on December 27, 1943 in Cicero, Illinois, the once headquarters of Al Capone. His childhood was a bit of a mixed bag. This is the Casual Criminalist, so you best believe he had an alcoholic father and an overbearing, disciplinarian mother, and he was the middle child with four siblings. Still, he was not without his accomplishments. He joined the Boy Scouts of America in 1955, and by November of 1957 had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. This is a pretty remarkable feat, as there are time requirements you must spend at certain ranks. With a mandatory 16 months of waiting, and an immense amount of work needed, John would have to have been extremely dedicated to have earned his Eagle Scout in pretty much the bare minimum time possible. It was a remarkable enough achievement that he was said to be an elite future leader, probably the last thing he needed to hear given his delusions of grandeur. He was cited as being “overly pompous” after the ceremony, which does beg the question what the appropriate level of pompousness would have been.
Later that month, he got to travel to London as an Eagle Scout to sing for Queen Elizabeth II. Backstage, he received a kiss from Judy Garland, presumably on the cheek since he was 13 and she was 33. He also spoke with actress Gracie Fields about his plans to study for the priesthood. Less than ideal parents or not, he seemed to be having a pretty successful childhood.
In early fall of that same year, John Robinson had been accepted to the Quigley Preparatory Seminary, a 5 year program for young men who intended to join the priesthood. It did not go well. He liked to argue and get in fights, spent a lot of time in detention, and failed out after one year. Okay, maybe he was not having such a successful childhood, but that one day in London was pretty epic.
At age 17, he enrolled at the Morton Junior College in Cicero to become a medical radiographer. Once again, it did not go well. He dropped out after two years. But this time he had a plan: fake it ‘till you make it! The following year, 1964, he moved to Kansas City, Missouri and got a job at Children’s Mercy and General Hospital using fake credentials. He claimed he needed a night job while he was in medical school to become a doctor, something that was not true and was never going to happen. Queen Elizabeth may give knighthoods to talented singers, and universities may even give them honorary PhDs, but no one is giving out honorary MDs, and John was not capable of earning one on his own. He was quickly fired from the job when it was realized that he had no idea what the fuck he was doing. That same year he married Nancy Jo Lynch, though it is unclear whether they met before or after he moved to Missouri. They had their first child the following year, so it may have been a shotgun wedding.
Now Simon, I’m going to save you a little bit of time this episode. Normally, you spend about 20 minutes each episode trying to figure out whether the killer’s home has the death penalty or not. Kansas City is a good, Midwestern town with Midwestern values located in the northwest of Missouri. But Missouri is really two states in one. There’s Missouri, and then there’s Missoura, and Missoura is the Deep South. You had best believe that the state with 17 counties that make up an area known as “Little Dixie” has the death penalty. You’re going to have to wait until the end to find out what happens, I just wanted you to know that death is in fact on the table, so you know what to root for.
A Life of Crime
After his first attempt at fraud failed, John was hired by Dr. Wallace Graham as an X-ray technician at Fountain Plaza X-Ray Laboratory. While Nancy cared for their first child, John Jr., John was out at bars slutting it up. He was known to be unfaithful and had many girlfriends. He was also stealing from Graham. Within six months of being hired, he had completely drained the practice’s bank account of $33,000. The office was not just John’s personal bank account, but also his personal meat market, and he engaged in debaucherous activities with patients and staff alike. For reasons unknown, he bragged to Dr. Graham’s 15 year old son about these encounters. I don’t know why he couldn’t have saved it for the bar, but then again he had wanted to become a priest.
Somehow, John managed to hold that job down for roughly two years. Perhaps he finally figured out what he was doing, or maybe the sex was so good that his coworkers did his share of the work as well; who can say. But in 1969, he was arrested and charged with the embezzlement. He was convicted of theft for stealing what would be $250,000 in today’s money, and was sentenced to, wait for it…a suspended sentence with three years probation. In 1970 he was arrested for stealing 6,200 stamps from his employer at the time, Mobile Oil Corp. He was able to cut a deal to have the charges dropped to a misdemeanor in exchange for paying restitution. Somehow this was not a severe enough violation of his probation to send John to jail where he belonged.
Later that year, John took a job with the R.B. Jones Company selling insurance. He seems to be able to talk people into anything, so this was finally a job he was suited for. Unfortunately, the job was in Chicago, so when he and his family moved there without telling his probation officer, he was now in violation of his probation…again. The job went quite well for John, though! As a natural grifter, I can’t think of a better legitimate occupation for him than insurance salesman. And as a natural manwhore, if his sales job included door to door sales to early 1970’s housewives, he should have been happy as a clam with his new life. Happy or not, John was still a criminal at heart, and he couldn’t help but embezzle another $5,500 from the insurance company. He somehow was given yet another break after agreeing to pay restitution, and the charges were dropped. However, he was ordered to move back to Missouri where he had violated probation. As punishment for his sins, his probation period was extended.
It was now 1971, and this move may have suited John and his family just fine anyway. His wife was about to give birth to fraternal twins, their 3rd and 4th children, so it was time to move into a bigger house. Ah yes, the 1970’s, when an uneducated convict who couldn’t hold down a job could not only afford a house, but to upgrade to a bigger house. Meanwhile, my generation is lucky if we can make rent. Speaking of unable to hold down a job, John was unemployed again thanks to his inability to resist embezzling from his employers. There was a simple solution to that, however, he would just have to be his own boss!
In 1971, John started his own medical consulting business called Professional Services Association, Inc. I haven’t seen a name that generic since I went to the video store in 1989 and rented the dumpster fire of a game that was Mystery Quest for the original Nintendo. John’s company was supposed to provide financial consulting to doctors in the Kansas City area, but it was just more of the same. He was hired by the University of Kansas Medical Center as a consultant for its Family Practice Department, but he was quickly let go. Apparently, it is extremely suspicious for a financial consultant to ask for the corporation’s checkbook. Not the balance sheet or the general ledger, the actual checkbook. How is this dude not in jail yet?
He wasn’t in jail, but by 1975 he was certainly in trouble again after being caught trying to forge signatures and letters to claim thousands of dollars via a stock scam. A Federal Grand Jury in Missouri indicted John Robinson on four counts of securities fraud, mail fraud, and false representation. Perhaps it was time for this loveable scamp to finally get his comeuppance. Except not really, because John was able to avoid all that by pleading no contest to interstate securities fraud, which is still a serious crime so naturally he received a $2,500 fine and three more years probation. Jesus, this guy must have a horseshoe up his ass or something. Speaking of which…
John Robinson – Man of the Year
When John moved into his new house, he also became a Scoutmaster, coached tee-ball, refereed school volleyball games, taught Sunday school at a local Presbyterian church (despite clearly being Catholic as evidenced by his wife’s uterus firing out babies like a machine gun), and, of course, bought two horses. But this section’s subtitle of “man of the year” was not a sarcastic, editorial comment related to what an active and seemingly upstanding member of the community he was. That is not a title that I, a singular writer, could bestow upon a person. There are many organizations that hand out an award for person of the year, and much like Time Magazine’s selections, only the most outstanding people of impeccable character can claim such an award, such as Adolf Hitler, two time winner Josef Stalin, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Rudy Giuliani. I guess you really can tell a man by the company he keeps.
In 1977, John charmed his way onto the board of directors of a local handicapped service organization. Common criminal or not, his silver tongue was able to talk itself out of jail and into the pants of dozens of women, so it’s no surprise he could was able to talk his way into this position. His first official act once appointed to the board was to order official stationary for the group. This stationary was a very practical decision that the board should have made years earlier, and… oh wait, no, he’s just using it to forge more documents. Stop it, John. He forged a letter from the executive director of the board to the mayor, and letters from the mayor (presumably also on the board) to other civil leaders, invited them to an awards luncheon to honour an anonymous “Man of the Year”. John even tricked a state senator into presenting him with the plaque. The men whose names he had forged read about the event in the paper the following day, and were quick to set the record straight. Still, John was able to create a Man of the Year award, and have it given to himself by a state senator, further inflating his entirely underserved self of self importance. Meanwhile, back at home, it is reported that he was beating his wife and starving his dog and two horses. Don’t let the wacky hijinks fool you, this guy is still human garbage.
Somehow, John Robinson managed to stay out of trouble for the next couple of years, so in March of 1979, at age 36, he was released from federal probation with an excellent report from his probation officer. How the report could be so excellent when it took 10 years and multiple arrests for him to serve his 3 years probation is curious at best. He landed a job at Guy’s Food, somehow only the second least creative company name in this script so far, as an Employee Relations Manager. I think we have an abundance of precedent at this point, so how do you think this is gonna go, Simon? If you guessed “stealing money and banging employees”, then bully for you! John started an affair with a secretary who helped him embezzle thousands of dollars by creating fake employee accounts and cashing their paychecks. For the first time in his life, crime didn’t pay. He was found out and fired in December the following year, and was charged with felony theft, submitting false vouchers, and forging checks. He plead guilty to a felony count of stealing a $6,000 check and was forced to pay $41,000 in restitution as well as spend 60 days in jail. Sixty whole days.
That $41,000 fine was a lot of money, more than he had stolen, and John needed money. So once he was released from his 60 day jail sentence in the summer of 1982, it was time to do what he did best: con people. Except this time, things were getting a little darker. He created a fake hydroponics company, Hydro-Gro, and tricked a friend into investing $25,000, promising a quick return on investment so that his friend could pay for his dying wife’s health care.
Around this time John also created a new consulting company called Equi-Plus. As best as I can tell, all he was trying to do was consult his way into women’s pants. He sexually propositioned many of his “neighbours’ wives”, also known as his “neighbours” because wives are not property thank you very much 1980’s news reporting. This resulted in at least one physical fight with a neighbour’s husband, though nothing really came of that.
That fall, a man named Irv Blattner joined John Robinson as his partner in crime, and they started a sister company together called Equi-2. If John had paid more attention to the rules of Casual Criminalist, he would have known not to involve other people in his crimes. As far as I can tell, Blattner contributed very little. Then again, he was also an ex-con, so maybe it was just nice having someone else around that John assumed knew how to keep his mouth shut. In May of 1984, Blattner lead John to a woman who was seeking a divorce. John posed as an attorney and promised to get her a divorce in exchange for $200 and her car, a pretty standard retainer for a lawyer, really. She never got her divorce.
I hope both you, Simon, and you, the listener have enjoyed this episode so far. I’ve tried to keep things as lighthearted as possible while discussing the early criminal career of John Robinson, but I fear there may not be many laughs ahead. After all, you morbid vultures did tune in to listen to the story of a serial killer, so from here on out there is only torture, murder, and demonetization.
The Pre-Internet Murders
After founding his two shell companies, John was going to need some employees to help make it look legitimate. He hired 19 year old Paula Godfrey to work as a sales representative for these companies. Shortly after being hired, John decided to send her away for training. He picked her up from her parents’ house to take her to the airport, and she was never seen again. Godfrey’s parents eventually filed a missing persons report. The police interviewed John, but he denied any knowledge of her whereabouts. Several days later, her family received a typewritten letter thanking John for his help, telling them that she was okay, and stating that she did not want to see her family. Once this letter arrived, the investigation was terminated. I know you’re going to want to jump on the police for this, Simon, but there was no evidence of foul play, the letter had her signature, and she was legally an adult; there wasn’t really anything left they could do. Perhaps if John hadn’t weaseled his way out of all of his fraud convictions, his 20 year history of forging documents would have been known to law enforcement and they would have found the letter incriminating rather than exculpatory. This was a failure of the justice system, not of law enforcement. Still, it was a failure, and Paula Godfrey was never seen or heard from again, her body never found.
Something else that was unknown to law enforcement was that John had recently become a leading member in a local cult of sorts, a secret BDSM sex “club” known as the International Council of Masters, not to be confused with the International Masters Council, a training and support group for professional owners of martial arts schools. John was the cult’s “Slavemaster”, and it was his job to bring victims to meetings for beatings, torture, and rape. Jen feel free to either bleep that unfortunate R word or throw in the South Park “aaand it’s gone” meme for Simon’s poor AdSense, dealer’s choice. I can’t say for certain that this despicable cult of psychopaths who give fun loving practitioners of BDSM that have a respect for people’s safe words and boundaries a bad name are the ones that are responsible for the murder and disposal of Godfrey, but it certainly seems likely. I’d almost want to give them the benefit of the doubt and say maybe it was an accident, a consentual act gone wrong, but if that were the case, there would have been no need for John to make the show of taking her to the airport beforehand. It seems that it was planned from the start that she would not be returning. She is believed to be John’s first victim, but not the last.
Not only did John now have a taste for blood, but his business pursuits were becoming more flagrant in their illegality as well. In the summer of 1984, he used Equi-2 to rent a duplex, which he turned into a brothel. He hired Linda Stevens Jones to run it, as well as to find other girls to come work there. Unsurprisingly, the brothel specialized in rough BDSM.
But at his core, John was still a family man (excluding his wife), and when his brother came to him with a problem, John was happy to oblige. Don Robinson and his wife, Helen, had been unable to conceive their own child or to adopt one. Ever the liar, John happily informed them that he had connections in the adoption business and would gladly help them out. He contacted social services to try to be put in touch with single, pregnant women, presumably leaving off the part where he was looking into black market adoptions. When social services failed to give him any leads, he went straight to the source.
In January of 1985, John went to a battered women’s shelter under the name “Josh Osborne” and met Lisa Stasi, a 19 year old single mother of a four month old baby, Tiffany. He convinced her that he would take her to a training program in Texas that including daycare and job training. On January 9, he went to the home of Lisa’s sister to pick up Lisa and Tiffany, then put them up in a local hotel. While there, he asked Lisa to sign blank stationary. The next day, Lisa’s mother, Betty, received a gut wrenching phone call from a terrified sounding Lisa. Lisa said that “they” had deemed her an unfit mother and that Betty herself had had requested custody of the baby. Betty told her this wasn’t true, and the last words she heard her daughter say were “here they come” before the phone disconnected. Lisa was never seen or heard from again. Two days later, John handed Tiffany and a pile of seemingly authentic adoption papers claiming the mother committed suicide to his brother, and he received $5,500 in “lawyer” fees for setting up the adoption. Betty received a type written letter like the one Godfrey’s mother had received, with Lisa’s signature on the bottom. That same day, Betty filed a missing persons report.
John was investigated on suspicion of violating the Mann Act, also known as the “white-slave traffic act”, a nickname we just really can’t get into right now, but Jesus Christ, America. His probation was reevaluated, but once again the police had to drop the charges due to a lack of evidence. Slow down, Simon, I know this is the second time that literally the same thing happened around this guy, and now there’s a baby involved too, but there’s no need to go dunking on these cops just yet. They knew they had to drop the investigation because they couldn’t find any evidence, but thanks to Carl Sagan’s recent miniseries “Cosmos”, they also knew that the absence of evidence was not the evidence of absence. That, and the alleged crime may have involved crossing state lines. It was time to bring in the feds.
Remember that guy earlier who shouldn’t have been part of this story because John should know better than to include other people in his crimes? Irv Blattner, recognizing how dangerous John was, had now turned state’s witness and was cooperating with the Secret Service. That’s right, the Secret Service isn’t just for protecting the lives of top government officials, they also have jurisdiction over financial crimes. On March 19, 1985, Blattner signed a statement implicating John in a number of illegal activities to get him arrested for parole violations. Two days later, John was arrested at his probation officer’s office. He must have been able to make bail, because he did not just sit in a cell awaiting trial. But he also wasn’t alone. The FBI sent an undercover female agent to pose as a potential prostitute at John’s brothel, but she became so fearful for her life that this endeavor did not last long.
In April, John met a woman named Teresa Williams who he moved into the brothel to serve as his personal prostitute, but also still handle other clients. He also planned to use Teresa to help him frame Blattner for her murder, which they were going to fake. At least, she believed they were going to fake it. After she displeased a client, John threatened Teresa by sticking the loaded barrel of a revolver into her vagina. She pleaded for her life, and John removed the gun from her body, placed it back in its holster, and left to go to his son’s soccer game. Fortunately for Teresa, the FBI was still watching. Not closely enough to see this happen and intervene, but closely enough that when she escaped that situation alive, they were able to move her to a safe house. In July, John hired a private investigator to find Teresa, so the FBI moved her to another city for her safety. And therein lies the key to the next failing of the United States justice system.
On August 21, John’s probation was revoked and he was sentenced to seven years in prison, seven years that he would not serve. Aside from the signed letter from Blattner, the evidence against John primarily came from the account of Teresa Williams. The only issue with that is that she was far away in protective custody. John was able to have the case overturned on appeal because he was unable to face his accuser. Fuck you, James Madison and your stupid Bill of Rights. Instead of prison, John wound up being on the cover of a national trade magazine called Farm Journal, with an article encouraging people to invest in Equi-2. The editors were unaware both of his criminal record, and the fact that the company they were promoting didn’t seem to do much besides run a brothel. Two ranchers read the article and lost $10,000 each after investing in the company.
Having evaded justice yet again, it was time for John to get up to his old tricks. In 1987, Catherine Clampitt, a 27 year old single mother from Texas moved to Kansas City to try to find employment, leaving her child with her parents in Texas. She met John who offered her a job with extensive travel, as well as a new wardrobe. She vanished that spring and was officially reported missing on June 15 of that year, but she was never seen again. Her case remains open to this day, but if you have a guess as to what happened to her, be sure to GET IN THE COMMENTS and let’s see if we’re all on the same page.
But finally, after decades of crime, justice was finally going to catch up with John. Not for all the murders, but for the other stuff. In 1987, he began serving a four year sentence in Kansas for several fraud charges. After his sentence, he was transferred to prison in Missouri to serve two more years for violating probation and an old fraud charge. During this time, his family lost the house and his wife and children moved to a trailer part in Olathe, Kansas. His wife took the job of manager of the trailer park to support the family while John was in jail.
While in prison in Missouri, John became friends with and ultimately seduced the 49 year old prison librarian, Beverly Bonner. When he was released from prison in 1993, Bonner divorced her husband and moved to Olathe. She told her family that she was had a job working for John’s company, and that it involved a lot of foreign travel. After John arranged for Bonner’s alimony checks to be mailed to a post office box, she was never heard from again and all her belongings were placed in a storage unit. John continued to cash her alimony checks for years, and when Bonner’s ex-husband questioned John about it, he said that she had moved to Australia.
Now out of prison and with a “stable” source of income, John had plenty of free time to discover the internet. It was a good thing for him, too. He clearly had the ability to charm people, and in his younger days was a pretty good looking guy. Now he was 50 years old, overweight, and a series of strokes in prison had left half of his face partially paralyzed. His charm could still work online, and in 1994, long before the ubiquity of digital cameras or the invention of smartphones, his looks were not going to be important. He immediately started using the handle “Slavemaster” and looking for extremely submissive women that were into BDSM. It didn’t take long for him to find a victim.
John met Sheila Faith, a 45 year old woman from Colorado, while portraying himself as a wealthy businessman. He promised to give her a job, support her and her 15 year old daughter Debbie, who was in a wheelchair due to spina bifida, and pay for therapy for Debbie. They moved to Kansas, and once their mail was being forwarded to John’s PO Box, they promptly vanished.
When he was living in Missouri, John Robinson was considered a family man and pillar of the community. In the Kansas trailer park, he was known as a dirty old man. He made sexual advances on many of his female neighbours, and would creep by their trailers in a golf cart when he knew their husbands weren’t home. The obvious solution wasn’t to stop being a fucking creep, it was to move. The alimony and disability checks he was cashing every month from his victims were more than enough for him and his family to move to a much nicer trailer park, still in Olathe, Kansas. There, he spent much of his time online on his five computers, searching BDSM websites and hanging out in various BDSM chat rooms.
Late in 1997, John met a 21 year old Polish immigrant and freshman at Purdue University named Izabela Lewicka. She told her parents, who were both college professors, that she was dropping out of school to take an internship she had been offered by a rich entrepreneur. I’m sure her parents couldn’t have been happier. What she did not tell her parents was that she was also signing a 115 item slave contract that gave John control over every aspect of her life, including her bank accounts. John, still married to Nancy, bought Izabela an engagement ring and took her to the county registrar where they paid for a marriage license. John never picked the license up, but Izabela then registered for community college under the name Izabela Lewicka Robinson, and she told her parents that she was married, so it stands to reason she believed that John was in fact her husband. During her time in Kansas, she never returned home and only communicated with her family via e-mail.
In the summer of 1999, Izabela told her friends that she and her “husband” where going away on an extended trip, and she was never seen or heard from again. John told an employee of his that she had been deported after being caught smoking marijuana. Her parents would continue to get e-mails allegedly from Izabela until the time Robinson was finally arrested. That September, he purchased a 16 acre farm in La Cynge, Kansas.
John would meet his final known murder victim shortly thereafter. Suzette Trouten, a 27 year old nurse from Michigan, was promised a $60,000/year job caring for John’s diabetic, wheelchair bound, and fictitious father. The three of them were also going to travel the world together, with Suzette acting as John’s submissive sex slave. In February of 2000, Suzette moved to Kansas City to work for him, but not before leaving his name and phone number with her mother, Carolyn. Carolyn began receiving typed letters that were allegedly from her daughter. She was immediately suspicious because her daughter never typed, the letters were uncharacteristically free of mistakes (she would later testify that her daughter was a horrible speller), and most notably, all of the letters were postmarked from Kansas City. On March 1st, after the letters had dropped off, Carolyn called the number that Suzette had left with her. She was surprised when John answered the phone, as they were allegedly off traveling the world together. He claimed that Suzette had stolen money from him and ran off with an acquaintance of hers. Carolyn immediately smelled bullshit, and contacted the police to file a missing persons report.
Remember all of those other missing persons that John Robinson was connected with and were all mysteriously similar? Pepperidge Farm remembers. And so did the police. If you’ve lost count, that is eight victims so far that we know of. If you’ve paid close attention to the dates, you’ll notice that there are some gaps of time that we can’t account for, and some of the known murders were extremely close together. Because of this, we can’t discount the fact that there may have been many, many more victims who were never identified.
I have some bad news for you, Simon. The murders are done, but the depravity is not. While John was getting more arrogant and careless, there was still a lack of hard evidence of his crimes against women. Fortunately, there was enough circumstantial evidence for a judge to grant the police a wire tap to get the proof they needed.
In Spring of 2000, John wired money to a recently unemployed psychologist from Texas named Vickie for her to come visit. He arranged a meeting with her over Easter weekend at a motel, and police were waiting in the next room, listening in. While Vickie had signed up for some rough sex, what happened was significantly rougher than what she agreed to or wanted. John forced her into acts she did not want to perform, tied her up and took pictures against her explicit instructions, and hit her much harder than she had agreed to. All of these acts constituted sexual assault. He left her alone in the room for days, then came back and told her to go back to Texas, but not before taking the hundreds of dollars of sex toys and BDSM paraphernalia that she had brought with her. He then repeated the process with Jeanna, an unemployed accountant, also from Texas, whom he had promised a job. After she was abandoned in the motel, she called the police out of fear to file sexual battery charges.
Why John was not arrested after the first of these encounters is unclear, perhaps because they needed the victim to file the complaint. They had listened in and heard evidence of sexual assault, but without the victim’s testimony I suppose it stands to reason they couldn’t prove for sure that this wasn’t part of a roleplay, especially since it was clear that Vickie had been on board for at least some amount of violence against her person. At this point there was a 30 man task force dedicated to John Robinson, and they were definitely not letting him get away on a technicality. Even with Jeanna filing charges, this still could have proven to be another failing of the justice system and that stupid “due process” we hold so dear, but Vickie came forward as well. John had made a lot of mistakes in his life. I dare say his entire life was a mistake, and the world would have been better had he never had the opportunity to live it. But from John’s perspective, his biggest mistake of all was not letting Vickie take her sex toys home. Sexual assault is a serious crime and getting an arrest warrant was not going to be a problem. But because he had stolen hundreds of dollars of property from Vickie, the police, at long last, had probable cause for a search warrant. A warrant for his home, his desolate 16 acre ranch, and his storage unit in Missouri.
On June 2, 2000, police arrested John Robinson in his home, search warrant in tow. The search of his mobile home was uneventful, but at his ranch, with the help of cadaver dogs, they found the bodies of Suzette Trouten and Izabela Lewicka decomposing in 55 gallon chemical drums. At his storage facility in Missouri, police found more drums containing the bodies of Beverly Bonner, and Sheila and Debbie Faith. All five women were killed in the same way: by one or more blows to the head with a blunt object. The bodies of Lisa Stasi and Paula Godfrey were never found, but enough evidence was found to link John to their murders, including a DNA test proving that the young girl his brother had supposedly adopted was Lisa’s daughter.
With the crimes taking place in two states, John was set to face trial twice, first in Kansas and then in Missouri. The preliminary hearing for his charges began on February 5, 2001. While the initial charges included three counts of murder, kidnapping, two fraud charges, and 54 forgery charges, the judge pared it down to a lean seven felony counts, including the three murders. What followed was the longest criminal trial in Kansas history. When all was said and done, John was found guilty on all counts, and was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, as well as 20.5 years for kidnapping and an irrelevant 7 months for theft.
That just left the small matter of the charges in Missouri. See, John had a strong difference of opinion with the state of Missouri. John wanted to continue living, and Missouri felt quite the opposite. John’s lawyers wanted to avoid trial there at all costs, as Missouri is aggressive in its pursuit of capital punishment. Missouri prosecutor Chris Koster insisted that a condition of any plea bargain would be for John to lead authorities to the bodies of Stasi, Godfrey, and Clampitt. John had never cooperated with the authorities in any way or given up any information, so naturally he refused. Still, Koster was being pressured to make a deal. The case was not technically airtight, most notably because, with the bodies being found so close to the state line and the other murders happening in Kansas, they could not prove unequivocally that the murders actual took place within his jurisdiction. It was also reported that John was being pressured to take a guilty plea to avoid an almost certain death sentence in Missouri.
When it became clear that the bodies would never be found without John’s cooperation, they finally reached a disappointing compromise. Through a carefully worded statement, John acknowledged that Koster had enough evidence to convict him of capital murder for Godfrey, Clampitt, Bonner, and the Faiths. It was technically a guilty plea and the court accepted it as such, but nothing in the wording acknowledge any responsibility or remorse for what happened. John received five life sentences for each of the five murders.
The astute listener may have noticed that I left a little something off earlier. In Missouri I said that John received five life sentences for five murders, but in Kansas, where he was on trial for three murders, I only mentioned a single life sentence. And that’s because he only received one life sentence for those murders. For the other two murders, he received two death sentences. The only reason he did not receive three death sentences is because one of the murders for which he was convicted took place before Kansas reinstated the death penalty on April 23, 1994.
This brings us to the bad news, the good news, and the bad news. The bad news is that in his 2015 appeal, John was able to overturn two of the murder convictions on technicalities. The good news is that his conviction for the murder of Izabela Lewicka, and its accompanying death penalty, still stand. The other bad news is that while John Robinson currently sits as one of nine men on death row in Kansas, the state has not executed a prisoner since 1965.
Murderer, Sadist, Cartoonist?
And now for the lighter side of things! Early on in my research I stumbled across these delightful little political comics drawn by none other than John Robinson himself. Note that these were drawn in 2014, before his appeal finally overturned two of the charges. Still, let’s see if you can spot the complete lack of remorse or self awareness that John displays here.
Yes, a man who murdered at minimum eight women, pled guilty to five of those murders, and was convicted after the bodies were found on his property is definitely the victim in all these. The irony of John feeling like he has somehow been the victim of scamming by someone else is insane to a level I can’t even describe, but not as insane as his assertion that he is somehow an innocent man. Maybe the false promise of friendship is especially hurtful to him after his wife finally divorced him in 2005, citing “irreconcilable differences”.
John Robinson is a disgusting individual who deserves to die. He went from being a promising youth, to a mildly entertaining conman, to the internet’s first serial killer. We will never know how many people he has killed, because he isn’t talking to anyone, except via cartoon animals that talk about how unfairly he’s being treated. Still, given the gaps of time in the information that we have, there are almost certainly more barrels out there with his victims, just waiting to be found.
Personally, I think Missouri prosecutor Koster should have swung for the fences. With John already handed two death sentences and one life sentence by Kansas, it almost feels like he had nothing to lose. You could try to argue he had nothing to gain either, but I think we can agree that this story would have a much happier ending if he had received a death sentence in a state that wasn’t afraid to flip the switch.
- While capital punishment still exists in over half of the United States, only 13 states have executed a criminal within the past 10 years. Those states are: Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and of course, Texas. So if an episode of Casual Criminalist is taking place in the United States, don’t expect a happy ending unless it’s one of those states.
- The description of the International Council of Masters came from John Robinson himself. He also said the organization goes back to 1920 and has chapters through Europe and the U.S. The only problem with this account is that there are no references to this group anywhere outside of what John has said or created himself. Most likely, this group does not exist and it was a story he concocted to give himself credibility an allure as a master that the submissive women would want to associate themselves with.
- Have you ever wondered why junk e-mail is called spam? Would it surprise you that a bunch of internet nerds would name something after a Monty Python sketch? The sketch was about a restaurant in which every item contained the canned product spam, and it was repeated over and over again throughout the sketch. It was ubiquitous, unavoidable, and repetitive. The first recorded use of the term was on Usenet in 1993, after a user accidentally posted the same message 200 times, and in the joking that ensued, the references to the Monty Python sketch were unavoidable. If you’d like to know more, check out Simon’s video about this over on the Today I Found Out Channel.