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'Missing' daughter hangs out with pals

By AMY HERDY

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 1998


TAMPA -- While investigators spent three days searching for Vicki Robinson and her daughter, the teenager was eating at Tampa restaurants, hanging out at a Ybor City tattoo parlor and telling friends she hoped to have a baby with one of two men suspected in her mother's disappearance.

The sightings heightened concern about Robinson's well-being and intensified the search for 15-year-old Valessa Robinson and the two men -- Adam Davis, 20, and Jon Whispel, 19.

The trio was thought to have been in Gulfport, Miss., in the past 24 hours, Hillsborough sheriff's officials said late Wednesday.

Searchers have combed woods near Robinson's home in Carrollwood Village and near Whispel's home in Town 'N Country. "We are concerned for her welfare, there's no doubt about that," sheriff's Lt. Greg Brown said.

Robinson was not with her daughter and the two men over the weekend, though the trio was seen with Robinson's minivan.

Robinson, 49, a single parent and real estate agent, had been telling friends she was concerned about Valessa and her relationship with Davis.

Robinson's boyfriend, Jim Englert, said Wednesday that Robinson planned to send Valessa to a school out of the Tampa area.

Criminal child abuse charges had been filed against Davis for running away with Valessa in May. Davis was out of jail awaiting trial on the charge when Robinson disappeared Saturday.

Brown said Wednesday that Davis and Whispel were thought to have been in Gulfport, Miss., with Valessa in the last 24 hours. He refused to give specifics.

A tattoo shop employee who spent time with the trio Sunday said they indicated they were heading to Arizona.

Warrants were issued Tuesday for Davis and Whispel, charging them with stealing Vicki Robinson's minivan and illegally making electronic withdrawals after her disappearance.

Investigators also have learned Davis is wanted in Oregon on a warrant charging him with the unauthorized use of a vehicle and violation of probation.

Davis and Whispel had both been arrested for allegedly breaking into a home in Hillsborough County in 1997 and stealing weapons.

Vicki Robinson last was seen about 1:30 a.m. Saturday after Valessa and several friends, including Davis and Whispel, spent time eating and swimming at her home at 4221 Cartnal Ave.

Englert, the boyfriend, reported Robinson missing Saturday evening after she failed to call him for a planned trip to the beach that afternoon.

The search intensified after Robinson's boss at Re/Max Realty in Carrollwood reported that Robinson, described as a responsible employee, missed several appointments Saturday.

Englert said Wednesday that Valessa wanted to have a baby with Davis and often stayed with him for days at a time. That's why Robinson was arranging to send her daughter away to school.

It was unknown Wednesday whether Valessa knew of her mother's plans.

But it appeared that Valessa had plans of her own.

Indications on Wednesday were that she and at least one of the men, Davis, planned to leave this past weekend. Employers for both Valessa and Davis said the two had called to say they wouldn't be reporting to work Saturday.

Valessa's boss at a Carrollwood McDonald's said the teenager called Thursday evening to say she "she and her mother were going to take a trip."

Bob Conigliaro, a spokesman for McDonald's/Caspers Co. , also said Valessa and Davis came to the McDonald's Friday night about midnight to pick up her paycheck.

Davis, who had started a job at Denny's Restaurant in Carrollwood on June 21, called his boss Friday to say he would not be able to work Saturday, said Denny's manager Mike Noyce. Davis told his boss he was needed by a friend in the hospital, Noyce said, but was fired when he also failed to show up for work Sunday.

According to witnesses, Valessa, Adams and Whispel were seen several times over the next few days: at Joffrey's coffee shop in Carrollwood late Friday night; Papa John's Pizza in Town 'N Country on Saturday afternoon; and at Valhalla, an Ybor City tattoo parlor, about 1 a.m. Sunday and again later that morning.

Davis flashed credit cards and said he had put a down payment on the green minivan he was driving, said Richard Cunningham, a friend of Valessa's who said he saw the pair several times over the weekend.

At the tattoo parlor, both Davis and Whispel had "about $600 worth" of tattoos and piercings done and paid in cash, said tattoo artist Mike Simone.

Davis chose jester faces and Whispel chose a skull, said Corey Simone, also an employee. Both men also had their eyebrows pierced. During both visits, each of which took a few hours, Valessa lay on a nearby couch, saying she was ill, Simone said.

She and Davis also said they planned to get married, Simone said, and that they were headed to Arizona.

The last time anyone reported seeing the trio was Monday afternoon, when Cunningham said he met up with them about 3 p.m. at the home of a mutual friend in Town 'N Country.

Valessa said she didn't feel well, Cunningham said, and lay on the couch while the men showed off their new tattoos and Davis talked of his new minivan.

That afternoon, Cunningham said, she said to Davis, "I want a baby. When are we going to have a baby?"

Davis' reply, Cunningham said, was what he always said: "When you support me."

-- Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Tim Grant contributed to this report.


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