Tampa Bay columnists
Mary Jo Melone
World & Nation
AP The Wire
Comics & Games
Home & Garden
Advertise with the Times
Davis says girlfriend did the killing
By SUE CARLTON
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 4, 2000
TAMPA -- Forget the jail house love letters and the pledges of devotion. Forget the longing looks that Adam Davis and Valessa Robinson once exchanged across a crowded courtroom, even as they faced charges of murdering her mother.
Davis, now on death row for the 1998 slaying, recently told investigators that it was actually Robinson who wielded the knife that night. What's more, Davis could be called as a witness for the prosecution at her first-degree murder trial, scheduled for April 10.
"The love story's over. The romance is gone," said attorney Rick Terrana, who represented Davis in the penalty phase of the trial last year. "Now let's get down to the nitty-gritty."
Hours after his arrest in July 1998, Davis gave a full confession to killing Vicki Robinson, 49, while he was "raging" on LSD.
Davis, who was 19 at the time, said Mrs. Robinson had been trying to break up his relationship with her daughter, then 15.
Davis did not testify at his trial. This week prosecutors said he has not been offered any deal for his testimony against Robinson.
So why the change of heart?
Now 21, Davis offered this answer to a detective who visited him on death row last month.
"He stated that he realizes that he should do time for his involvement in Mrs. Robinson's death, but he shouldn't die for it because he did not actually kill her," Hillsborough Sheriff's Detective Jim Iverson wrote in his report.
Davis' conviction and death sentence are on appeal.
His latest story marks a turnaround for the relationship of Robinson and Davis, who a friend once called "Romeo and Juliet for the '90s." He tried to send her love letters in jail, and she once told a gathering of reporters "I love Adam" as she was taken away in handcuffs.
Davis, Robinson and their friend Jon Whispel were arrested driving Mrs. Robinson's minivan through Texas five days after the Carrollwood real estate agent vanished.
In a Texas jail, Davis described to detectives how Robinson came up with a plan to kill her mother after they had all taken LSD. He said the group tried to buy heroin for an overdose, then switched to laundry bleach.
Inside the Robinson home, Davis said, he followed Mrs. Robinson into the kitchen. He described putting her in a choke hold and Robinson holding down her mother's legs. He said Whispel handed him a knife after the bleach didn't work.
"I don't even know what was going through my mind when I did it, but I just sliced," Davis said on a tape played for the jury that convicted him.
But in a death row interview with investigators two weeks ago, Davis said he humored Robinson after she came up with the idea to kill her mother and suggested buying heroin so he could use it himself.
He said when they went back to the Robinson house, Mrs. Robinson woke up and was not happy the boys had not gone home.
Davis said he was apologizing to Mrs. Robinson when she said something about his father, who died years earlier in a motorcycle crash and whom Davis idolized. Davis said it "made him click" and he put Mrs. Robinson in a choke hold until she was unconscious on the kitchen floor. He said he left the room to look for something he could use to tie her up.
While he was in the bedroom, Davis said, Robinson went into the kitchen with her mother. He said he heard "thumps" in the kitchen and came back in to find Valessa standing there holding a knife, her hands covered with blood.
He said after they cleaned up the mess and dumped Mrs. Robinson's body in the woods, they grabbed her purse and credit cards. After a few days at cheap Tampa motels, they left town.
Davis, long characterized as the leader of the threesome, told the investigators that "thinking back, it was Valessa who manipulated him," the detective wrote.
His latest statement is somewhat at odds with that of Whispel, who pleaded guilty for 25 years in prison and became a star state witness. Now 20, Whispel said he handed over the knife that was used to kill Mrs. Robinson but didn't see which of his friends took it from him.
Whispel also said Davis took a break during the attack and then heard Mrs. Robinson making noises in the kitchen. Whispel said Davis commented that the "bitch won't die" and went back in to finish the job.
Prosecutors have included Davis on their witness list for Robinson's trial but say they will only call him to rebut her if she testifies. Her attorneys plan to ask for a continuance.
"It would appear to me it's been (Davis' and Whispel's) plan all along to blame everything on Valessa only to help themselves," said public defender Julianne Holt, whose office represents Robinson.
Court records also show that Davis has begun corresponding with a female inmate at another prison.
Also released Friday were undated letters Robinson wrote to a friend while in jail.
She wrote that she hoped one day she and Davis would be together again to get married and have a family.
"True love always finds a way," she wrote.
She also pledged eternal love.
"Even if Adam says that everything that happened was my doing, and he gets set free and goes off and gets married and starts (a) family, and I spend the rest of my life in jail, that would be fine with me," she wrote. "Because I would give my entire life if it made Adam happy."
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.