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Opening statements may begin this week in Kansas serial killer case

By Sue Miller Wiltz
Special to Court TV

John Edward Robinson Sr.
John Edward Robinson Sr.

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OLATHE, Kansas (Court TV) -- Court officials hope to seat a jury and could hear opening statements later this week in the first capital murder trial of John Edward Robinson Sr., a father of four accused of killing six women, some of whom he allegedly lured through Internet chat rooms.

Last week, Johnson County District Judge John Anderson III again delayed the start of testimony because the court needs more time to pick a panel in the high-profile death penalty case.

In a jury selection that has so far focused on pretrial publicity and potential jurors' attitudes toward the death penalty, the judge and the attorneys said late Friday that they expect to finish a second round of questioning on Tuesday and move to a third and final round Wednesday. The judge also agreed to delay the start of witness testimony until Monday, October 7.

The court had originally summoned the first 600 of 1,200 possible jurors to report to the Johnson County Courthouse for duty on September 16 and have since decided they do not need to call the remaining 600. In the first phase, approximately half of those 600 were granted requests for personal hardship and released from duty.

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By the end of last week, the court had interviewed 203 second-phase jurors, approving 38 men and 30 women -- 68 in total -- to move to the third and final phase. They have another 76 possible jurors to interview in small groups on Monday and Tuesday.

In the final phase, which should last two days, both sides will ask more questions and ultimately be allowed 17 strikes each in deciding which 12 jurors and five alternates will be seated to hear the evidence against Robinson.

The 58-year-old defendant is accused of killing a total of six women and sexually assaulting two others in Kansas and Missouri over a period of 15 years. (One of the sexual assault charges was dismissed after the 2001 preliminary hearing.) Using the online name of "Slavemaster," he allegedly lured at least a few of the women through Internet chat rooms with promises of money and jobs and requests for sadomasochistic sex.

In Johnson County, Kansas, where the first trial is taking place, Robinson faces capital murder charges in the bludgeoning deaths of two women, Izabela Lewicka, 21, of West Lafayette, Indiana, and Suzette Trouten, 27, of Newport, Michigan, on the rural property he owned.

He also faces first-degree murder charges in connection with Lisa Stasi, 19, who disappeared with her four-month-old daughter, Tiffany, in 1985. (He avoided a capital murder charge in that case because Kansas did not have the death penalty at the time.)

In a strange twist, Robinson is charge with killing Lisa and arranging for his brother and sister-in-law, Don and Helen Robinson, to adopt Tiffany, pocketing $5,500 for his services. Tiffany, now almost the age her mother was when she disappeared, is believed to still be living with her adoptive parents in suburban Chicago. Her mother's body has never been found.

Once the Kansas case is completed, Robinson will face trial on three counts of capital murder in Cass County, Missouri, in the bludgeoning deaths of three women found in his storage locker.

A former correspondent for Newsweek and People Weekly, Sue Miller Wiltz is currently writing a book about Robinson for Pinnacle Books. She is covering the trial for Courttv.com.



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