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Girl and killer,
once so in love,
at odds in trial

He killed her mother. She's accused of helping. Now state prosecutors have him on the list of witnesses against her.

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Valessa Robinson flashes a hand signal to Adam Davis, her boyfriend at the time, during a court appearance in Circuit Court in Tampa last year.
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[Times files, 1998: Tony Lopez]
Adam Davis, 21, was sentenced to death for the murder of Vicki Robinson.

By SUE CARLTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 3, 2000


TAMPA -- Adam Davis and Valessa Robinson have been described by investigators as star-crossed teenage lovers, so determined to stay together that they murdered her mother.

But in an intriguing development, Davis could return to Tampa from death row to give damning testimony against his former girlfriend at her upcoming murder trial.

Davis, now 21 and sentenced to be executed for the 1998 murder, was listed this week as a possible state witness at Robinson's first-degree murder trial. Prosecutors say they will only consider putting him on the stand to rebut Robinson's story should she decide to testify.

Though the trial is scheduled for April 10, her attorneys say this new wrinkle could mean another delay.

"It changes the complexion of the case entirely," said Public Defender Julianne Holt.

Robinson was 15 and Davis 19 when prosecutors say they plotted to kill her mother, 49-year-old real estate agent Vicki Robinson. She was attacked with a syringe and a knife and died on the kitchen floor of her Carrollwood home. Her body was left inside a garbage can in the woods while Robinson, Davis and their friend Jon Whispel partied on her credit cards, police say.

They were caught in Texas in Mrs. Robinson's minivan. All three said they were high on LSD that night, and all three gave varying confessions.

"We were sitting there trying to figure out a way to be together . . . all three of us . . . but Valessa's mom was trying to break me and her up," Davis said on tape. "So we wanted to inject her with heroin and put her to sleep."

Davis implicated all three in the violent attack.

"I was sitting on top of her with my hand on her throat. And Valessa was holding her legs down . . . and Jon brought out the knife . . . he said,"Here, use this,' " Davis said.

Even after Robinson and Davis were sent to separate Hillsborough jails to await their trials, there were signs of devotion. When Robinson was being escorted to a police car soon after her arrest, she told reporters, "I love Adam." At pretrial hearings, they exchanged smiles and secret hand signals until the judge began to schedule separate hearings. Three months after they were arrested, Davis' then-attorney complained his client wasn't being allowed to send her letters.

"He just wants to tell her he loves her," lawyer Mike Benito said then.

At his trial last year, his attorney argued that Davis was indeed involved in Mrs. Robinson's death, but not to the point of committing first-degree murder. Davis did not take the stand.

But Whispel, who accepted a plea deal for 25 years in prison, gave devastating testimony, and Davis was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.

Prosecutors confirmed Thursday that investigators have spoken to Davis since he was sent to death row and that he has given them "information." Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi declined to give specifics, but a report of what he said that implicated Robinson is expected to be made public today. Davis, whose case is on appeal, was offered no deals, Bondi said.

"He has been listed as a rebuttal witness if Valessa Robinson takes the stand," Bondi said. "We don't know what Valessa Robinson's going to say. If she chooses to testify, we've just listed him in an abundance of caution."

Despite Davis' credibility problems -- he is, after all, a confessed and convicted murderer -- defense lawyers say they have to pay attention to the possibilities.

"Any time you have someone implicating your client, you have to assume that some jury member will take it seriously," Holt said. "Therefore it's incumbent upon us to show the unbelievability of Davis."

Rick Terrana, who represented Davis in the penalty phase of his trial, said it would be "a disastrous idea" for him to testify.

"Can you imagine the attack they'll launch on him on cross (examination)?" Terrana said. "His own confession -- that'll be a five-hour cross."

In jail Thursday, Robinson, now 16, spent her morning interviewing with a crew from the national news show 48 Hours. Holt said she believed Valessa had already been made aware of the possibility that Davis could take the stand against her.

Does she still profess love for him?

"I think the only person she's attached to right now is this office trying to help her, and re-establishing her relationship with her father," Holt said. "That's her focus."

* * *

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