At 4:30 p.m. on August 10, 1982, Junett Bryant went to the home of her
adult son, Ricky Lee Bryant, in Fort Worth, Texas, and discovered him
lying on the floor - his head severed from his body.
Ricky Lee Bryant had been sexually mutilated and had suffered two
gunshot wounds to the head, eight cut wounds, and forty-nine stab wounds.
His penis was found in the kitchen sink and his testicles were never
found. His decapitated head was posed in the crook of his arm.
Four more homicide victims were located in the house next door to
Bryant's. The fully-clothed bodies of Earline Barker and Bruce Gardner
were lying in the living room. Barker had multiple gunshot and stab
wounds, including one very deep cut wound to the neck. Gardner had
several gunshot wounds and a cut wound to his neck.
In a bedroom was the body of 11 year old Scott Willard Reed, lying on
his stomach. He had been shot once, suffered a contusion of the head due
to blunt trauma, and had been cut and stabbed multiple times.
Finally, the nude body of Georgia Reed was located in another bedroom.
She had been shot twice, stabbed multiple times, and had a deep cut
wound to the neck severing the jugular veins and carotid arteries.
The next day, Robison was arrested in Wichita, Kansas driving the car of
Bruce Gardner and in possession of a woman's wedding ring, some bullets,
three wallets containing the driver licenses of Robison, Bruce Gardner,
and Ricky Lee Bryant, and a loaded .22 caliber handgun, later determined
to be the murder weapon.
About a month before the murders, Robison had moved in with Bryant. An
insanity defense was presented and rejected at trial. The original
conviction and death sentence was reversed on appeal due to an error
during jury selection. On retrial in 1987, Robison was again convicted
and sentenced to death.
Texas Attorney General
Thursday, January 20,
MEDIA ADVISORY: LARRY KEITH ROBISON SCHEDULED TO BE
AUSTIN - Texas Attorney
General John Cornyn offers the following information on Larry Keith
Robison who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Friday, January
FACTS OF THE CRIME
At 4:30 p.m. on August 10, 1982, Junett Bryant
arrived at the home of her adult son, Ricky Lee Bryant, in Fort Worth,
Texas. When he did not answer the door, Ms. Bryant entered the house and
discovered her son lying on the floor -- his head severed from his body.
Ms. Bryant summoned the police.
The chief medical examiner testified
that Ricky Lee Bryant had also been sexually mutilated and had suffered
two gunshot wounds to the head, eight cut wounds, and forty-nine stab
Four more homicide victims were located in the house
next door to Bryant's. The fully-clothed bodies of Earline Barker and
Bruce Gardner were lying in the living room. Barker had multiple gunshot
and stab wounds, including one very deep cut wound to the neck. Gardner
had several gunshot wounds and a cut wound to his neck.
In a bedroom was the body of a child, Scott Willard
Reed, lying on his stomach. He had been shot once, suffered a contusion
of the head due to blunt trauma, and had been cut and stabbed multiple
Finally, the nude body of Georgia Reed was located in
another bedroom. She had been shot twice, stabbed multiple times, and
had a deep cut wound to the neck severing the jugular veins and carotid
Shortly after 4:00 a.m. on August 11, 1982, a police
officer in Wichita, Kansas, noticed a suspicious looking vehicle backed
up to a local church. The officer approached the vehicle and asked Larry
Robison, the sole occupant of the vehicle, to get out of the car and for
Robison claimed not to have any identification and told
the officer that his name was Jeffrey K. Kennedy and that the car
belonged to his brother, George. Further investigation revealed that the
car's registration had expired in 1980, although the license plate bore
a 1983 sticker.
Thereafter, Robison volunteered that he had a
checkbook in the car that would serve as identification. The checkbook
was in Robison's given name. A search of Robison's pockets revealed a
woman's wedding ring, some bullets, and three wallets containing the
driver licenses of Robison, Bruce Gardner, and Ricky Lee Bryant. Robison
was handcuffed and placed in the police car.
The vehicle identification number on Robison's car
revealed that the car was registered to Bruce Gardner. In the car,
officers found a loaded .22 caliber handgun under the driver's seat.
Additionally, four rings, more bullets, and two watches were found in a
suitcase in the car.
A pawn shop manager sold Robison a .22 caliber
handgun one week before the murders, and identified the handgun found in
Robison's possession in Kansas as the one he had sold Robison.
An assistant hardware manager at a Winn Dixie store
sold Robison three boxes of .22 caliber ammunition on the day of the
murders. All of the shell casings recovered from the murder scene were
fired from Robison's handgun.
Three knives recovered at the crime scene
tested positive for blood, and the blood type on two of the knives
matched three of the victims. A pair of shorts and a matchbook recovered
from the suitcase in Kansas tested positive for blood.
The rings and two
of the watches recovered from Robison were identified as belonging to Ms.
Reed and Ms. Barker. Another watch taken from Robison at the time of his
arrest was identified as belonged to Gardner.
Thomas Ozmer, a close friend of Ricky Bryant's
testified that he had known both Robison and Bryant since 1976, and had
introduced Bryant to Robison in June 1982. About a month before the
murders, Robison moved in with Bryant. Ozmer stated that he had stored
an old, inoperable 1966 Chevy Belaire at Bryant's home. The license
plate found on Gardner's car in Kansas was from Ozmer's car.
The primary defense at trial was that Robison was
insane at the time of the murders. The defense presented testimony that
several members of Robison's father's family had been diagnosed with
schizophrenia and that Robison had exhibited behavior consistent with
Robison had also been diagnosed and treated for
schizophrenia. A defense expert stated that Robison is a chronic
paranoid schizophrenic, and was delusional and legally insane at the
time of the offense.
The State presented competing evidence that Robison
was faking a mental disorder, and had a long history of drug abuse,
including marijuana, methamphetamines, amphetamines, tranquilizers, LSD,
and PCP. The State's expert stated that Robison's past behavior was
attributable to a drug psychosis, which has similar symptoms to
schizophrenia. There was no evidence that Robison was under the
influence of drugs at the time he committed the murders.
In November 1982, Robison was indicted in Tarrant
County, Texas, for the intentional murder of Bruce Gardner while in the
course of committing and attempting to commit the offense of robbery of
In 1983, Robison was convicted of the capital offense
and sentenced to death. However, in 1986, the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals reversed Robison's conviction and sentence due to an error
during jury selection. The State retried Robison before a jury upon his
plea of not guilty.
Rejecting Robison's defense of insanity, on November
13, 1987, the jury found Robison guilty of capital murder. After a
separate trial on punishment, the trial court, the 297th District Court
of Tarrant County, Texas, sentenced Robison to death.
On June 29, 1994, the Court of Criminal Appeals
affirmed Robison's conviction and sentence. The United States Supreme
Court denied certiorari review on June 26, 1995.
Robison filed an application for state writ of habeas
corpus on April 22, 1996, and a supplemental application on July 19,
1996. On August 8, 1996, the trial court recommended that the
application be denied and the supplemental application be dismissed as
untimely filed. On October 9, 1996, the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed
and denied habeas relief.
On December 12, 1996, Robison filed a federal habeas
petition in the United States District Court for the Northern District
of Texas. On February 9, 1997, the district court entered an order
denying habeas corpus relief. On April 1, 1997, the district court
denied Robison's request for a certificate of appealability.
On August 13, 1998, the United States Court of
Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of
habeas relief. The Fifth Circuit denied a motion for rehearing on
September 21, 1998, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari review on
May 3, 1999. A clemency petition is pending before the Texas Board of
Pardons and Paroles.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
At the punishment phase of trial, the State presented
evidence that Robison had received a three-year probated sentence for a
felony theft conviction. Robison had violated one of the terms of his
probation, but his probation was never revoked.
Judy Smith, a friend of both Robison and Ricky Lee
Bryant, testified that Robison had called her several times from the
Tarrant County Jail. With regard to Bryant's murder, Robison told her
that "he went into the bathroom and shot him like a kamikaze... He said that after he had killed Ricky Bryant, he could not find the car
keys, and that's why he went next door." He also told her, "If I could
have found the car keys, I could have gotten away with it."
Concerning the other murders, Smith testified that
Robison expressed puzzlement about "why Mrs. Barker didn't do something
because Georgia Reed was screaming and begging him for her life." He
killed Scott Reed, the young boy, because he "couldn't leave any
With regard to his arrest in Kansas, Robison told
Smith that "the lady police officer was very lucky that he didn't shoot
her, too," but Robison realized that if he shot a police officer, "they'd
never leave him alone." Smith also testified that she had seen Robison
use amphetamines and knew he used LSD. Susan Wood testified that, in
early 1982, she bought drugs from Robison, and they both used the drugs
at her house, including speed, crystal, and marijuana.
DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL
There was no evidence of drug
or alcohol use connected with the offense.
Larry Robison was sentenced to die for the August 10,
1982, murder of Bruce Gardner, a General Dynamics assembly line worker.
Robison, a former construction worker from Abilene, was arrested Aug.
11, 1982, in Wichita, Kan., driving the car of 33-year-old Bruce Gardner
of Lake Worth.
The previous day, Bruce was one of five people found
mutilated, shot or stabbed in neighboring cottages near Lake Worth. Also
killed were Bruce’s girlfriend, Georgia Ann Reed, 34; her mother,
Earline Barker, 55; and Georgia’s 11-year-old son, Scott. Robison, who
has acknowledged a history of drug abuse, was convicted of capital
murder for Bruce's death.
But before Bruce arrived at the Shore View Drive
cottage, Robison had slain Rickey Lee Bryant in the bathroom of the home
they briefly shared.
Rickey, 31, had been shot twice in the head,
decapitated, sexually mutilated and stabbed 49 times. His penis was
found in the kitchen sink and his testicles were never found.
Robison then went next door and killed Georgia Ann
Reed in her bed. Reed's son Scott, who in two days would have been 12,
was killed in the living room. Under his body was a hammer, which
authorities suggested may have indicated that the boy had intended to
defend his mother.
Reed's mother, 55-year-old Earline Barker, was also
killed in the living room. She had been recuperating from surgery to
correct a brain aneurysm. Bruce was killed when he arrived to pick up
Georgia for a date. Rickey's mother found her son's body, posed with his
head in the crook of his arm. Authorities then found the bodies of the
Greg Pipes, the assistant district attorney who
prosecuted Robison, said the idea that he was insane is an illusion.
“They did diagnose him (as schizophrenic),” Pipes said. “But there are
an awful lot of people diagnosed as schizophrenic that aren’t killing
Pipes also stated that if Robison's sentence were to
be commuted to a life sentence, he would be released from prison in a
few years since mandatory release laws were in effect at the time of his
crime. Mandatory release requires an inmate to be given "good time"
credit of one and a half days for every day served in prison. When the
inmate's time served plus his good time credits equal his sentence, he
must be released, regardless of his potential as a future danger to
society, after only one third of the actual sentence is served.
Inside the death chamber, Rhonda Kreps, whose mother,
sister and nephew were slain by Robison, dabbed her eyes as she watched
him die. She sobbed heavily and was comforted by the other 5 witnesses
and by prison officials as she was helped outside.
After the execution, relatives of the 5 people
Robison killed issued a statement saying, "Justice has been done. Larry
Robison has paid with his life for the 17-year nightmare of trauma and
heartache he caused for the families of his victims," the family said. "We
will cherish the memories of our loved ones. We are grateful for the
support of our friends and families, the community and the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice Victims Services Division."
Larry Robison Homepage
This web site is dedicated to my brother Larry
Robison, and to the families of his victims.
The state of Texas refused to assist my mother in
obtaining proper long-term treatment for him. Long-term treatment was
denied due to Larry not being violent. Persons with certain types of
schizophrenia may become violent after having gone without treatment for
long periods of time.
This happened to Larry who in the midst of an
extreme psychotic episode killed five people. This is the one and only
act of violence Larry ever committed both before and after the incident.
Larry was sentenced to death and executed on January
21, 2000, despite pleas from around the world to spare his life. Please
don't believe that this could not happen in your family. Our family has
learned the hard way that it happens more often than you think! ~~
Larry Keith Robison (August 12, 1957 - January 21,
2000) Larry developed a strong faith in God while incarcerated which
brought him from the depths of despair to an awareness and understanding
of the true meaning of life and unconditional love. Larry did not die in
vain. Farewell my sweet brother--I love you!
A Family's Shame: A Killer in the Family
July 3, 2000
(CBS) - What happens when a vicious criminal turns out
to be your child or sibling? 48 Hours takes a probing look at family
members coping with the ordeal of having a killer in the family.
A Son On Death Row:
Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reports on the Robisons, who are fighting
to save their son from execution. But the killer himself, Larry Robison,
says that he is ready to die. (When this 48 Hours segment first appeared
on Jan. 13, Larry Robison was still alive. On Jan. 21, he was executed.
Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reported on a family struggling to deal
with a murderer who was also a son and a brother.)
For years, Ken and Lois Robison struggled to cope
with the death of their son Larry - even though he was still alive. He
was on death row, at the Texas state penitentiary in Huntsville. The
Robisons knew when he was due to die, down the minute.
In August, as his execution drew near, Larry's sister
Vickie worried about her parents. "I'm worried most about my mother
because she fought so hard to save his life," she said. The day he's
executed will be the "worst day of my life," she declared. "This has
absolutely devastated this family," Vickie Robison said about the crime
her brother committed 17 years ago. "In some ways it's just torn the
guts out of our family."
In August, 1982, in Lake Worth, Texas, Larry Robison,
then 25, killed five people. He decapitated and castrated his roomate,
Ricky Bryant, and shot and stabbed four others.
That day Rhonda Kreps
lost three people she loved: her mother, her sister Georgia and her 11-year
old nephew, Scott. "The pain - you just don't even know the pain," she
said recently. Larry Robison's killing spree also destroyed his own
family. "Things will never be the same for me or my family," said his
father Ken Robison, a former schoolteacher. "I will be identified as the
father of Larry Robison more than anything else." "We're just horrified
for the families of the victims," said his mother, Lois Robison, a
retired teacher. "Somehow, you just feel kind of to blame somehow."
His parents did not expect their life to take this
turn. They married 37 years ago and eventually raised eight children.
Larry was a "good baby," Lois Robison recalled. "He was a good little
boy, he was very smart, did very well in school, no problem whatsoever
to take care of," she added. But later his behavior changed; he used
drugs. He had "severe problems," his mother said.
His parents took him to a hospital for evaluation
four years before the murders. Larry Robison was diagnosed as a paranoid
schizophrenic. According to Lois, he was refused long-term treatment
because he did not have insurance.
Before the murders, he did not seem
dangerous and never had been violent, according to his mother. At his
trial Larry Robison pleaded insanity. Defense experts testified that he
suffered from schizophrenia, while state experts argued that his
symptoms were caused by prolonged drug abuse and that he was in full
control on the day of the murders. The jury agreed with the prosecution;
Robison was found guilty and sentenced to death.
The Robisons thought the sentence was unfair and
argued that their son was insane at the time of the murders. His parents
blamed the system for failing to help their son before the killings. For
years, they fought to save his life. This fight took its toll. "I'm very
close to my mother," Vickie Robison said. "But she devotes so much of
her time and energy to this, that it kind of puts a damper on the
relationship that we could have."
Rhonda Kreps, though, wanted Larry Robison to die. "I
need closure. I need him to go - go to sleep an leave me alone," she
said. Vickie Robison tried to balance her contradictory feelings. "I
feel all this sympathy for the families that were also devastated by
this," she said. "But the world automatically grieves for them. But what
the world does not realize is that this family - this good family - is
going to get nothing but spit in our face when our loved one dies."
Fighting To Save A Son:
As the appeals drag on, the Robison family becomes
divided over whether to keep fighting to save Larry Robison's life.
Larry Robison was slated to be executed by lethal
injection on Aug. 17, 1999. As the date approached, the Robisons
continued to visit him at Huntsville, Texas. As the execution date
neared, seeing their son became harder for the Robisons; they knew that
soon he would be dead. "The visits are good," said his father, Ken
Robison. "It's going to leave a void in our lives (when Larry is
For his part, Larry Robison believed that he was
responsible for the five murders. He deserves to die, he said. He was
philosophical: "I don't presume to second guess what God's will is for
me. If it's my time to go, I'll gladly get on that table and leave."
Although he appeared lucid, his parents insisted he was insane at the
time of the murders. "This wouldn't have happened if we had got him the
proper treatment," his mother said. It is "hard to say" if he deserves
responsibility for his crimes, because he was extremely psychotic when
he committed them, she said. Even though he thought he deserved to die,
Larry Robison said that he was proud of his parents' fight to save him.
"It's given them a purpose in their lives," he said.
Although he remembered the day of the crime, he
didn't know why he committed the murders, Larry Robison said at one
point. "(That's) something maybe I probably won't ever know." He also
said at one point he didn't think he currently was a paranoid
schizophrenic. He was not taking medication.
In August his parents
arrived for what would be their final visit. "I just want to tell him
good-bye and that we're going to miss him," mother Lois Robison said,
citing "all the memories we have of when he was a little boy and what a
wonderful boy he was." "He's preparing to go over to the other side,"
she said of her son. "He says he's already halfway there."
But four and a half hours before Robison was due to
die, the Texas Supreme Court issued a stay and ordered a hearing to
decide if he was competent enough to be executed. His parents were
ecstatic. Rhonda Kreps was shocked. She believed the jury's verdict was
fair and should be carried out.
In December, the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals ruled that Robison was competent and could be executed.
Following the hearing, Lois Robison was allowed to hug her son for the
first time in 12 years.
Afterward the family discussed whether it wanted to
appeal one more time. "I say no," said Larry's sister Vickie, arguing
emotionally that it was not what he wanted. "There's a lot of people
suffering here," Vickie Robison said. "It's not only our family. Our
family is only one part. The victim's families are suffering, too.
Larry's suffering." Even so, Lois Robison refused to give up. Her son's
execution was sated for Jan. 21: Larry Robison requested that date
because he wanted to die on a night with a full moon.
We Became the Parents of a Mass Murderer; Mother
By Robert Anthony Phillips -
BURLESON, Texas (APBnews.com) -- Lois Robison will
talk about her son cutting off a man's head and of the murders and
madness that invaded and changed her life. She's become the mother of a
mass murderer, she said, not a son. Most of the time, Robison doesn't
cry when she tells how her son, Larry Robison shot, stabbed and killed
But sometimes she just breaks down and can't stop
crying. "Talking about it makes me feel pretty awful," Robison said. "Sometimes
I can tell it without breaking down. It is horrific. As my husband said,
the moment we found out about it, we were no longer Lois and Ken Robison,
but we became the parents of a mass murderer.
It changes the way people
look at you." But talking about it is the only way to save her son. She
believes he is mentally ill, diagnosed by some doctors as having a
severe psychotic brain disease and schizophrenia. At the worst, she
thought the state would lock her son up forever. Then, at least, he
would get treatment.
A 16-year battle
For the past 16 years, Robison, a 66-year-old retired
third-grade schoolteacher, and her husband have been trying to save
their son. The courts have turned them down. She has gone on television,
given speeches and traveled around the world to gather support --
Geraldo, CNN, the Today show. She has sat through countless magazine and
newspapers interviews, and fielded constant calls from reporters
recounting the murder and madness of her son. It was all public. It was
righteous, Robison said, to fight against the execution of a mentally
Countdown to death
There are just 14 days to go before Larry Robinson,
42, will be strapped to a gurney at the Huntsville Unit and given a
lethal injection. He is one of seven condemned men scheduled to die in
Huntsville this month. Prosecutors say he deserves to die for butchering
five people. A week before for execution, Larry Robison will be moved to
solitary confinement and everything will be taken away from him.
Robison cries at the thought. "No books, paper, radio, just mental
torment," she said. And on Jan. 21, 2000, he will be brought into the
death chamber. It should take about seven minutes for Larry Robison to
die as drugs costing Texas $86.08 cents are injected into his veins. The
sodium thiopental will sedate him. The pancuronium bromide will collapse
his diaphragm and lungs. Then, potassium chloride will stop his heart.
Wants to 'cross over' with full moon
Robison has been there for her son since 1983, trying
to save him from execution. She never blamed him for changing her life.
She says she never hated him for killing. She blames the state and the
hospitals for not giving him treatment. She says she's always loved him.
But, Robison said she won't be there to watch him die. She says her son
doesn't want her there.
Robison doesn't know where she will be. Larry
Robinson, in court documents, said he wants to die Jan. 21 because there
will be a full moon that night, and a friend told him it would be a good
day. "He believes that is the most favorable time for a soul to cross
over," his mother said.
Victims' families want justice
The families of Larry Robison's murder victims are in
favor of him being executed. They released a statement through their
attorney, when the execution date was set, stating, "We look forward to
seeing justice carried out and getting on with our lives."
Greg Pipes, assistant district attorney in Tarrant
County who won a death sentence against Robison, views him as a
dangerous killer who "wiped out three generations of one family." "Is it
justice?" Pipes asked. "It's a shame it won't bring back the five people
he killed, but it's the only way society can protect itself. He's as
dangerous today as the day he killed those five people."
Now, the only thing Larry Robison and his mother have left is mercy. "We
are going strictly on mercy," Robison said. "That's the only thing left.
It is coming to an end one way or the other. He's either going to have
his sentence commuted or be executed. I thought at first if people knew
the truth, they wouldn't execute him. But this mechanism in Texas is
where the truth doesn't much matter. If I can't save Larry, I'm hoping
to make a difference with other families."
She delivered 24 copies of legal documents, letters,
medical records and petitions to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole
in a last ditch effort to save her son's life. She said one of the
letters urging that her son not be executed is from Tom Landry, the
former coach of the Dallas Cowboys. She admits she has little hope. The
board will read her documents in their offices and homes around the
state and then fax in their responses. The board has only recommended
clemency once in all its years.
Case spurs debate
Is Larry Robison mentally ill, unaware that he was
murdering five people, or is he faking? "This state has one job: to
execute the condemned as quickly ... as possible," said Rick Halperin, a
member of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Amnesty
International. "Any mitigating circumstances, innocence, juvenile
status, mental retardation means nothing." Robison says several
psychiatrists have testified that her son is mentally ill.
But Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for Attorney
General John Cornyn, said that while the state agrees that Larry Robison
suffers from some form of mental illness, probably from a drug psychosis,
he "exhibited knowledge" that he had committed the murders. "He knew
what he was doing and what he was accused of," said Browne. "He did
everything from cleaning up after himself at the crime scene to changing
license plates on different cars. We believe that all the evidence shows
that he was clearly sane when the murders were committed and that is
what we have argued all along."
'He had a motive' Prosecutors and police say that on
Aug. 10, 1982, Larry Robison decapitated and sexually mutilated his
roommate, Rickey Lee Bryant. He then went to an adjacent home and killed
Georgia Ann Reed, 34, her son, Scott, 11, and her mother Earline Barker,
When Bruce Gardner, 33, arrived at Reed's house, Robison killed him
as well. Prosecutors say that Larry Robison stole rings, watches and the
wallets of some of the victims. "He had a motive, he had a plan," Pipes
said. "He had the ability to understand that he needed to leave as soon
as he killed those five people.
He killed Ricky Bryant and couldn't find his keys to
his car to get away. That's why he went next door -- to get a vehicle.
Then afterwards, he goes out and buys more ammunition and flees."
Robison said that after the murders, she didn't believe her son could
have done it. "I thought the Mafia did it," she said. "I didn't believe
any one person could do so much damage." Robison said there is now no
doubt that her son killed the five people.
A picture of Goliath's severed head
"He remembers watching someone else do it," Robison
said. "He thought God was telling him to do this -- that there was evil
here and he had to do something about it. When he was first hospitalized
[prior to the murders], he had been saying that God had been telling him
to do things.
He believed he had to kill 2,000 people. He had read in
the bible about David and Goliath, and he had a picture of David holding
Goliath's severed head. After the murders, he sat in the blood and muck
for several hours waiting for them to come back to life." After the
murders, Larry Robison fled to Wichita, Kan., with Gardner's credit
cards and car. That's where he was captured.
Larry Robison's first murder conviction was
overturned in 1983 after an error was made in jury selection. He was
retried, found guilty and sentenced to death in 1987. But last year, the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Larry Robison's execution on Aug.
17 -- just 4 1/2 hours before he was scheduled to die -- in order to
hold a competency hearing.
In December, the nine-member panel ruled that Larry
Robison was competent and ordered an execution date be set. Pipes said
the only issue the appeals court addressed was whether he was competent
to be executed. He said Larry Robison understands that he is going to be
executed and why he is being executed. "Two different juries concluded
that any mental illness he had had no affect on his ability to know his
conduct was wrong," Pipes said.
Background of madness and drugs
Robison says mental illness runs on both sides of her
family. One of her daughters is now in a treatment facility in Texas.
She has had uncles and great-grandfathers who were mentally ill, she
said. Larry Robison was an ideal child, one of eight children, his
mother said. His natural father died of a malignant brain tumor when
Larry Robison was just 2 years old.
Larry Robison was in the Boy Scouts. He went to
Sunday school. He was smart. Then things started to go wrong. "When he
was 12 years old, he would have spells where he was extremely frightened,"
she said. "He had been a good student, with straight A's, but then his
grades dropped. He did get involved in drugs.
We thought that was the
problem. I know he smoked pot, but I don't know what else. I think he
experimented with pills." She said that her son had been placed in
several mental hospitals since he was 12 years old but was discharged
because he was not violent or because the family had no medical
Treatment at 15 She first placed her son in an
outpatient treatment facility in Kansas when he was 15. They never
diagnosed what was wrong with him, Robison said. In Fort Worth, she
tried to place her son in a private hospital that cost $200 a day.
Robison said she couldn't afford the hospital fee and, with no medical
insurance, the hospital refused to keep her son.
Another county hospital kept Larry Robinson for 30
days, but let him out because he wasn't violent, his mother said. He was
next placed in the Veterans Hospital (VA) in Waco. He was eligible
because he had served a year in the Air Force, before being given a
discharge after he began hallucinating.
However, he was only in the Veterans Administration
hospital 30 days because he was not violent, Lois Robison said. But
Pipes argues that the "psychosis" and schizophrenia that allegedly made
Robison kill was not brought on by mental illness -- but by abusing
The prosecuting attorney said records show that in the cases
where Larry Robison was hospitalized, he was treated for drug abuse. "If
the mental disorder is brought about by abuse of drugs, then he's still
held accountable," Pipes said.
Time running out
Time is running out, and no one is left who will
listen. Lois Robison shows psychiatric reports that have been filed in
the courts. Dr. Henry A. Nasrallah, chief of mental health services at
the VA Medical Center, said that Larry Robison suffers from chronic
bipolar disorder -- a severe psychiatric brain disease whose symptoms
come and go and can drastically impair judgment and competency,
according to court documents filed in the case.
Another doctor, Anthony
G. Hempel, found that "Larry was psychotic both before and during the
mass murder, and it is my opinion that he knew the legal wrongfulness of
his actions but not the normal wrongfulness."
Still will fight for condemned
If her son is executed, Robison says she will still
have her cause. She believes that many inmates in the prison system are
there because they are mentally ill. She says she will fight for them.
She recalls years ago when she found out that the families of her son's
victims were going to file a lawsuit against a pawnshop that sold him
the gun he used to kill. "I wanted to join that lawsuit, but they told
me I couldn't. They said I hadn't lost anything."
The Lost Boy Scout
By Marego Athans - Baltimore Sun
October 2, 1999
For years, Lois and Ken Robison begged for
psychiatric help for their son. Today, they plead for his life and those
of other mentally ill prisoners on Death Row. Lois and Ken Robison
raised eight children the old-fashioned way -- Sunday school, Boy Scouts
and family outings to drive-in movies. She taught third grade; he taught
Spanish. They are not the sort of people who expected to be visiting
But something went wrong with their son Larry:
paranoid schizophrenia, doctors finally concluded. The hospitals
wouldn't keep him because he wasn't violent. Then, in 1982 at age 24, he
proved the doctors wrong and killed five people, including an 11-year-old
That's when Lois Robison, who had spent years fighting to get
someone to treat her son, found herself fighting to stop the state of
Texas from executing him -- and everyone else who's mentally ill and on
In the past 16 years, she has taken her crusade
across the country and beyond, from the Texas legislature to the "Today
Show," from the Philippines to Baltimore when Flint Gregory Hunt was
executed in 1997. "It never was about just Larry," Lois Robison said
recently from her home in Burleson, outside Fort Worth, the day after
her son got a temporary reprieve from execution. "It was about all the
mentally ill in prison and about getting the proper mental health care
for everyone who needs it so we don't have to have these tragedies."
Today her struggle has reached the 11th hour, with
the state's highest criminal court set to decide in November whether
Larry Robison, 42, is sane enough to be executed. If Robison -- whose
story is part of the current "An Exquisite Dream of Fire" at Baltimore
Theatre Project -- is deemed too ill, the state faces a ghoulish
prospect: If doctors are assigned to treat him, they could make him well
enough to be executed. "It's a real ethical conflict for the
psychiatrists and doctors," said Richard Dieter, executive director of
Washington's Death Penalty Information Center. "You're treating them so
they can be healthy so they can be executed." The case, besides adding
to the debate over death sentences for the mentally ill, has exposed the
frustrations often faced by those desperate for treatment. Had someone
listened to Lois Robison early on, five -- maybe six -- lives might have
The couple, with Lois in the more visible role but
Ken working tirelessly by her side, have drawn attention in part because
they're so ordinary, both former Scout leaders and Sunday school
teachers who were in church whenever the doors were open. The gray-haired
grandmother, describing how a happy middle-class life unraveled, asks
people to examine how society handles its mentally ill. "My Texan
culture is very pro death penalty, and my family's attitude is that it's
a necessary evil," said Suzanne Rittenberry, vice chair of the board of
Texas CURE, which works to improve life for inmates and their families.
"But when my parents met Ken and Lois, people who could be their
relatives, they had this sense of `there, but for the grace of God.' "
Family members of the victims, however, aren't swayed
by the Robisons' dedication, and argue that the death penalty should
proceed against a convicted murderer pronounced sane by a jury. "His
mother cannot live with the horror of the fact that her son murdered
five people, so she has convinced herself that he's insane and has
recruited advocacy groups by convincing them as well," said Melissa
Estes, first cousin to one of the victims. "She's retrying the issue of
his insanity in the press, which is a subversion of trial by jury in our
The family history
Larry Robison started showing signs of trouble as an
adolescent, though he was never violent until his sudden rampage in
1982, according to family members, and attorneys, medical records and
letters going back 20 years. Larry was the third child and first son of
Lois and her first husband, Lloyd Epp, who died of brain cancer when
Larry was two.
Three years later, Lois -- struggling to raise four
children -- met Ken Robison, a father of two, at church. They couldn't
afford baby-sitters, so Lois and Ken dated with six little chaperones.
They piled the kids in the station wagon with sandwiches and cookies and
a big quilt and headed for the drive-in movies on dollar night. They
married and had two children together, for a total of eight.
Larry was quiet and easy going, a day dreamer who
loved Captain Kangaroo -- but also an avid reader with high marks,
active in Boy Scouts, the swim team, the church youth group and the
school band. He was 12 when his parents first noticed something was
wrong. He disrupted class. His grades dropped.
He collected strange
things, lots of pencils and staplers. By high school he was into drugs,
running away from home, suffering bouts of irrational fear and hearing
voices. A Kansas City psychiatric center couldn't identify his problem,
nor could a mental health center in Fort Worth.
At 17, he enlisted in the Air Force, but his
condition deteriorated -- he was now hallucinating -- and he was
honorably discharged after a year. By then, Larry thought he could move
things with his mind. He built a plywood pyramid and slept under it
because he thought it would give him special powers.
He worked briefly as a wallboard hanger and got
married, but the relationship only lasted a few weeks. He called home,
sometimes begging for help, and said his roommates were trying to hurt
him. People could read his mind. He had been flying out of his body over
the middle of Fort Worth while singing the story of his life.
and Air Force were chasing him. The power coming out of his head had
exploded a car and killed its passengers. He was responsible for
everything in the newspapers: wars, accidents, disasters, divorces. The
CIA was giving him secret messages on the TV news and the programs were
making fun of him.
Finally, emergency-room doctors diagnosed him as
paranoid schizophrenic and said he needed long-term treatment. But upon
discovering that Larry was 21 and his parents' insurance didn't cover
him, Lois Robison said, the hospital discharged him.
was pronounced mentally ill, a condition intensified by drug abuse.
Repeatedly, he was released, his mother said, because he wasn't "violent"
and the hospital needed the bed, or because he didn't have insurance.
When in 1979 he was arrested for stealing a truck,
his parents left him in jail for six months; the judge would not commit
Larry to a mental hospital. "I am frankly afraid for him to be turned
loose on the streets again, which is one reason we did not arrange for
bail ," Lois Robison wrote to her attorney, Kenneth Price, three years
before the murders. "I was told by a doctor at the VA hospital that if
he doesn't get (treatment) he will continue to get worse and could be a
danger to himself and others." Eventually, a residental drug treatment
program took Larry. He worked construction jobs and had a daughter with
a woman who, spooked by his behavior, soon left.
Then, on Aug. 10, 1982, five people were mutilated,
shot and stabbed at the home of Larry's friend, Rickey Bryant -- where
Larry was living temporarily -- and a neighboring cottage near Fort
They included Bryant, who had been shot twice in the head,
decapitated, stabbed 49 times and sexually mutilated. Larry Robison, who
did not deny committing the crimes, pleaded innocent by reason of
insanity but was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. The
conviction was overturned. Robison was retried, convicted and condemned
That's when Lois Robison, who had never before made a
speech, became a spokeswoman for mentally ill inmates, who make up about
16 percent of the U.S. prison and jail population, according to recent
Justice Department statistics. She wasn't arguing to have Larry set free
but to have him committed to a hospital for life. "She promised herself
and the family she was not going to lie down and accept this," Vickie
Barnett, her daughter, said.
But Lois and Ken were not only advocating
for Larry; in fact, their hopes for saving Larry diminished with each
execution of a Texas inmate who claimed to be mentally ill or retarded.
("It's like trying to hold back a freight train with your bare hands,"
Lois said. "It doesn't seem to matter what makes sense. They just keep
running over people.")
Still, the couple pressed on, hoping that publicizing
Larry's case would lead to changes in policy. "The most horrible crimes
are done by the few mentally ill people who are untreated," Lois said. "The
only way to prevent that is to treat people early on." According to a
1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, mentally ill people may be executed if
they understand the punishment that awaits them and why they are being
put to death.
In 1983, immediately after the sentencing, Lois and
Ken joined CURE, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, and
now publish the group's newsletter. They founded HOPE, Help our
Prisoners Exist, a support group for the families and friends of death
They also signed on with Journey of Hope, an educational
pilgrimage that has taken them to marches and speaking engagements
across the country, mostly at their own expense. They spearheaded a
project that put fans in Texas prisons. They have cataloged and exposed
incidents of prisoner abuse. Barnett, Larry's sister, created a Web site
for the case, www.Larryrobison.org.
"That's why in Huntsville you see a throng of people,"
Rittenberry said. "People react on the merits of the case, but there
also are a lot of people very grateful to Ken and Lois for the work
they've done." In the years since the first trial, the Robisons have
learned of a history of mental illness on both sides of Larry's family.
And while they were fighting for Larry, new problems arose at home.
In 1989, the Robisons' youngest daughter, Carol, was
diagnosed as manic-depressive and schizo-affective, and is now living in
a residential mental health center. But much of that history, along with
the testimony of doctors, was not heard by jurors, something that
lawyers familiar with the case attribute to a weak defense.
The family has exhausted its appeals, and the U.S.
Supreme Court has declined to hear the case. The Texas Board of Pardons
and Paroles unanimously refused to recommend commuting the death
sentence, and Gov. George W. Bush did not weigh in. The execution was
set for Aug. 17.
On that day, 200 family members and supporters of
Larry Robison, as well as the victim's families and advocates for and
against the death penalty, gathered in Huntsville. Four hours before the
scheduled lethal injection, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted
a temporary stay and sent the case back to trial court to examine
Robison's competency to be executed.
The stay was an unusual decision that may have been
influenced by a new state law, effective Sept. 1, that spells out
procedures for deciding whether an inmate is mentally competent for
execution. And alternately, some death penalty authorities speculate
that the Republican-dominated appeals court saved Bush from looking one
too many times like the execution governor when he's running for the
presidency as a "compassionate conservative." So, a planned memorial
service for Larry turned into a thanksgiving celebration at First
Methodist Church in Huntsville.
Families of the victims, however, were not
celebrating. "Lethal injection is too good for him," Gloria Windham,
whose mother, sister and nephew were killed, said from her home in
Alabama. "In Alabama, we'd fry him. I'd like him to suffer like Georgia
[her sister] did, to beg for his life and know the terror she must have
known." Though Larry got a stay, Lois Robison wasn't finished. She was
telling anyone who'd listen that Joe Mario Trevino, a fellow inmate of
Larry's who was scheduled to die the next day, was also mentally ill.
But Trevino's case drew little media interest. Before he was put to
death, Trevino gave Larry his fan. "They're all my sons," she said,
'Blank and sad'
As lawyers prepare for the competency hearing Nov. 8,
Lois Robison continues to make the four-hour trip to Huntsville every
week, usually with Ken, to visit Larry. Through a glass partition, they
talk about the family, which now includes 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild,
and how they love each other. The Robisons aren't allowed to touch their
son; instead they each press their hands on the glass, and Lois kisses
the glass and hugs herself in a symbolic hug for him. They all cry.
In the weeks leading up to the execution date, Lois
has told Larry things she wanted him to know before he died: what he was
like as a little boy, how much she enjoyed having him, what a good boy
he was and what a fine student. He responded, she said, with a big smile.
Right after the stay, Lois said, "He looked kind of blank and sad. It
didn't seem to matter, like they couldn't kill him anyhow." Recently he
told her: "Remember, Mom, this is really just a movie. What you think is
happening is not real. When the movie's over, we'll find out what is
really real." The Rev. Melodee Smith, one of Robison's attorneys, said
Larry does not believe the state has the power to kill him. He has
evolved into a higher, spiritual being, he contends, and nothing can
affect him. He believes he has already died several times.
Larry has not received psychiatric treatment or
medication in prison. Now, psychiatrists selected by the state and the
defense are evaluating him. If he is found competent, he will likely get
another execution date. If not, he will likely return to Death Row,
where he may be treated for his illness and periodically re-examined for
competency. "The sad thing about this," Rittenberry said, "is that 17
years after the fact, who is being punished here? It's not a punishment
for Larry. The only people who are going to be punished here are Ken and
Lois, the very people who were trying to prevent this from happening
from the start."
Paranoid Schizophrenic Executed in Texas
By Kate Randall
World Socialist Web Site
January 24, 2000
Larry Keith Robison, 42, was put to death on Friday,
January 21, despite pleas to Texas Governor George W. Bush to spare the
life of the mentally ill man. He died by lethal injection in Huntsville
Friday evening. The European Union, Pope John Paul II and the National
Alliance for the Mentally Ill had called on Bush to halt the execution.
Larry Robison, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic,
was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of five people in
1982, carried out while he was in a psychotic state. Robison's mother,
Lois, had repeatedly sought treatment for her son, but was unable to
find affordable psychiatric help in Texas. Because her son was
unemployed and over 21 he was not covered by his parents' medical
insurance and they couldn't pay the enormous cost of private mental
Robison was the fourth person put to death in Texas
this month. Executed earlier this month were David Hicks, Earl
Heiselbetz and Spencer Goodman. The state plans to execute Billy Hughes,
Glen McGinnis and James Moreland this week. Since the US Supreme Court
reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 202 men and one woman have been
put to death in Texas, more than any other state. Virginia, the second-highest
state, has put to death 75 people.
Texas Governor and Republican presidential
frontrunner George W. Bush, campaigning in Iowa, took no action to stop
the execution. Bush spokesman Mike Jones commented that it is not the
place of the governor to make judgments about the mental competency of
inmates. “Those are issues to be dealt with by the courts,” Jones said.
As governor, Bush has presided over 114 executions
since taking office in 1995, and has commuted only one death sentence.
Included among those executed have been the mentally ill as well as
those convicted of crimes when they were juveniles. There are currently
460 men and 9 women on death row in Texas.
According to Judge Michael
McCormick of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, “The reason we have so
many people on death row is plain and simple: We have a lot of bad
people committing capital murders, and we are doing something about it.”
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay of
execution in Robison's case last August 17, ordering a lower court to
hold a hearing to determine whether Robison was mentally competent to be
executed under Texas law. State law says that a prisoner must be
coherent enough to understand why he is being put to death, but does not
prohibit execution of those who are mentally ill at the time of the
crime. The lower court ruled that Robison understood the nature of his
punishment and therefore could be put to death.
At Robison's two criminal trials juries never heard
evidence of his mental illness. The assistant district attorney who
prosecuted his case commented, “There are an awful lot of people
diagnosed as schizophrenic that aren't killing people.”
This latest execution underscores the brutalization
and criminalization of the mentally ill by the US criminal justice and
prison system, and the state of Texas in particular. There are currently
a quarter-million mentally ill individuals incarcerated in the nation's
prisons and jails. While Texas has institutionalized the execution of
the mentally ill, the state ranks forty-second among the 50 states in
per capita spending on mental health services.
01-21-00 - TEXAS: (impending execution)
Barring a last-minute stay by Lt. Gov Rick Perry,
Larry Keith Robison will be put to death Friday evening for killing 5
people near Lake Worth in 1982. The 42-year-old Robison is scheduled to
die by injection sometime after 6 p.m, despite pleas from Pope John Paul
II and several national and international human rights organizations.
Mr. Robison's supporters say he suffers from
schizophrenia, which was not adequately reflected in his sentence.
Although he has asked his lawyers to end any appeals that could delay
his execution, his mother, Lois Robison, continues fighting for his life.
Ms. Robison's clemency appeal was unanimously rejected Wednesday by the
18-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. She said her son's death
sentence should be commuted to life in prison. "The only hope we have is
for George Bush to have mercy," Ms. Robison said Thursday.
Linda Edwards, spokeswoman for the governor, said he
is campaigning in Iowa, and Lt. Gov. Perry will decide whether to grant
a 30-day reprieve. "We want to be sure that all of the appeals are
exhausted. We will look at the case and determine whether Mr. Robison
received due process from the courts," said Ray Sullivan, Lt. Gov.
One of Mr. Robison's attorneys, Melodee Smith of
Miami, said a 1-month stay would allow her to return to court with more
evidence about her client's mental illness. "A reprieve would allow us
to present evidence we've uncovered about Larry's recurring illness,"
said Ms. Smith, who has represented Mr. Robison since October.
"Throughout his life, he's suffered from a bipolar
disorder. Larry does not want to die but he does not want anyone to
think he's mentally ill," said Ms. Smith, a United Methodist minister.
She said Mr. Robison's case highlights the "ineptitude of the judicial
system to deal with mental illness issues." "The state doesn't want to
make Larry Robison a martyr, but clearly the state has been remiss in
acknowledging his mental illness. We're asking for justice, mercy and
compassion," she said.
Mr. Robison was condemned for the Aug. 10, 1982,
slayings of 5 people near Lake Worth. Among those killed in the bloody
rampage was Mr. Robison's roommate, Ricky Lee Bryant, who was shot,
stabbed and decapitated.
Mr. Robison then went next door and killed 4 others,
including an 11-year-old boy. His 34-year-old neighbor, Georgia Reed,
was caring for her sick mother Earline Barker, 55, who was recovering
from surgery. Both women died from stab wounds. Ms. Reed's son, Scotty
Reed, was fatally shot. The boy was 2 days from his 12th birthday.
The 5th victim was Ms. Reed's boyfriend, Bruce
Gardner, who arrived at the home to pick Ms. Reed up for a picnic.
Prosecutors said Mr. Robison shot Mr. Gardner in the head and fled in
During a court hearing in November, Mr. Robison
apologized to the families of the victims. A spokeswoman for the
families did not return a call Thursday. Ms. Robison said that her son
asked the state to schedule his execution because he no longer wanted to
live on death row. She said her son has asked her not to attend his
execution. "He wants us to remember him the way he was when he was alive,"