A mother, a daughter, a murder

The Valessa Robinson Case

A Tampa teenager is going on trial, accused of killing her mother. What happened in this case in which so little seems to make sense?

[Photo courtesy of Jim Englert]

Vicki and Valessa
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About this report

The St. Petersburg Times is providing expanded coverage of Valessa Robinson's first-degree murder trial.

Why so much coverage of one trial? Because the Robinson case encompasses powerful themes that run through the lives of many families: the struggles between teenagers and parents, the stresses of divorce, the problems of drugs and teens, the efforts of single parents to start over.

In delving beyond the matters being debated in the courtroom, the Times seeks to give a fuller portrait of this case and of the issues that have led so many readers to follow it.

Valessa Robinson's trial is expected to last about a week.

The case at a glance

Vicki Robinson, a 49-year-old real estate agent and divorced mother of two teenagers, vanished from her home in the Tampa suburb of Carrollwood on June 27, 1998.

[Times photo: Ken Helle]
Valessa Robinson during a bond hearing in Judge Walter Heinrich's video court room on Thursday, July 9, 1998. Bond was denied.
Police soon focused their investigation on Mrs. Robinson's 15-year-old daughter, Valessa, who had disappeared, too. Mrs. Robinson had been struggling to keep control of her rebellious daughter and was concerned about her new boyfriend, Adam Davis. Davis, 19, recently had spent six months in jail for theft and burglary.

Six days after Vicki Robinson's disappearance, Valessa Robinson and Adam Davis -- along with 19-year-old Jon Whispel -- were arrested after a high-speed chase on Interstate 10 in Texas. The next day, Mrs. Robinson's body was found in a garbage can in woods a few miles from her home.

Whispel reached a deal with prosecutors and turned against his friends. He said that on the night of the murder, he, Valessa and Adam had taken LSD. As they sat in a Denny's restaurant talking about what to do, Valessa suddenly suggested they kill her mother. Inside the Robinson home, Davis attacked Mrs. Robinson and stabbed her, Whispel said, adding that at one point Valessa held down her mother.

Whispel pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Late last year, Adam Davis was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.

The Jurors Here are the 13 jurors selected.

View an archive of previously published Times stories about the case.

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