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'Adam had her in like a sleeper hold ... and she was trying to get away'

Jon Whispel testifies that friend Adam Davis killed Vicki Robinson.


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 4, 1999

TAMPA -- Adam Davis and Jon Whispel were two aimless teenagers with a common bond -- outsiders who got high together and found trouble together, friends who became like brothers.

John Whispel describes to the jury how he picked up a knife and handed it to Adam Davis, saying, "Use this." [Times photo: Tony Lopez]
But in a somber courtroom Wednesday, they could not have been further apart.

On the witness stand was Whispel, pointing to his friend as the man who murdered Carrollwood real estate agent Vicki Robinson, the mother of Davis' girlfriend, Valessa.

With members of Mrs. Robinson's family looking on, Whispel flatly described how she lay dying on the kitchen floor as Davis, Whispel and 15-year-old Valessa sat silently, smoking cigarettes.

Then came her final moan.

"The b---- won't die," Whispel quoted Davis as saying as he grabbed the knife to finish the job.

Whispel's testimony came in the first day of Davis' trial on charges that he murdered Mrs. Robinson, then stole her credit cards to buy drugs and tattoos before fleeing Florida in her minivan with Whispel and Valessa. They were arrested after a wild car chase in Texas.

Valessa Robinson is scheduled for trial Dec. 13 in the murder of her mother.
All three gave taped confessions and drew crude maps directing detectives to Mrs. Robinson's body in the woods.

Davis and Whispel, both now 20, each faced the death penalty. Whispel has since pleaded guilty for a 25-year prison sentence and a promise to testify against his friends. Valessa, who cannot face a death sentence because of her age, is scheduled for trial Dec. 13.

Wednesday, jurors heard Davis' description of what happened the night the three friends got together over LSD and orange juice at a Denny's in Carrollwood.

Witnesses said Mrs. Robinson was struggling with her rebellious daughter. She didn't like Davis, a high-school dropout with a criminal record. But they said Mrs. Robinson had tried to help Davis.

Davis had a different take: "We wanted to be together, all three of us," he told detectives. "But Valessa's mom was trying to break me and her up, so we wanted to inject her with heroin and put her to sleep."

Robert Anders recalled Davis showing up at a party that night while Whispel and Valessa waited outside. Davis was looking to buy four bags of heroin and saying he was "gonna take someone's a-- out," said Anders, 27.

But Davis could only find a syringe, which he filled with laundry bleach at the Robinson house to try to inject an air bubble into Mrs. Robinson, Whispel testified.

Davis attacked Mrs. Robinson from behind while she walked through the kitchen in her nightgown, Whispel said. He put her "in a sleeper hold, like wrestlers do on TV" and stuck the needle into her neck, Whispel said.

Adam Davis, left, sits in the courtroom Wednesday.
[Times photo: Tony Lopez]
In the struggle, Valessa straddled her mother on the floor to help control her, Whispel said. Whispel said he picked up a knife and handed it over, saying, "Use this."

"I walked back in the bedroom and put my head in my hands," Whispel said.

Davis came in, holding the knife in his bloody hands, saying he had stabbed her, Whispel said. "Valessa's like, "Babe, you need to go to the bathroom and clean your hands,' " Whispel said.

Whispel described loading the body headfirst into a plastic garbage can from Mrs. Robinson's garage and meticulously cleaning up the blood. As they loaded the garbage can into the van, he said, Mrs. Robinson's collie, Lady, cowered in a corner.

"She started growling," Whispel said.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Charles Traina admitted that Davis was "significantly and deeply involved in the killing of Vicki Robinson" but attacked the idea that it was premeditated. To convict Davis of first-degree murder, the only crime punishable by death, the jury must find that the murder was indeed premeditated.

On cross-examination, Traina pointed out that Whispel wasn't sure exactly who took the knife from him and got Whispel to admit his perceptions were altered by the LSD.

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