Commentary

Jimmy Robertson, whose crime shocked Rock Hill, turns 40 on death row

adys@heraldonline.comNovember 16, 2013 

Jimmy Robertson listens in court during a post-conviction relief hearing in 2007 at Moss Justice Center in York.

ANDY BURRISS — aburriss@heraldonline.com Buy Photo

— There will be no birthday party Sunday at the maximum security prison where the state’s 48 death row inmates live.

Still, the resident rich kid at Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville will celebrate his 40th birthday. It is unclear if the Rock Hill man who slaughtered his parents 16 years ago next week – two days before Thanksgiving – will make a wish or get presents.

Because nobody but Robertson himself ever really knows what he wants, much less what he will do.

Sometimes Robertson decides he wants to die in the electric chair.

Often, on important dates such as the 10th anniversary of the day he killed his parents, Robertson has flowers sent to the church they attended, Oakland Avenue Presbyterian.

The former star student and Eagle Scout – whose Springs Industries executive father gave Robertson cars and college and money and chances and love – files appeals and blames and fires lawyers paid for by taxpayers.

Other times this man – who went to Georgia Tech and came home to smoke crack, snort Ritalin and threaten and kill his parents – has had a cellphone sneaked to him on death row.

He has met girls through an online service while on death row, and sent holiday cards to the prosecutor who sent him there.

Although Robertson has claimed he wanted to die for his crimes – and has twice been within days of execution – he has repeatedly filed last-minute appeals, two of which are pending and keeping him alive.

A state lawsuit claims one of Robertson’s lawyers botched his appeal by not proving that his trial lawyers had botched his murder case in 1999. A federal lawsuit that seeks a whole new trial for Robertson is on hold until the state lawsuit – which will determine whether he gets another shot at an appeal – is resolved.

Because Robertson was a rich kid who killed his parents, his crime was huge news. Just days before the 1997 slayings, a Rock Hill man had killed his former girlfriend, her boyfriend and then himself. Three dead in a horrible triple killing, and nobody but the families ruined ever asked about the case again.

But Robertson is different.

A rich white kid of privilege who claims to have been disciplined to the point of abuse – despite his parents showering him with money – kills his parents in an attempt to get more than $2 million in cash and insurance. That was, is and always will be big news.

Robertson’s 1999 trial was broadcast on CourtTV, which is now called truTV. He was famous all over the country. Since the trial, there have been TV specials about him, a true crime book and more.

In dozens of court hearings since his conviction, Robertson has not once apologized or shown even the barest remorse. He has never mentioned his parents by name. He does like to look for cameras, though, any time he is in court.

“If it involves attention, Jimmy will take it,” said state Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York, the former 16th Circuit solicitor who prosecuted Robertson in 1999. “Jimmy loves the spotlight. He loves the spotlight, even on death row.”

Even a spotlight brought on by snorting 10 times the normal dosage of crushed Ritalin and slashing his mother, Terry Robertson, 49, repeatedly with a butcher knife and a claw hammer. A horrible death.

Robertson then grabbed some Tilex bathroom cleaner as Earl Robertson, 49, stepped out of the shower. Robertson sprayed his father’s eyes, blinding him, then smashed his head with a claw hammer a bunch of times. He finished the job with a Louisville Slugger baseball bat.

Robertson then kicked the bodies a few times, to make sure the deed was done.

This killer was mad at his parents for not letting him do what he wanted all the time, despite being 24 and living off them after a short stretch in prison for stealing a car and credit cards from neighbors.

He had even been hospitalized two years before the murders, court documents show, over concerns he would hurt somebody – specifically his mother.

After killing his parents – just days after his birthday – Robertson wrote a phony note to try to fool the cops, stole his father’s credit cards, and took off with his girlfriend for Philadelphia, where his younger brother was in college.

Robertson left a trail of credit card purchases and bloody evidence he threw out in trash bins along the way. By the time he reached Philadelphia, cops were waiting with shotguns and handcuffs – and the arrest warrants that would start the chain of publicity that Robertson rode all the way to death row.

“Jimmy Robertson was and is guilty,” said Kevin Brackett, the current 16th Circuit solicitor who helped Pope prosecute Robertson. “The evidence was plainly overwhelming.

“And it never changes that Jimmy is all about Jimmy.”

Robertson’s girlfriend, Meredith Moon, testified to all she had seen that terrible night, and she served more than 10 years in prison for her role as an accomplice. After she left prison years ago, she got married and started her life over.

“Meredith Moon never gets in trouble if she doesn’t meet Jimmy Robertson,” said Moon’s lawyer, York County Chief Public Defender Harry Dest.

Robertson’s brother, Chip Robertson, later went to prison himself for drug offenses. Chip Robertson, who left the state after doing his time, wrote a letter to The Herald in 2005 saying South Carolina should be embarrassed if his brother ever gets a reprieve from his death sentence.

Robertson stayed in touch with Gene Sullivan, his father’s friend who handled the $2.2 million inheritance that Robertson wanted but could not get, because death row inmates do not get millions to spend on canteen candy bars. Sullivan later served almost three years in federal prison himself for stealing millions from his clients.

Chip Robertson told the judge, in an attempt to help Sullivan get a lighter sentence, that Sullivan used some of the money to buy his brother a washer and dryer to be used by all on death row.

Prosecutors with the state Attorney General’s Office have been in dozens of courtrooms in the past 14 years to try to make Robertson’s case finally come to a conclusion in the electric chair. The office recently filed more legal papers saying Robertson’s claims to have his conviction or sentence overturned are preposterous.

One of Robertson’s current appeals lawyers is Robert Dudek, the chief of appellate defense for South Carolina. Dudek and his staff have already been fired once by Robertson when he claimed he wanted to die – but now Robertson is allowing them to try to save his life.

Dudek said there is no deadline for the state Supreme Court to decide if Robertson’s latest appeal will be heard.

“These things take time,” Dudek said.

On his 40th birthday – after 14 years on death row – one thing Jimmy has is time.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 •  adys@heraldonline.com

The Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service