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tv   2020  ABC  October 4, 2019 9:00pm-11:00pm PDT

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the devil, pure and simple. how else can y person in the face and take their life? ♪ >> i'd say john robinson is one of the most dangerous criminals that i've ever encountered. >> john robinson is preying on kansas city for 15 years. seems like any woman that gets too close to him just disappe s disappears. >> you have heard the cliche of living double lives, this guy has, like, five. >> we think that he's the first serial killer on the internet.
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>> john robinson had a schtick that he useda wealthy businessm take care of you. >> he made believe she would have a trip of a lifetime, when the reality was she was in a barrel on his farm. dead. >> 19-year-old lisa stacey and her 5-year-old daughter have been missing for 15 years now. >> where is she? and then the baby, what happened to the baby? >> miraculously, she's alive. >> for the first time, we're hearing from baby tiffany. she's never spoken out before. >> it's highly likely you were there when john murdered your mother. ♪
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♪ >> kansas city, right here in, the midwest, is right in the middle between kansas and missouri. there's kansas city, kansas, kansas city, missouri. >> kansas city's kind of a formerly wild town during the prohibition era. it was kind of the beginning of the west. >> people maybe have an image in their head of cowboys and cattle rustling, but it's a, it's a big city. >> the home of harry truman. barbecue and, and jazz. >> the first inkling i had of it was i'd heard that they'd found some bodies in johnson county, kansas. i just sat straight up in bed. i got goose bumps. >> and somebody said, "well, we've got a body or two in linn county. >> the energy in the newsroom suddenly jumped.
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>> it's one of the biggest stories of the year. >> it could not have been bigger in kansas city, it was shocking. >> pretty soon they said, "well, they're in barrels." >> police pulled about three 55-gallon drums out a couple hours ago. >> we do not know where they were murdered. we do not know when they were murdered. and we do not know how long they have been in the barrels. >> it was like a stephen king novel in real life. >> the bodies were scattered between the two states, and they were in barrels. >> there was such horror and grotesqueness. >> my gosh, that's pretty evil. pretty evil. >> a suspect is being held in the johnson county jail. >> he's identified as john e. robinson. >> and i said, "okay, put that puppy on page one." >> robinson is a suspected serial killer who investigators
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believe may have victims dating back to 1984. >> this was like the nightmare that kansas city didn't know they had. there were bodies, but no one knew they were there. he had hidden them. >> robinson's connected to all these missing women. >> including 19-year-old lisa stasi. >> all these women start disappearing that are involved with john robinson. but then there's lisa stasi, and it's a whole different story because she has this 4-month-old baby that vanishes. >> lisa stasi and her baby, tiffany. >> tiffany and her mother lisa disappeared in 1985 shortly after meeting john e. robinson. >> 19-year-old lisa stasi and her daughter tiffany have been missing for more than 15 years now.
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>> you think every day, where is lisa stasi? then, there's the baby. what happened to the baby? >> i think everyone that's associated with this investigation wants to know if tiffany stasi is still out there, if she's still alive, and if so, where? >> we had several tips that came in after the arrest. >> as far as number of leads, i'm sure we're well over 300. >> the big tip about tiffany was a huge tip. >> few people dared hope that either mother or child was still alive until this summer when police made a staggering discovery. >> now there are indications tiffany could be alive and nearly 16 years old. >> stasi's daughter was still alive. >> i thought i was stunned when i heard about the bodies in the barrels, but my head spun. >> this is "primetime thursday." >> chris cuomo tells a tale full of twists, turns, and tantalizing clues. >> no case is more haunting than the mother and baby who vanished
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together long ago. >> good afternoon. we'll go ahead and get started that it has been confirmed and we're very comfortable with the fact that this girl is tiffany stasi. >> my sister called me. she always says, "kat, get ready." that's what she said. she goes, "i've got some news for you." >> they think they found tiffany. it's all, it's in the paper." >> what would you like to say? >> that i'm very, very happy today that i know finally that my niece, tiffany as we know her, is alive. >> we prayed to god and god showed us. our prayers made it possible for them to find tiffany. >> and i remember the day that it began to ripple through the
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newsroom at the "star" that this kid, this child was still alive, and it was like you could see the shockwave going through the newsroom. >> and all this death and blood and everything. and then, suddenly, miraculously, this girl exists. she's alive. >> it was very hopeful, there was a survivor and it was a child. >> the body of lisa stasi has never been found, as most of you probably know. tiffany stacey was purportedly adopted by a midwestern family in january of 1985, where she remains today. >> the infant the stasi family knew as tiffany is now almost 16 years old, living somewhere in the midwest with her adoptive family. >> the family has asked us to read a statement, a short statement. and it's as follows. our deepest sympathy goes out to the other families victimized by the events unfolding in the case involving john robinson. we too have been betrayed by this man. >> you mentioned the body of lisa stasi has never been found. do you have any expectation that it ever will be?
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>> who knows? >> do you know how she is doing, this young woman who's 15 right now? >> our understanding is that, as you could probably expect, she's having a difficult time with this, and is struggling with the horror of this whole thing. >> there's enough drama in teenage girls' lives to begin with, but to face something like that must have been incredible. >> some of the media outlets have already shown some age progression photos. of what she may look like now. can you tell us if those are accurate depictions? >> that's an easy one for me to answer because i've never seen the girl. >> in 20 years since this incredible story first broke, this baby tiffany that was found alive has never spoken until now. >> we are now hearing for the first time from baby tiffany, her name is heather, and she is telling us her story.
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>> i was assigned this story in 2014 and i reached out to heather. and she said she wasn't ready. i told her, hang onto my number. four years after i initially reached out to heather, my phone rang and i picked up and she said, "this is heather and i'm ready to tell my story." >> all right, we're going? we're rolling? tell me about your childhood. because they are threatened. our camera traps allow us to have and eye in the mountains, taking thousands of pictures. microsoft ai scans through all these images, and separates snow leopards from everything else, in ten minutes instead of ten days. it gives us time to do better research, and save this threatened species. if ylittle thingsate tcan be a big deal., that's why there's otezla. otezla is not a cream.
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dead bodies found on his
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linn county, kansas, farm. >> 19-year-old lisa stasi and her daughter tiffany, they've been missing since 1985. >> johnson county prosecutor paul morrison says the midwest family who thought they legally adopted this little girl, tiffany stasi, 15 years ago was duped, allegedly by john e. robinson. >> what do you want to find out about your biological mom? >> i want to find out where she is. i want to know who she was. i know nothing of my mother. that's haunted me my entire life. >> do you believe you will find out? >> yeah. i know i will. i'll find her. >> today's itinerary is, right now, i'm awake and conscious and getting some caffeine into me. we are then proceeding to o'hare, where we're going to land in kansas city. >> the first step on heather's
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journey was going back to where the story began, kansas city. where her mother was born, where her mother was killed, and where a lot of these answers hopefully were for her. >> i really hope that we can find, at least, the location of lisa, where he put her. at least, i think for heather to be able to say good-bye. >> thanks again for flying with us, hope you enjoy your stay in kansas city. >> we are here to meet paul morrison, who was the district attorney who tried against john here in kansas. hi, it's very nice to meet you finally. >> very nice to meet you. >> do you think in your experience i'll find where she is if i keep pursuing it? >> maybe. >> stranger things have happened.
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>> oh, absolutely. and especially nowadays with advances in technology. yeah, i think you should. >> yeah. >> this is heather a few months after she was born, but she isn't heather here. she was tiffany. but then her name and the whole course of her life changes all because of a guy named john robinson. >> john robinson was a very interesting man. originally from chicago area. >> john robinson was born in 1943 in cicero, illinois, and grew up in a somewhat working class neighborhood there. >> from everything we know about john robinson's youth, it was ordinary. he was an eagle scout, he loved animals, and got along great with everybody. >> in fact when he was a young man, made a trip to england, where he sang for the queen of england. >> a command performance for
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queen elizabeth at the palladium in london when he was about 13. backstage at the palladium, he ran into judy garland. >> she kissed him on the cheek and this made a big story in the chicago papers. >> in 1964, he was 21 years old and he met a woman named nancy jo lynch, and they would be married for decades and decades. he got a job at a chicago hospital as an x-ray technician. but instead of doing a lot of x-rays, he started having affairs and stealing money from the hospital. >> john robinson got a job in the late '60s i believe with a doctor graham, who happened to be harry truman's personal physician. he was a very good people person. smiled a lot. he gave an excellent first impression.
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but he had another side to him as well. >> it was found out that he had embezzled $25,000 from dr. graham. >> we weren't the only ones. he went on to have many, many years of embezzlement and other white collar crimes. >> he had this long, long career as this con man. if there was a way to con somebody, johnny robinson had already thought it through. >> he's always doing a con. he's always stealing from someone. >> time after time, robinson is caught and convicted for these white collar crimes, but every time he manages to escape any real significant prison time. >> in 1977 there's a banquet in downtown kansas city at one of the hotels, and they
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announced that the man of the year was john robinson for all his great work that he'd done. >> and it turned out that it was his own invention. >> nominated himself. ordered the plaque himself. the whole thing. >> he made it all up. >> with a lot of serial killers, you hear the cliche about it. them living double lives, this guy had five lives. >> you kind of have to think about his wife and family. they have four children by now. and he's trying to present himself in a very favorable light. he's the referee of his kid's soccer games, he's an elder at the church. >> i think part of the reason that he was able to get away with it so long was 'cause he didn't look dangerous. >> he looks more like the pillsbury doughboy than he does, you know, the chainsaw massacre guy. you know, he's very congenial. he smiles. he laughs. he tells stories. he slaps you on the back. >> steve haymes was robinson's probation officer. he had his eye on robinson for a long time, knowing that
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something beyond white collar crime was involved here. >> there was no doubt in my mind that robinson was up to no good. >> open an olathe north high school from the early 1980s, you'll see a dark-haired girl with a very bright future. >> it gets to be 1984, he hires paula godfrey. >> paula answered an ad in the newspaper for a job. that's where she met robinson. >> and she disappears. >> her father confronted john robinson, who totally said, "i don't know what you're talking about." all of a sudden, these letters started appearing signed by his daughter saying, "oh, i'm okay, you know, i'm fine. you don't need to worry about me." >> you're a parent or a sibling, and you've lost contact, and then out of the blue you get a letter from them.
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it probably made you feel good at least initially that, well, they're okay, but then on closer examination they'd often say, "well, this doesn't sound like her." >> john robinson was a very good predator. he chose his victims well. they were looking for some way out of their poverty and their problems. john robinson gave it to them. >> heather also met with steve haymes. that was a really powerful meeting for her. >> we ready? all right. do you want to start out? >> i would go with how did you come across john? i know she tries, but she can't always do things with me. i just wish she could feel better. my bipolar depression made me miss so much. so i talked to my doctor. she prescribed latuda. latuda is the #1 prescribed brand for bipolar depression,... ...a different type of depression. latuda was proven effective for many people struggling with bipolar depression.
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steve haymes was a probation officer. and he was john robinson's probation officer in the 1980s. he had a hunch back then that
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john robinson was guilty of something very serious. and he pursued that. >> a hugger? >> i am. >> so good to finally meet you. >> this is a meeting 35 years in the making. >> yes, it is. >> i've watched my own kids grow up. i've always, you know, yeah. "what became of this girl, what happened to her?" i was haunted, you know, by that picture. the picture of you and your mom, you know. i mean, that image is just burned into my mind. i mean, i had searched high and low through this city. but it all went -- it all went nowhere. >> i don't think anyone cared more about lisa than he did, and the fact that all those years he never gave up, which has always motivated me, 'cause i refuse to give up.
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>> lisa stasi was a young woman in a difficult marriage. >> i met lisa in 1984. she was from alabama and she was a southern girl, you know? and she was beautiful. >> she got pregnant and they decided they wanted to get married. >> this is tiffany's baby book. this is all lisa's writing, how she felt about tiffany. >> when you are old enough to read this, i hope you will still be feeling the love i have for you, because it's a love stronger than life itself. and then it ends. after four months there's nothing, it's just blank pages. >> so how did it change when the baby was born? >> i was struggling finding work, and we were having problems. it
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>> she said that she'd had a fight with carl and she didn't know what to do or where to go. and so i took her to the hope house. >> we had a residential facility and housed about 25 women and children at a time. >> and at that same time, john robinson had started kansas city outreach program, which was purportedly a program to help downtrodden women. >> through this phony philanthropic effort, robinson was introduced to lisa stasi. >> he ends up putting her up at the rodeway inn. >> lisa had left the rodeway inn. she had taken the baby. robinson was frantic to find her. >> she was at my house. >> and what was she saying?
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>> she was just telling me about this person and i felt uneasy about it. >> there's this blinding snowstorm. the city is paralyzed. robinson shows up at kathy klinginsmith's house. >> we've got to leave right now. we've got to get out of here. >> i was very scared. >> he loads lisa and tiffany up in his car, leaving behind lisa's car, her clothing, baby food, diapers. >> she went back to the rodeway inn and that's when my mom got the phone call. >> she said, they want me to sign these papers, four of them. and i said, don't sign nothing. and she was just crying and then she finally settled down and she says, here they come now. and that was the last time i heard from her.
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>> and then what happens? >> and then she disappears. >> she disappeared. forever. >> then they get a letter from her. >> members of the family all of a sudden receive typewritten letters supposedly from lisa. >> here we go again. more letters from a missing woman, just like paula godfrey from a year earlier. >> this is a copy of the letter that was one of the four blank sheets of paper that your mom signed. >> that she had to sign? can i see that real quick? >> absolutely. >> "i want to thank you for all your help. i've decided to get away from this area and try to make a good life for me and tiffany." >> was lisa a big letter writer? >> no. >> typewritten letters? >> no. she couldn't type enough to type a letter.
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>> did he hurt her? did he take her baby? the more time went by, the more worried we got. the more we began to realize that she might not be alive. >> the rodeway inn was one of the most important stops in heather's journey for sure. heather was at the roadway inn with her mother lisa. she was just four months old. she was a baby. and the police believe that heather may have been there when her mother was killed. >> when we took heather to the site of where the rodeway inn was, unfortunately it was no longer there. >> she had everything taken away from her, her life, her child, but i've never forgotten this motel. it lingers with me. and somewhere
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she's somewhere here. >> what you doing there, heather? >> getting some dirt and grass from the area so i have something. just something solid, something tangible, something from here. justice and closure for me is finding her remains and giving her a proper burial. and peace is finally being able to definitively say lisa was a person, this is what they did to her, this is where she is. i'll find you. i promise. >> there's this emerging thing in our culture called the internet. >> if you thought john robinson was dangerous before, john robinson and the internet
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the devil. the devil. pure and simple. how else can you look a person in the face and take their life? how could he go home and look at his children? >> robinson was a 9:00 to 5:00 serial killer. he committed all his crimes during the day. at night he's home with the family, wife and kids, later grandkids. nobody knew what's hidden in all those barrels.
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by the late '80s, two more women are missing. >> 1984. that's when 19-year-old paula godfrey disappeared after making connections with robinson. >> 27-year-old catherine clampitt was reported missing in 1987. >> that was one of the things that has always troubled me about this case, is all of these women disappearing. over such a long period.d never him. i think police had suspicions. >> robinson was investigated as a suspect back then, but charges were never filed. >> there are people that just want to be gone, or disappear from their families, when family members are getting letters, i mean, who's to say that these aren't legitimate? >> it's easy to try and pin some of this on the criminal justice system. john e. robinson was a charming, practiced liar. he fooled a lot of people in his life.
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>> john robinson finally does go to prison, but it's not for murder. it's for fraud. >> he gets a job working in the prison library. and the woman who worked there as a librarian was beverly bonner, who was married to the prison doctor. >> and starts an affair with her while he's an inmate. >> and after he was released, we >> bonner leaves her family to become robinson's girlfriend. and somewhere along the lines, she dropped out of the picture. >> but he collects her alimony check for a long period of time.
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>> later, members of the family started receiving christmas letters from beverly bonner, who was traveling the world, having the grandest time. >> police say 56-year-old john e. robinson made many contacts over the years, most recently over the internet, in sadomasochistic sex chat rooms. >> the internet changed everything for us. but the internet also changed a lot for john robinson. it gave him a new weapon. >> he will have five computers set up in his home. >> now he had the whole world of the online, and the bdsm subculture, to be his hunting ground. >> we think that he is the first serial killer to transfer those skills onto the internet. he fires up his five computers, and he surfs, and sees what he can find.
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>> polish immigrant izabela lewicka also has ties to robinson. >> they hook up through the internet, and he wants her to come to kansas essentially to be his submissive, and she suddenly disappears as well. >> there's a woman in michigan named suzette trouten. >> suzette trouten picked up and came to the kansas city area in early 2000, and ultimately her case was the one that sort of the whole house of cards came tumbling down on robinson at that point. >> john robinson was easily able to scam her into coming down here to be the caretaker for his supposedly elderly father, who had been dead for many, many years. >> part of what also attracted suzette to come down to kansas city was this alternative lifestyle. >> i'm a wealthy businessman. i'm gonna take care of you. you can be my slave.
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and, by the way, we're gonna travel all the time, go to exotic places and just have a wonderful life. >> she went down there three times and he took her to the airport in a limousine, she stayed in a guest house. >> trouten came here in february and very soon her mother sensed something was wrong, telling a detroit reporter her emails were strange. >> things weren't worded the way she would word them. everything was spelled right. >> and that wasn't like her either, huh? >> no, no. >> as carolyn did not hear from suzette, she became worried. and worried enough to the point where she decided to make a phone call to the police department. >> literally within three or four days, we had a task group up and running. >> suzette trouten has two pekingese dogs, peeka and harry, who she's very, very close to. she doesn't go anywhere without these two dogs. >> carolyn had told us, if you find peka and harry and
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suzette's not around, something very serious has happened to suzette. >> suzette would never have gone anywhere, not sailing, not across town, nowhere without those dogs. >> we needed to find those dogs. >> the day suzette goes missing, there is a discovery at the trailer park where john robinson lives. two pekingese dogs, abandoned. >> animal control is called, so they come and take the dogs. >> once the investigation gets under way, a detective goes to visit one of the families who adopted one of those pekingese dogs, to find out if it could be suzette's dog. >> he calls peeka by name. >> and says, "peeka, come." >> his ears perking up, his tail starts wagging. >> and the dog runs immediately to this investigator. it's suzette's dog and suzette's probably dead.
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>> two detectives from kansas come to my office, and they says, "do you remember the name john robinson?" i leaned over and opened the bottom drawer of my desk. and i took out a file about this thick, and i laid it on my desk, and i said, "yeah, i remember john robinson." >> carolyn trouten and the investigators are pretty confident that john robinson had a lot to do with the disappearance of her daughter suzette. so what does she do? she decides to get john robinson on the phone himself. >> who is this? >> who is this? >> this is john. ♪ >> who is this? >> this is john. ♪ ♪ ♪
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>> susie? golly. no, not for -- i guess it was the first of the month. >> suzette was very close to her mother, and when she disappeared, within a few days her mother became worried and she contacted john robinson whose number suzette had left her. >> all i got was, i got a little note to, like, a postcard thing and they were off on their adventure. >> they are trying to communicate with him. what happened to suzette? is she still around? >> i brought along a tape recorder and showed her how to use it. and we were hoping to, you know, orchestrate with her some sort of phone conversation where
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carolyn could get some information that would help us understand what happened to suzette. help us understand what else may be going on. >> we haven't heard anything in a couple of weeks and i'm really getting nervous. >> oh, hon, don't, don't -- you know, i wouldn't get nervous. >> john robinson told her that suzette had actually left with someone else, that she didn't take the job, and she was gonna go away with someone else and travel the world. >> i'm nervous. susie always calls me. >> well, i, from what i understand they're on a boat somewhere and she couldn't, kind of hard to call. >> and in that conversation you're able to hear, almost even see, john's wheels turning. mom's calling about her missing daughter, how do i cover for this? >> i'm really getting very nervous about this. i don't know if i should maybe call the police or something. >> why? >> well, because i haven't heard from her.
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>> hon, she's a big girl. >> and you can hear him skip a few beats and be a little bit stressed about this conversation that he's having. and then very quickly get his game on and kind of turn into the smooth as silk. >> i wouldn't worry. i'm sure they're fine. >> i hope so. >> i think they're probably having a wonderful time. >> and you don't think that i should notify somebody or something? >> why? hon, i wouldn't, you know, i really wouldn't worry about it too much. i'm sure that when they hit the next place they'll send us a card or call us or email us or something. >> it was chilling because he had answers for everything. he didn't skip a beat. he called her hon and warmed her up and made her believe that her daughter was on the trip of a lifetime. >> soon in the investigation of suzette trouten's disappearance, family members began receiving letters. some of these letters came from kansas city. then other letters came from california. >> some relatives would actually
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get birthday cards from from suzette, "you know, i remember your birthday." blah, blah, blah. >> but all along they said, this is not the way suzette writes. in fact, in one of the letters that they received, one of the dogs name was misspelled. and they knew suzette would not misspell the name of her dogs. >> john robinson had a shtick that he used with these women, "i'm gonna be taking you traveling. we're gonna be sailing on my yacht or we're gonna fly to europe." >> when robinson told one of his employees or mistresses, "you're going on a trip," that was, was not a good thing. >> you're gonna be so busy on this trip, i want you to write some letters right now. here's some blank pieces of paper. sign your signature to them so we'll have those ready. and he would actually get these women to write these letters, sign blank pieces of paper with their signatures. >> as part of the investigation, we decided we were going to pull his trash at his home.
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>> we would get the trash, switch out trash bags, and bring it back to the station. >> first time we pulled his trash, we had one sack of nothing but shredded documents. >> we actually had tables where people were putting shredded pieces of paper together, taping them together. >> and it was a bonanza because one of the documents we put together was a storage locker in raymore, missouri. >> they started surveilling this storage unit very closely. they wanted to see him going in or out. why did he have this? what was going on there? what was in this storage unit? >> he was bringing in women from all over the country. he would put them up in these hotels. >> it was nerve-racking when these women would come to town. we'd have people following john robinson. the investigators would rent
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the adjoining room in a hotel when he was having one of his trysts with one of these women. >> and we'd have this little fear that something might go wrong. >> we had a contingency plan for if he drove one up and down to his farm in la cygne. we didn't want him taking somebody down there and killing them while we were developing this case. >> towards the end of the investigation, we learn that there was a young female that he was trying to lure down to the farm, and that's when we decided that we have enough, and we're not gonna let it go any further. >> and we thought it's time to pull the plug. >> robinson was taken into custody at the santa barbara estates mobile home park in olathe, where he lives with his wife. >> two detectives went up, knocked on his door, and was invited in and talked to him. >> they escorted him out in handcuffs. >> 56-year-old john e. robinson is accused of aggravated sexual battery of two out of town women
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he met on the internet and taking more than $500 worth of sex toys from one of them. >> further charges are anticipated in this matter within the next few days. >> they arrested him. they were escorting him out and he said, well, you are guys are making a big deal out of this. they took him to the police station, showed him what they already had on him. >> he lost a little color. turned a little white. the weight of his history was coming to bear on him right then i think in that moment. "oh, my gosh, they know." >> he called a lawyer, said we need to talk. >> investigators know that john robinson has killed many women at this point. but they don't have enough to convict him. the clock is ticking to build a case, and fast. this is a man who has gotten himself out of a lot of difficult situations. and they know if they don't find
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these bodies that he's going to get away with it again. and he's going to kill again. >> we had a lot of information that led towards it, but to the actual murders, no, we didn't have anything. >> heather's birth mother was killed by a serial killer. but it gets even worse. we are about to discover the secret connection between heather and her mother's killer. and it's all in the family. >> what was the adoptive family's relationship to robinson? >> we're not releasing it. >> what is the accurate way to refer to these people? i mean, obviously they knew him. >> they've known him for a long time. >> when we found out that, who it was that was raising our niece, it's just an unbelievable story. >> one of the most mind-blowing revelations about this story was to find out who was raising heather all of these years. >> what is it like to have a convicted serial killer in your
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the bodies were scattered between the two states, in barrels. >> these were completely innocent people and he beat them to death with a hammer. >> the devil, pure and simple. >> it was like a stephen king novel in real life. >> robinson is a suspected serial killer who may have victims dating back to 1984. >> robinson kills lisa, takes her 4-month-old baby, and gives her to his own brother to adopt. you were that missing baby, and you find out this uncle is being called a serial killer. ♪ had he not been caught? >> i would be dead.
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i would be in that barrel. >> heather was prepared to get some bad news, but i don't think she was prepared for this twist. >> in the middle of the night, i receive this letter that completely changed everything. saying that she was still alive. ♪ >> john owned 16 acres or so down in lynn county. and our surveillance, through some of the phone records, we were able to see that on march 1st, he had been down there. march 1st is the day that suzette went missing. and i can remember in the briefing saying, "look, there's a very real possibility that this is going to be a capital murder case." >> nice to meet you. i'm heather. >> heather, i'm dave. >> i'm rick roth. >> nice to meet you. >> wow. you ready for this?
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>> yes. >> heather met with rick roth and dave brown, who were two of the detectives that handled the john robinson investigation, and the two of them took her around to several different places in kansas city, including the farm. >> looking at that farm, we were down there looking for evidence of suzette or suzette's belongings. we hoped that we'd found something that'd help us find suzette. >> we searched all morning long. we had the dogs out here searching. >> it's a very rural area, kind of out in the middle of nowhere. which i suspect was just what he wanted. >> this was all farm country back then, back there was the pond. >> i was going to ask. >> that was the pond. >> a dam was broken to empty the pond as part of a hunt for human remains.
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>> at approximately noon, after a break and finding absolutely nothing, i was contacted by one of the handlers of the cadaver dogs who wanted us to go move some trash where the dog kind of gave a hint. and this was outside of the trailer. there's a little house there, and some barrels. >> as sergeant roth was rolling the barrel out, it fell. then when it fell, a thin line came down the side. and, you know, it was just a thin red line. this fly went "boop" and landed on that red line, and we knew right then and there that that's, that's blood. >> once we looked in there, we saw who we believed was suzette trouten.
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then the second barrel was all of the sudden very interesting. opened that up. there was a second body in that one and we immediately thought izabela lewicka. >> being on the farm was actually one of the most emotional moments for me because it was like a burial ground that wasn't ever acknowledged. evil lived there. people died there, people were brutally murdered there. and you could feel that. >> tell me what it feels like to be here. >> it's off-putting. it's sad. it's just sad that it took one mom nonstop persistence to finally get something to come. >> does it make you sad for your mom? just kind of the part of history, part of my own.
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just being here, the dreaming of it, thinking about it, seeing it and all the images, wondering if maybe she was buried here somewhere. >> the farm was a place in time in john's crimes that didn't include her mother. unfortunately, there were no answers there about her mother. >> why would you commit these murders, and then save basically the evidence and incriminate yourself? most people would commit a horrible crime and you want to get rid of the evidence. >> he had that mobile home on that acre of land out there, and these two barrels. that's taking a risk. but, see, he did that in order to psychologically relive his crimes. >> vehicles leaving the scene, an indication the search is winding down. >> we loaded the barrels into a truck and then transported them
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to be autopsied on sunday. monday morning, they went into the storage locker in raymore. >> searching eight hours through a storage locker owned by john robinson proved the lynn county murder case gets more interesting by the day. >> they get inside and there are three barrels. someone has put down kitty litter to try and kill the smell. and the barrels are in a somewhat state of disintegration. >> these barrels were different. they had been there a while. inside the three barrels, they found three more bodies. we wondered if they might be the missing women from the 1980s. it turns out the three bodies that were beverley bonners, the prison library, and that john had met and sheila and debbie faith. >> these were different women we didn't know of at the time. >> john robinson sending letters
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and emails to the different family members of all of his victims were to put off the families, to delay them and, in fact, in the faith and bonner cases, they never contacted the police department. >> police identify them as mother and daughter, sheila and debbie faith. they haven't been seen or heard from since 1994. debbie was 15 then and confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy. >> they have a little over $1,000 from the government to live on, plus food stamps. they're in pretty desperate straits. john says, "come on out here. i'll take care of you. i'll take care of debbie." they pack up, they drive out to the kansas city area, and he connects her to a post office box in olathe where her subsidies will come. and suddenly they're gone. and nobody really knows where they are, but the checks keep coming in.
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he will pull $80,000-plus out of that mailbox over the next few years. >> we realized, my gosh, who is this john robinson, and who else might there be? >> we executed a flurry of search warrants at john robinson's house and office. in his office in his home, we found a photocopy of that rodeway inn receipt from 1985 with the name lisa stasi and the room number on it. >> we found blank letters with suze signed at the bottom of it. exactly what the letters looked like that the families had received. we found photocopies of the letters he had already sent to family. >> everything fell into place. it put everything together at that point. >> john robinson began murdering these women for money, but he eventually just started killing
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for killing's sake. so why did he murder all there women? only john robinson knows the answer. >> for two months, all we thought about was convicting john robinson of his crimes. our goal is to prove that he had done it, and we knew we had him. >> we began to look into these missing women from the '80s. lisa stasi being the first and foremost. >> we got a phone call in the middle of the night saying there were some problems, it might have something to do with heather. >> there are indications that tiffany could be alive living with a midwest family. >> what were your first memories >> what were your first memories of uncle john?lmost everything so we know how to cover almost anythin (bert) even a "not-so-handy monster." (johnson) what is going on in here! i can't hear myself think! (grover) what does it look like, sir? i am here to help you with your water heater. (johnson) oh! [sighs defeatedly] (grover) do not worry sir. i also fix cars! [johnson groans]
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robinson is a suspected serial killer who may have victims dating back to 1984. 19-year-old lisa staci and her 5-month-old daughter tiffany,
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have been missing for more than 15 years. >> the body of lisa staci has never been found. baby tiffany stasi was purportedly adopted by a midwestern family in january of 1985, where she remains today. >> oh, my gosh. someone's alive. that's huge. little baby tiffany is okay. >> how did you connect john and me? that i may have been lisa's daughter? >> that was after we recovered the bodies at linn county, we received a tip through the d.a.'s office from, apparently, one of your relatives. it said that your dad had adopted a kid back in the '80s. >> this is my adoptive father. how are you doing? >> i'm doing okay.
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>> her adopted father tells her about that night when both of their lives changed forever. >> got a phone call in the middle of the night. saying that there's problems, that it might have something to do with heather. >> the phone rang once, picked it up, i heard my dad so immediately i hit the mute button. that's when i heard that john had been arrested, and the only part i remember hearing was they believe that he may be connected to heather's mother. and then i got off the phone and then they freaked out. i remember freida running up and down the stairs, panicking. "how could he do this to us? we're gonna go to jail. this is horrible. our lives are over." and that was the first time i ever saw my dad cry. >> the chicago fbi went to the home, talked to them, received the timeframe and everything
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else. recovered some adoption papers and information like that, that we would eventually look into. >> and so the fbi knocked at our door and we talked to them, we agreed to go to the fbi office when they needed us to, submit dna samples and fingerprints, your fingerprints and your footprint, and we got all inked up. >> officially, we didn't know until they compared her footprint with a footprint from the hospital records. we had a tentative i.d. after that, and then, of course, later on through dna they were able to confirm that his was tiffany. >> after that, heather reads all she can online about john robinson's arrest. so incredibly at the age of 15 she learns her mother was
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killed by a serial killer, and that serial killer is her uncle john, who took her and gave her to his own brother don. >> the idea of tiffany being adopted out to robinson's brother came as a bombshell to us. >> what kind of individual would kill a woman and then adopt her baby to a brother? >> you were just 15, and you find out this uncle is being called a serial killer. what's going through your mind? what's going through your heart? >> it was kind of confirmation. it was reassurance that i wasn't crazy, that that off-putting feeling, that horrible vibe and energy around him was very real, and i wasn't making it up in my head. when i was 14, 15, i know it was prior to him being arrested we had gone to florida for one of his kids' weddings and then when
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the dance floor, it started fine. that's when he pulled me against me started grinding on me, body flush, then asked me if i had sex, if it hurt, if it hurt, if i liked it. and then he's like, i know things are really rough between your mom and dad, i'll tell you what, you message me, don't tell anyone, i'll send you a plane ticket. we'll get things settled and situated for you and we will go from there. >> so you were considering going down to live with your uncle john? >> yeah, i'm pretty sure it was month before he got caught that i was going to start asking, can you just get me the plane ticket, i'll come down. >> had he not been caught, and you had moved down to kansas to be with him -- >> i'd be dead. i would be in that barrel. >> she's a teenager, and then she learns for the first time that basically her whole life was a lie. must have just been tremendously
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hard for her to deal with. >> john actually created an entirely different history for you. you had a different name. you had a different birthday. >> yeah. he had said i was born october 12th, 1984. i was actually born september 3rd. >> just more punches to the gut. >> yeah. the october birthday really hurt. i love halloween and i loved having my birthday in october. my first time celebrating the september birthday would have been my sweet 16. i celebrated that locked in my room, crying in bed, wishing i was dead and that i had never been born. that was my sweet 16. >> knowing what john did to lisa and knowing that he adopted tiffany out to his brother, i don't know how anyone would be able to understand john's mind. what satisfaction, what emotional response he might have to seeing heather, year after
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year as she has. heather grows up and john knowing, knowing full well what had happened, what he had done. i certainly can't fathom it. >> are they legally the parents? >> well it's our position that there was no legal adoption. in their mind they believe they legally adopted this little girl, but it was not a legal adoption. >> on the day he brought you there, i still remember that picture. >> yeah. >> every time i look at that picture i'm thinking, was it an hour before he killed your mom? was it four hours before? was it the day before? charmin ultra soft! it's softer than ever. charmin ultra soft is twice as absorbent so you can use less. and it's softer than ever... so it's harder to resist.
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what were your first memories of uncle john? >> i don't really remember the younger years. i just remember the feelings.
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he always gave me this really weird, off-putting feeling in the pit of my stomach. it's like walking down a dark alley in the middle of the night while you know someone is behind you, approaching you closer and closer. >> so you felt like there was evil there, even when you didn't know that word. >> mm-hmm. you just felt that dread drop into your stomach. >> johnson county prosecutor paul morrison says the midwest family who thought they legally adopted this little girl tiffany stasi was duped, allegedly by john e. robinson. >> so how long had you been trying to have kids? >> we'd been trying for at least five years. it just didn't work out. so we started looking at adoptions. >> they kind of let it known in their family that "hey, you know, we're looking to adopt a child."
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robinson basically told them, "you know, hey, i know a lawyer that does adoption work. i think i can help you out with that." >> this is where robinson brought you. your mom made a couple of phone calls from here. and made mention that she was signing papers. and that was the last that anybody ever heard about your mother or you. >> the last time that police believe lisa stasi was alive was going to the rodeway inn. and at that time heather was tiffany and she was just four months old. she was a baby. and the police believe that heather may have been there when her mother was killed. >> no one knows exactly what wh jn eroumother. you rhthe in >> if not murdered, at least taken from her. no one seems to know the details
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of what actually happened. i probably witnessed her murder. >> mom was probably bludgeoned to death literally the day that kid's handed over to don. he contacts his brother and says he knows of a woman who had killed herself in a hotel room as part of his connections. this baby's available, so come down. literally that next day, his brother and wife come into town. and there's john robinson, without lisa stasi of course, with that baby. there's a family picture that was taken that day of him with a big grin on his face, bouncing that baby on his knee, with all the other family members. >> i still remember that picture. on the day he brought you there with your folks in it, and you're bouncing on his knee. >> mm-hmm. >> you know, every time i look
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at that picture i'm thinking, "what's he thinking? was it an hour before he killed your mom? was it four hours before? was it the day before?" and there he is, grinning like a cheshire cat for that picture, you know? >> yup. >> of course, they never met the lawyer. but he had the paperwork. and they signed it. >> as far as the actual adoption papers, that looked as far as we knew, perfectly legal. >> he told his brother that it would be several thousand dollars and quote-unquote adoption fees and provided a bunch of phonied-up paperwork to him, including a certificate of adoption from the probate court, from johnson county court. >> so for $5,500, he has just made the mother disappear and handed the child off to his
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brother, who has no concept of what's going on or anything john has done. >> my brother was an excellent forger. he was an artist when he was young. he still is an artist. >> we were all really a little skeptical and wondering about, what's the brother's role in this? and we looked at him more. and i think that became pretty obvious that his brother was just another victim of all this. >> it's our belief that this adoptive family had no knowledge of any criminal activity relating to the adoption of baby tiffany. they believed they were the legally adoptive partsf is l, but it was t lega >> t infant the stasi faewtiffl in the midwest with her adoptive family. >> after it's revealed that heather is alive and that the adoption was a complete fraud,
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the question becomes, should she remain with the robinsons, her adoptive family? or should custody be given to her biological family? >> we just are very excited that she is alive. >> is there any plan for the blood relatives to see tiffany at this point? >> maybe the family is so petrified of losing their daughter, they don't want to let you in. >> what they are feeling, i don't really care. my daughter's alive. i have a right to see her. and i want to see her. i'm ládeia, and there's more to me than hiv. there's my career... my cause... and creating my dream home. i'm a work in progress. so much goes into who i am. hiv medicine is one part of it. prescription dovato is for adults who are starting hiv-1 treatment and who aren't resistant to either of the medicines dolutegravir or lamivudine. to help you reach and then stay undetectable. so your hiv can be controlled with fewer medicines while taking dovato. you can take dovato anytime of day with food or without. don't take dovato if you're allergic to any of its
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when i found out that
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tiffany actually was alive, can only imagine how i would feel if i found out my child was alive. >> things were coming out. we weren't even sure that heather knew that she was tiffany at that stage. >> we now have a custody question. there are several families involved. there's heather's biological mother, lisa stasi, and her family. then there is heather's biological father, carl stasi, and then there's heather's adoptive family, the robinsons. we first reported on this story in 2000, and chris cuomo was the correspondent that has been assigned the story. >> does my daughter know that i'm alive? i heard they told me yes, but i don't believe that right now, you know. and i believe if she knows i'm alive she'll want to meet me. i feel that. >> can you just tell me what kind of house she grew up in?
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can you tell me did she have a good life? was she abused? what does she look like? anything? can you tell me anything? >> what's worse, 15 years of having to deal with a loss, or now, knowing that your daughter's out there? >> you know, it's probably worse now. at least the 15 years i didn't know, i held that in. now she's alive, and i'm not seeing her. >> carl stasi is angry. he wants to see his daughter and he feels he has every right to see her and be in her life. lisa stasi's family really strongly believes that they need to do what's best for heather. >> if our granddaughter is safe and happy and these people had nothing to do with lisa's disappearance, and they've taken care of this child, we don't
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want to take her away. but we want her to know that we're her family and we love her. >> the robinsons are now being very protective over heather, understandably. and they're trying to do everything they can to keep herr initially to have any meetings with lisa stasi's family or carl stasi. >> i was still worried that they'd be taking you away from us. you're my daughter. i love you. >> do you feel for them? maybe the family's so petrified of losing their daughter, they don't want to let you in because you hold the key to taking her away. >> well, i don't -- i don't care about all that, you know? i care about, it's my daughter. i just want to meet my daughter. my daughter's alive. i have a right to see her, and i want to see her. >> if we're going to avoid creating a further tragedy in this incident, we're going to have to let heather robinson
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come in to this situation and meet these people on her terms. >> i want to ask you specifically about you connecting with your biological family. the stasis -- >> the only biological family i've had anything to do with is lisa's and that would be her mother. >> heather was thrilled at that point, apparently a very joyous, you know, reunion. >> i did love her. she taught me to not have hate in my heart and to forgive john. because she did. >> wow. >> and i never could understand. and unfortunately i didn't understand it until after she died. so i never got to have that conversation with her. >> did you ever have any kind of relationship with your biological father? >> i had been openly asked, "don't you want to know who your biological father is?" i said absolutely not. >> why?
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>> i just inside, in my heart, i have a dad, i don't need another one. >> don robinson writes this incredibly touching letter to heather's biological father, carl stasi, saying that he really wants to do what's best for his daughter and he hopes that they can all understand that and respect that. >> he asked, you know, heather really wants to know why was her mother in a shelter? why weren't you with her? this is really upsetting her. >> did he ever answer? >> no. >> the stasi family, you know, apparently didn't make any moves to, you know, to pull her out of the home that she had grown up in. >> the best interest of the child was for her to stay with the family she'd always known. >> 18 years after lisa stasi's murder, john robinson finally goes to trial for the murder of three of his victims. he's facing the death penalty. one of the most horrifying things that happened, the moment when prosecutors played a tape
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from the beginning, paul morrison, the d.a., said this is a death penalty case. >> it's the only death penalty case i ever tried. he's killed many, many people. he's extremely excessively dangerous. if not him, who? >> the courtroom was packed. all the spectators are there. people are talking. there's a lot of, you know, talking back and forth. and as soon as he walks in surrounded by the deputies, just silence. >> he just seemed like an ordinary man. that's why it was really hard. i mean, he came in his suits every day. and he just, he looked like somebody's father and grandfather. which he was. >> he looked like a mild-mannered, unassuming looking guy. it just goes to show you looks can be deceiving. >> the case is just massive. it was over 23,000 pages of
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police reports. i think we ended up calling well over 100 witnesses. a lot of lab stuff. a lot of science in that case. >> as far as the way john robinson killed his victims, it was with a hammer. we could tell that from all the autopsies. >> during the trial, there was a lot of things that were difficult to hear about or to watch. >> one of the things that stood out to me was a videotape of john robinson and suzette trouten in a sexual encounter. and they played that for the jury. >> we thought it was important for the jury to see his m.o. and what kind of control he had over these women. >> the 39-minute tape was very eraphic, and very explicit.
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and he was very cold and flat in his commands to her of what to do next. he was a control freak. he kept saying to suzette trouten, "you're mine." it was obvious that he really liked being in control of women. >> there were a lot of jurors, myself included, who, you know, kind of turned our heads from time to time when we felt like we'd seen enough. >> john robinson, during the whole trial, acted like a businessman at a meeting. but when that tape was played, he sat up. and he was straining to get a better look at it. it was the only time i saw him show any kind of interest in what was happening. i don't know if he was getting some kind of pleasure in reliving that. but that was really disturbing. >> his wife and daughter had apparently stood by him.
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>> they sat there and listened to people talk about these sexual encounters, explicit sexual details. i couldn't believe what i was hearing. and she sat there so stoically and listened to this. >> he fooled them the same way he fooled everybody. and that's why he was so fundamentally dangerous. >> after the prosecution was finished with their case, i can't remember how many weeks that took, the defense took, i believe, half a day. >> the defense was more, i thought, about saving him from the death penalty rather than saying that he was innocent. >> it takes jurors less than a day to hand down the verdict, guilty. and a few weeks later, that same jury delivers a death sentence. >> he was such a con man. he had conned beverly bonner when he was in prison in missouri. we were really afraid if he was just given life that the same thing would happen.
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>> john robinson committed crimes in both kansas and missouri. so he had to face criminal charges in both states. after his trial wrapped up in kansas, the case then had to be handled in missouri. and they actually offered him a deal where if he pled guilty to the five murders, that he would avoid a death sentence. >> i know some people felt like they should have gone ahead in missouri and tried to get him convicted of and sentenced to death as well. kansas hasn't executed anybody since 1965, whereas missouri pretty routinely carried out executions. so there's some thought that, if he actually got convicted of and sentenced to death in missouri, he likely would have gotten put to death. would have been executed. whereas in kansas his appeals are still slowly moving along. >> i tend to think that justice was served because this had to
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be one of the busiest criminals with more fingers in more criminal activity than anybody i've written or read about. so the idea of him in an eight by ten cell for 23 hours a day, locked up on death row with nothing to do has to be a form of torture. i would like to think that he's experienced some suffering himself because he imposed an enormous amount of suffering on fellow people. >> as part of heather's journey to find answers about her mother, some of her extended family to came to kansas city to meet her. >> we all came here to meet heather and we haven't seen her for, like, 18 years. >> we want her to feel the love
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of our family. that's why we're here. t you finally. >> heather didn't even know that her mother had a stepmom. and she met her for the first time. >> do i resemble lisa at all? >> some, yes. you do. lisa smiled a lot. she was like this a lot, you know? >> your mother was awesome. she loved me to death. i'm sure she would have loved you. >> i know it. i learned a lot about lisa. i've never felt more like my mother's daughter than i have recently. >> she was like my best friend, i guess. for a long time. your mom and i always talked about that we were gonna marry twin brothers. >> it's not your fault, though.
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>> after the cameras stopped rolling, one of heather's family members dropped a bombshell. it was a secret she'd been holding onto for ten years. >> in the middle of the night, probably close to 1:00 a.m., i received this letter that completely changed everything. >> you can
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male voice: grrr, feed me. come on! she won't mind! she won't mind at a... woman: richard? hey, sheila. silence your growl. just one bowl of frosted mini wheats and you're good till lunch. ♪ just one bowl of frosted mini wheats ♪ good lunch? amazing! toyota, let's go places.
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♪ feels so good ♪ better than my birthday ♪ feels so good ♪ higher than a jet plane ♪ feels so good ♪ swish up on that fadeaway ♪ feels so good one quick trip for one great day. target run and done.
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hi, baby. >> how are you? >> heather is meeting with family members, everything's going well, then one of heather's family members pulled heather aside and gave her some shocking information. she had been holding on to a couple of letters that she received in 2009 and 2010. >> i was given by a family member a letter that was apparently or supposedly written by lisa saying that she was still alive.
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>> is there a part of you that thinks maybe lisa is alive? >> no. >> who do you think wrote the letter? >> if not john, someone very close to john that would've been able to assist him. >> this is a 42-page typed letter from lisa stasi, the girl who didn't type. heather gets this letter and she is shaking and she immediately picks up the phone and calls steve haymes. >> thank you for coming out. >> come on in. >> were other letters sent to the family that were this elaborate and pages long? >> no, i'm not aware of anything like that. >> this is the last page. >> steve haymes, who probably knows robinson better than anybody, took one look at the letter and said, "this is john robinson's work." this is his m.o. >> i just without reading the whole thing, i just see here, you know, and her last paragraph
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that, "robinson helped me, he helped my daughter and he helped his brother." that's the type of self-serving things that you know he would to try in his other letters. >> in the supposed letter from lisa, she writes a very convoluted story where she says she is still alive, but she begs her family members not to tell anyone she is because she says her life would be put in jeopardy. so this family member keeps this letter secret for ten years because she really believes lisa is alive and she doesn't want to be responsible for lisa getting hurt. >> i could understand how if someone else got that letter, it would be very easy to believe, and i can see why they took that almost at face value, because he was very good at taking the truth and then manipulating it in a way that you would believe. if you turned that in or gave it to anyone else, you are jeopardizing lisa's life. >> we're in johnson county. we're about to meet with the district attorney.
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and to take the new evidence that we discovered to them and see if there's anything they can do with it. >> incredibly, those letters were written when john robinson was behind bars and on death row for years. so how would he have written them? how would he have mailed them? did he have help? this is what the district attorney is trying to find out. but in the meantime heather is left with even more unanswered questions about her mother. >> i traveled with heather and roberto to the border of alabama and tennessee to a graveyard where her grandmother patricia was recently buried last year. lisa's remains are not in that cemetery. >> everyone needs a final resting place. everyone needs to be known
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where they lie. we want to have her laid to rest with her mother to bring the family whole again. >> how does it feel being back here? >> empty, numb, defeated. because i though by the time i came back here i'd be burying my mother's remains. >> heather is painfully aware that underneath that beautiful headstone, her mother is not there. i think she cried tears that she needed to cry from her past 20 years. she finally let those walls come down and she allowed herself to feel. >> i had hoped that not only was this journey to help me find answers about lisa, i wanted to try to heal and give closure to everyone else that was involved. i want to openly speak about my mother, and everyone to know lisa existed. i will never stop trying to find
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her. i will never stop. >> hopefully one day we can fill it. >> one day. >> heather continues her search because robinson refuses to give up the location of her mother and two other victims. >> and robinson is now appealing from death row. i want to say how brave heather was to come forward. >> she just wants answers, david. >> really powerful. that's "20/20" for tonight. i'm david muir. >> and i'm amy robach. for all of us at "20/20," good night. . breaking news, a woman
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disappeared into the water off san francisco. i don't care where you're from, we're all just people. we want people to feel like they spent time with family. we want to create a place for more than just ourselves.


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