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Judge seals Davis' fate: death

The man who killed his girlfriend's mother ""knew it was coming.''

By SUE CARLTON

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 18, 1999


TAMPA -- They never knew Vicki Robinson. Still, they went to court Friday, drawn by the tragedy of this mother murdered in her struggle to deal with her defiant teenage daughter, Valessa.

They sat on hard benches awaiting the sentencing of Valessa's boyfriend, 21-year-old Adam Davis, who had confessed to plunging a bleach-filled needle into Mrs. Robinson's neck and then stabbing her with a knife until she was still.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge's Cynthia Holloway's voice was steady, catching only once as she gave details of Mrs. Robinson's last moments.

"Imagine the fear and anxiety the victim consciously endured -- choking, injection of bleach, eventual multiple stabbing and then being left to bleed to death," the judge said.

Davis' sentence: death.

Adam Davis is sentenced for the stabbing death of Vicki Robinson, right, who had been struggling to control her daughter.
[Times photo: Tony Lopez]

"Yes," murmured Jeffrey Luddeke, a warehouse manager who heard about Mrs. Robinson on the news and took the morning off to go to court, joining a handful of other spectators there.

Standing before the judge, shackled and pale, Davis hung his head but said nothing.

"He knew it was coming," said his court-appointed attorney, Rick Terrana. "His focus now is on trying to arrange some funding for a private lawyer to do his appeal."

"To think that kids would want to kill a mother, to plan it out," said Anne Gambrell, a juror who convicted Davis last month and returned Friday to see him sentenced. "I wonder what Valessa is thinking right now."

Though Davis' mother and aunt attended his trial, they were not there to see him sentenced to death. Nor were the legion of friends, family, co-workers and fellow churchgoers of Mrs. Robinson, who had filled the courtroom for the trial.

Only Jim Englert, Mrs. Robinson's boyfriend, sat listening, his eyes wet.

"Vicki, of all people, the most loving, caring, giving Christian lady," he said. "I looked up to her. I adored her. I'll miss her forever."

Mrs. Robinson was a 49-year-old real estate agent fighting to control her daughter. Then 15, Valessa was a sometime runaway who took drugs and began an obsessive relationship with Davis, an older boy who already had a string of arrests.

Mrs. Robinson was quietly making plans to put Valessa in a boarding school for troubled girls. But the day Valessa was to arrive at Steppin' Stone Farms instead was the day of Mrs. Robinson's funeral.

Jon Whispel, who hung out with Valessa and Davis, told detectives the three had been in a booth at a Carrollwood Denny's that night in June 1998 and getting high on LSD. Then Valessa suddenly suggested they kill her mother, he said.

Whispel said Davis had taken up the idea, first plotting to overdose Mrs. Robinson with heroin, and then switching to the idea of injecting her with bleach and an air bubble.

Whispel, who testified in exchange for a 25-year prison sentence on a reduced charge of second-degree murder, said Davis had attacked her from behind, choked her and injected her. Whispel said Valessa sat on her mother to hold her down. Whispel admitted handing over the knife that was used to stab Mrs. Robinson to death.

Davis told police he had been "raging" when he "just sliced."

"The facts of this case clearly establish that this murder was the result of a calm reflection, certainly not an emotional frenzy," the judge said Friday.

Whispel said they had put Mrs. Robinson's body in a trash can from her garage and dumped it in woods, then used her ATM cards for drugs and tattoos. They took off in her minivan and made it as far as Texas before they were arrested.

Holloway, delivering her first death sentence Friday, said she considered defense arguments that Davis was on LSD, that he had no previous convictions for assault, and that he suffered hardships in his youth including the death of his father. She followed the recommendation of the jury, which voted 7-5 for death in November.

Davis will spend his time in a 6- by 9-foot death row cell, eating his meals with a spoon and showering every other day while he awaits his appeal.

Davis told detectives they had murdered Mrs. Robinson because they didn't want to be separated. Friday, Englert sounded weary as he tried to figure the logic.

"Of all the things in the world these children could have done, this is the only thing they could have done to prevent being together," he said.

Valessa's trial is scheduled to begin on Valentine's Day.

- Times staff writer Anne Hull contributed to this report.

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