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Robert Anthony PRESTON





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - Kidnapping - Mutilation
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 9, 1978
Date of arrest: Next day
Date of birth: November 13, 1957
Victim profile: Earline Walker (convenience store clerk)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Seminole County, Florida, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on November 6, 1981

Florida Supreme Court

opinion 70835 opinion 73062
opinion 75794 opinion 78025
opinion SC05-781 & SC06-351

DC# 072593
DOB:  11/13/57

Eighteenth Judicial Circuit, Seminole County Case# 78-41 CFA
Sentencing and Resentencing Judge:  The Honorable S. Joseph Davis, Jr.
Attorney, Trial:  Arthur Kutsche – Assistant Public Defender
Attorney, Direct Appeal:  Joan H. Bickerstaff – Private
Attorney, Collateral Appeals:  Robert T. Strain & Carol Rodriguez – CCRC-M

Date of Offense:  01/09/78

Date of Sentence:  11/06/81

Date of Resentence:  05/08/91

Circumstances of Offense:

The defendant, Robert Preston, robbed and killed a woman by stabbing her to death in Seminole County in 1978.

On the afternoon of 01/09/78, the nude and mutilated body of Earline Walker was discovered in an open field in Seminole County by police.  Multiple stab wounds and lacerations on the body were so severe that they resulted in near decapitation.

Walker had been employed as a clerk at a convenience store.  An officer of the Altamonte Springs Police Department on routine patrol discovered her missing from the store at approximately 3:30 a.m.  He also discovered that $574.41 was missing from the store.

Preston was arrested the following day on an unrelated charge.  While he was in custody, a deputy recovered a pubic hair from Preston’s belt buckle. 

The day after the arrest, police searched the home of Preston’s mother with her consent.  The defendant also lived there.  In his bedroom, they found a jacket belonging to Preston and several detached food stamp coupons. 

An analysis confirmed the coupons had been used at the convenience store to purchase items several days before the murder.  Blood samples from Walker and Preston were compared with blood stains found on Preston’s jacket.  The stains were of the same blood type and enzyme group as those of the victim.  Analysis revealed that the hair recovered from Preston’s belt and another discovered on his jacket could have originated from the victim.

Additional information:

In 1980, Preston was sentenced to six years imprisonment after being convicted of throwing a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle.  The offense occurred on 01/05/78, four days prior to the murder.  In 1989, Preston obtained an order on motion for postconviction relief, which vacated the conviction.  The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed the order in 1990.

The defendant was acquitted on one count of felony murder committed during the course of a sexual battery, and one count of sexual battery.  Sentence was withheld on counts II and III of the indictment.

Trial Summary:

06/9/81            Indicted as follows: 

Count I: Premeditated Murder – Guilty

Count II: Felony Murder Committed During the Course of a Robbery – Guilty

Count III: Felony Murder Committed During the Course of a Kidnapping – Guilty

Count IV: Robbery – Guilty

Count V: Kidnapping – Guilty

06/10/81         Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment and recommended death by a vote of 7-5

11/06/81          Sentenced as follows: 

Count I: Premeditated murder – Death
Count IV: Robbery – 15 years imprisonment
Count V: Kidnapping – Life imprisonment

04/19/91          Jury recommended death by a vote of 12-0

05/08/91          Defendant was resentenced to death

Case Information:

Preston’s conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Florida Supreme Court on Direct Appeal in 1984.

Governor Graham signed Preston’s first death warrant in October 1985, prompting the defendant to file a 3.850 Motion with the trial court in 1985.  The court granted a stay of execution the same day the motion was filed and denied the motion in 1987.  On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court in May 1988 affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Governor Martinez signed Preston’s second death warrant in August 1988.  The defendant responded by filing an application for a stay of execution with the United States Supreme Court and by petitioning the Florida Supreme Court for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. The petition was denied without prejudice to raise the same issues by 3.850 motion.  The following month, the United States Supreme Court stayed the execution and the Florida Supreme Court denied the habeas petition.  The United States Supreme Court denied the Certiorari in 1989. 

A third death warrant was signed by Governor Martinez in March 1989.  The following month Preston filed his second habeas petition with the Florida Supreme Court.  The court granted a stay of execution in April 1989 and dismissed the case without prejudice in May.

Governor Martinez signed Preston’s fourth death warrant in March 1990, prompting Preston to file his second 3.850 motion with the trial court.  The court denied the motion.  Preston appealed the trial court’s ruling and asked the Florida Supreme Court for a stay of execution.  The Court granted the stay.  In his appeal, Preston cited the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. Mississippi as reason to vacate his death sentence.  In Johnson, the court vacated the defendant’s death sentence because it had been predicated on a prior violent felony conviction that was overturned.  Accordingly, Preston argued that his death sentence should be reconsidered after the trial court overturned Preston’s unrelated conviction in 1980 of throwing a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle.  The high court agreed, and vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing.

The trial court resentenced Preston to death in 1991.  The Florida Supreme Court affirmed the sentence in 1992.  The United States Supreme Court denied the Certiorari in 1993.

Preston filed his third 3.850 Motion to the Circuit Court on 05/23/94.  An Amended Motion was filed on 02/28/00.  The Motion was denied on 03/31/05. 

On 05/05/05, Preston filed a 3.850 Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.  The Appeal is currently pending.

On 02/21/06, Preston filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus to the Florida Supreme Court, which is also pending.



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