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'It was not planned at all,' teen says


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 14, 1998

TAMPA -- Two weeks have passed since her mother's murder, giving 15-year-old Valessa Robinson a lot of time to think.

"I'm willing to accept the responsibility of going to prison," she told a WFTS-Ch. 28 reporter in an unemotional tone. "I think I deserve it. I think I deserve to go for a while to think about what has happened and what I've done."

Still, Valessa asked people to wait for the "whole truth" about her mother's death before judging her.

"Whatever happened that night wasn't supposed to happen," she said during the telephone interview. "It was not planned at all."

Valessa is in the Hillsborough County jail on a first-degree murder charge. Her boyfriend, Adam Davis, and their friend Jon Whispel, both 19, also are accused of first-degree murder and are expected to arrive soon in Tampa from Texas, where the three were arrested.

Prosecutors confirmed Monday that they will seek the death penalty against Davis and Whispel.

"The facts are just so offensive," homicide prosecutor Shirley Williams said. "A woman is attacked and killed in her home by her own daughter and her (daughter's) friends. She died a horrible death."

Valessa, however, is too young to face the electric chair.

In her interview with WFTS, Valessa did not admit guilt and blamed drugs for what happened at her mother's house.

"I was on acid that night," she said. "All three of us were. I really didn't know what was going on until after the fact."

But acid, or LSD, isn't usually associated with violence, said Richard Dembo, a criminology professor at the University of South Florida.

"LSD changes perceptions and distorts the way people see things," Dembo said. "But it generally doesn't make people different than what they are." Alcohol causes more violent behavior than LSD, he said.

Valessa said her experience with drugs was limited to marijuana, Ecstasy and acid. "I did acid a lot because I could get it really easily."

Friends say dealing LSD was Davis' primary source of income. Jose Castillo, 18, a friend who hung out with the couple, said Adams dealt mainly in a type of LSD called jack-in-the-box.

Castillo also said Valessa once overdosed at his house during a party. She had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana and opium. Paramedics picked her up, but no charges were filed, Castillo said, because the officer didn't want to discourage teens from calling authorities in similar situations.

Valessa said her sister and her mother's family have not spoken to her and she understands why. "I hope someday they will forgive me," she said. "I hope they can find it in their hearts to love me again."

But Valessa's parents, she believes, already have forgiven her. Her father, Charles Robinson, has visited her several times and told her he loves her. And though her mother is dead, Valessa said she knows her mother loves her.

"I think my mom already has forgiven me," Valessa said. "I think that she understands what happened that night. I think she knows and she understands."

Since her mother's murder, Valessa said she has "cried every single day."

Authorities say the teens stabbed Robinson to death and dumped her body in woods near Whispel's home in Town 'N Country. For the next few days, they were seen around Tampa in Robinson's minivan, using her credit cards to pay for new tattoos and food. They headed west and were captured in Texas five days after the murder.

Valessa said they were just trying not to think about the events of June 27. "We were trying to put our minds elsewhere," she said.

Vicki Robinson knew her daughter had been trying to get pregnant, Robinson's friends said. A pregnancy test administered in jail found she is not pregnant, Valessa said.

Though she faces life in prison and Davis faces the electric chair, both say they hope someday to be together. "In the eyes of God, anything is possible," Valessa said.

Davis was interviewed by WFTS last week, and Valessa spoke to the station on Sunday. Both interviews were arranged by a friend of the couple, who let reporter Linda Hurtado speak with them on a phone at an office.

Chief Assistant Public Defender Joe Registrato, who spent an hour talking to Valessa at the jail Monday, reproached WFTS for the interview. "She's 15 years old," he said. "They're taking advantage of that."

Even WFTS anchor Brendan McLaughlin mentioned the potential for damage to Valessa's defense. "She's not doing herself any favors, talking to the media," McLaughlin said after Hurtado's report.

The station held back much of its interview with Valessa until Monday's 5 p.m. newscast, teasing viewers Sunday night with the question of whether Valessa was pregnant.

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