John Edward Robinson is called the Internet Serial Killer, but not all his victims were those he met online. Rather, John Robinson was an unusually accomplished con artist whose adept scams and multiple cons and frauds kept him at large and supporting a family for decades. Operating in the Midwest and the heartland, Robinson captured the attention of women looking for a new start or the “right” man, and delivered them unto death.
Robinson is titled the Internet Serial Killer because he was the first criminal serial killer whose exploits developed the Internet as a predatory hunting ground for new victims. A master swindler and determined scammer, Robinson juggled multiple schemes of women and plans that were fictitious and formed to exploit women and derive profit thereby. At trial, Robinson’s defence team would allege he was the fourth generation of a depressive and clinically dissociative personality. Yet his mind for the swindles was always razor sharp.
The Internet Serial killer was not only significant for his plumbing of a new medium for victims. The life of any serial killer generally ends with them being caught and put for trial after a limited gruesome career, with notable exceptions such as the Green River Killer. But the sheer burden, cost, handling chores and normal legal defence responses absorbed much more time than normal. The victims’ families, witnesses, and jury pool selection extended year after year long after Robinson’s arrest.
Robinson ended up throwing a huge burden of trial and court expense when he was caught, due both to his lengthy investigation by the task force and his longevity in scamming defrauding employers, corporations, and individuals. Luckily for prosecutors there were “barrels’ of evidence, namely the barrels with decomposing bodies found on Robinson’s farm. Fifteen years of killing was laid before a jury with varying views on capital murder verdicts and cloudy understanding of Internet practices and BSDM clubs.
John Robinson is noted as having been involved in BSDM, bondage and sadomasochism, but irregular and deviant sexual practices were not just part of the modus operandi of this particular serial killer. Robinson acknowledged his sexual preferences as part of the bondage/master and slave relationship order, but these desires were neither suppressed nor shamed into secrecy. Robinson technically was unemployed at the time of his arrest and spent all day driving between his body stashing country acreage and his Internet sessions luring women to their doom.
Robinson worked the online scene for “subs”, subjugated sex slaves who performed with behaviours suited to a role of subjective domination. Robinson’s sex life was another venue that proved profitable for him, arranging for young women to become slaves in the local chapter of the secret society of bondage and rough sex alternative lifestyle. In this way Robinson’s modus operandi was at the forefront of technical culture, as child pornography and other crimes were multiplying in the new online “frontier” of crime.
Robinson was no better than a pimp, in addition to his roles as con man, fraudster, and forger. But the women he targeted were desperate enough financially to trust anyone, and Robinson was so experienced at conning people at this time, anyone he talked to would have fallen for his web of lies. None of Robinson’s victims merited or deserved being killed or being entrapped into a relationship which was a one-way ticket to death. Yet the m. o. was so smooth that victim after victim fell into his trap.
Robinson was already having legally contracted bondage and master and slave sexual relationships with women. He didn’t have to abduct or trick a woman into bed with him. But the thin veneer of charm and projection he could snow his victims with was enough to end their lives buying into his complex lies and schemes. Robinson derived thrills from controlling the lives of his victims, twisting their perception of him to change their behaviour.
John Robinson was completely adept at conning people into believing he was an upright businessman when he was in fact a career liar.
Robinson slipped up by being greedy. Somewhat like the Green River Killer, who sold his victim’s jewelry at garage sales, Robinson collected everything from home furnishings to book collections from his “absent friends”. Robinson even used a sexually explicit video of himself and a victim to convince yet another victim to sign a sex slave contract. He even gave sheets from one dead victim to another live one. Storage units full of possessions were practical when supplying a new “household” to the next victim.
John Robinson did not commit crimes of opportunity, nor did he kill to ease tension in his body or mind. He did not kill in a cloud of foggy lust for blood or in answering an uncontrollable need to enact physical carnage. Robinson killed because it was a profitable extension of his swindling. His scheming and con man facade was enacted so that logically he had to rid the planet of certain individuals so he could collect their checks, acquire their resources, and make people who knew too much about him disappear. Robinson patrolled for victims, not using a pickup truck or using back roads, but exploiting the unsuspecting participants of sexual chat rooms online.
On the Internet, John Robinson found a paradise of swindling possibilities. By utilizing the online Internet chat rooms of the S &M culture, Robinson continuously acquired new mistresses whose terms of the relationship were to hand over every item of control of their lives to him. With their Social Security numbers, email addresses, passwords, and stationery with their hand written signatures on it, he could do anything.
The things Robinson did, such as forge letters and have women in his “network’ mail them from foreign and far-off addresses constituted mail fraud. His claims to degrees and experience on the job he never had was at the very least a moral low ground. His faulty Internet claims were not technical breaches of law. Robinson kept concurrent victims in various stages of relationship with him on the hook, working through their resources by fulfilling first a series of demeaning sexual encounters, and then dispatching them without a trace.
Robinson was hardly inhabited by another mental state while killing, nor did he have any compunction about ridding himself of unwanted baggage. He involved himself emotionally and mentally to defraud the victim, even continuing false chat and email conversations with parents, friends and family to fool them into thinking the victims were still alive. Robinson’s dogged pursuit of this method of drawing the wool over the eyes of friends and family kept law enforcement at bay.
The Internet aided John Robinson by compelling women to think of him in whatever terms he used to “package” himself online. A photo of him in casual clothes, a few telephone conversations, and he could have a new victim inhabiting a local motel room for sexual adventures in no time. Material dependence, isolation, and a sense of shame on the part of both the victims and the victims’ families was a serious factor in delaying his arrest.
Because the serial killings of John Robinson happened early in the first stages of the online world, no warnings or examples in the media were available to prompt participants in the chat rooms against fraud. Desperate, lonely women looking for a break or a new life meshed with the predator lurking to exploit their needs. Robinson was finally arrested not because physical evidence in any one disappearance was so damning but because two women had refused to be cowed by his threats and reported abuses to police.
The subsequent involvement of a woman with a child led investigators on the serial killer task force to close in. Robinson’s glibness deserted him as authorities stacked up a case of multiple counts, and discoveries at the farm land and his office revealed the accessories to the frauds pretending some of the women were still alive. Pre-signed blank stationary, stolen property, falsified documents, fake credentials and other scam materials made Robinson look very bad indeed.
The trial for Robinson was delayed by the sheer amount of physical evidence the task force had arrayed against him. Seven of eight charges ended up on the docket after witness testimony that left court personnel red-faced with embarrassment. Nancy Robinson, who testified about the baby her husband had spirited away and given to his brother to raise through a scam fake adoption, listened to all of it. Robinson’s manner was a study in his previous “role” as serious, intelligent business man absorbed in the proceedings.
The death penalty in Kansas had been reinstated in 1994, and much of the task force had been involved in securing evidence and testimony sources that would result in a capital verdict. Robinson claimed indigence at first, using a three man court appointed team to delay his trial for years through various legal wrangling. Then he fired them and hired a young inexperienced lawyer almost fresh out of law school.
The complexity of the Robinson serial murders was the forensic sophistication of the computer generated evidence and the legality of the police searches leading to his apprehension and charges. It can be no accident that Robinson projected an air of competent intelligence during these phases of trial preparation.
Robinson’s notoriety and the sheer substantive weight of the evidence ended up working in his favour. By firing his competent court-appointed legal team he had boggled the public’s ability to give him a fair trial. Robinson’s claim of indigence would not support one lawyer and a support staff handling twenty thousand pieces of case evidence and countless legal arguments and case law underpinnings thereto. The length of time Robinson’s career and swindling ran to almost broke the case.
The defence probed the public sympathy for individuals engaged in morally questionable sexual practices and lifestyles. The attorney for Robinson deliberately projected the possibility that others might have been involved in the killings. But enough proof weighed with the jury. The victims’ lifestyle came under judgement.
Lisa Stasi, the young pregnant mother to be, is perhaps the most tragic of the Internet serial killer, her child adopted unknowingly by Robinson’s brother. Many of the families of Robinson’s victims worried and mourned for years while Robinson lived the life of a sexual addict and con man and swindler. The Internet killer was a serial murderer who robbed the life from women who were guilty only of material need.
In 2004 John Edward Robinson pled guilty to five murders of Missouri women to stay the sentence of death which had been painted on his back by the task force. Closure for the grieving families came at the exposure of the barrel bodies identified by Robinson. Beverly Bonner, Paula Godfrey, Suzette Trouten, and others. Izabela Lewicka came to Kansas to become an S & M dominatrix, not a corpse. Godfrey had been a promising ice skater.
Robinson’s killing served at least one beneficial moral purpose: to underscore and alert the hundreds of millions of people using the Internet that the danger was real. Robinson was far from a troubled personality, he was a brutal murderer who purposely arranged and planned each murder – often with the Internet serving as a conduit.
In all John Edward Robinson claimed 8 victims, and at this present time Robinson is currently on death row in the state of Kansas.
Article by Roy Whyte. Visit his Google+ page for more.