Mother's words spurred confession from suspect in Penn Hills shooting
Ronald Robinson is escorted from Judge Kevin Sasinoski's courtroom for a lunch recess on the first day of his murder trial Thursday. He is accused of killing Penn Hills police officer Michael Crawshaw in December 2009.
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It took the sound of Ronald Robinson's mother on a police recording to get him to confess to killing a Penn Hills officer and another man three years ago.
Robinson, who is on trial for killing Officer Michael Crawshaw and Danyal Morton, initially lied to police in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 2009. He told them that he had been with his girlfriend the entire previous day, including when Officer Crawshaw and Morton were killed at a house on Johnston Road.
But a few hours later, after taking a nap in a county police interview room and then learning that a witness identified him as the shooter, Robinson started to listen.
The detectives interviewing him knew his mother, Rosetta Robinson, initially had called 911 after her son returned to her Homewood address in the hours after the shooting and confessed to her. And they knew they had a 17-minute taped statement she provided to police at the station.
" 'Don't make your mother take the stand and testify to this,' " Detective Terry Hediger testified he told the defendant. " 'Own up to this. We can tell the judge and the jury what happened. Don't make your mother do it.' "
"He shook his head in disbelief," Mr. Hediger continued telling the jury. "He didn't think we had a statement."
They played a portion of it for Robinson, and he said, " 'That's enough. I heard enough. You can turn it off.' "
After a bit more hesitation, Robinson provided a detailed account of what happened the night before. By the end, officers knew approximately where Robinson had discarded the assault rifle used in the slayings and why he went after Morton -- the man owed him $500 for crack cocaine that Robinson had fronted him.
" '[Stuff] went haywire,' " was Robinson's description to now-retired Detective Michael Garlicki.
By the time Robinson got outside from shooting Morton, Officer Crawshaw had pulled up.
He heard the officer yell, " 'Don't move.' And at that point, he said he got scared and opened up. He began firing the weapon," Mr. Garlicki said.
Officer Crawshaw, who fired two shots at Robinson, was struck twice by the assault rifle and died in his patrol car.
After six days of trial, both the prosecution and defense rested Thursday.
Closing arguments will be heard Monday morning.
After reaching a verdict, the case could move into a penalty phase. If Robinson is found guilty of first-degree murder, the jury must decide if he should be executed or serve life in prison with no chance for parole.
Defense attorney Veronica Brestensky, who conceded her client's guilt in opening statements, called no witnesses. She told the jury she believes her client is guilty of second-degree murder, which is homicide during the commission of another felony.
Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli called about three dozen witnesses in the case.
On Thursday, a DNA expert told the jury that Robinson's DNA was found on the assault rifle used in the crimes and that the chances that profile would match someone else in the African-American community would be 1 in 32 trillion.
Robinson's DNA also was found on the Ruger 9 mm handgun found near the scene.
Also testifying Thursday was a 15-year-old girl who lived near the Johnston Road scene.
As she was walking home from her school bus the day after the shootings, she found Robinson's state-issued identification lying on the lawn.
The last witness for the prosecution, Allegheny County homicide Detective Gregory Matthews, told the jury that inside a pocket of Robinson's black leather coat he wore the night of the crime, he found a slip of paper with the name "Danny" written on it as well as a phone number that was Morton's home number.
The courtroom has been visited throughout the trial by officers from a number of jurisdictions to show support to the Crawshaw family and Penn Hills police department. On Thursday, Clairton police Officer James Kuzak, who was shot and paralyzed during a home invasion on April 4, 2011, attended the trial.
Also attending throughout were Paul and Julia "Sue" Sciullo, the parents of slain Pittsburgh police Officer Paul Sciullo III, who was killed with Officers Stephen J. Mayhle and Eric Kelly on April 4, 2009, at a shootout in Stanton Heights. Richard Poplawski, the man convicted in that case, is on Pennsylvania's death row.
First Published January 11, 2013 12:00 am