The letter from the court came to the Rock Hill house where a woman of great strength and courage is raising her grandson. The grandson, named Zaylen, starts school in about a week.
“Kindergarten,” said Estelle Robinson. “He is so smart, just like his mother.”
The letter – required to be sent to victims of crimes when a court appearance is scheduled – stated that Carl White Jr., an admitted cold-blooded killer, had filed a lawsuit. He is claiming he somehow is not guilty.
Estelle Robinson put the letter in a drawer.
“God will be there,” she said. “I do not need any more of the courts in my daughter getting killed.”
Zaylen’s mother is not around to receive the letter because White killed her. He shot her, twice, as she sat in her car in White’s driveway.
Shrece Charlette Robinson, 25 – a college student with a bright future – had broken off her relationship with White long before. She was Zaylen’s primary caregiver, with legal custody. White had visitation rights.
That Saturday night in May 2011 White had his son. He was 27 and he wanted to go out, go to a club, get drunk, chase the ladies. He tried to get a babysitter and failed.
So Robinson came to get her son, and White shot her in the face.
White then left with Zaylen in his 2002 SUV. Police issued an Amber Alert. White drove almost to Georgia before a trucker who had seen the alert followed him and called the cops. Squad cars finally got White’s vehicle pulled over.
Inside, they found White holding a nearly empty bottle of vodka. Zaylen, not even 2 then, was unrestrained in the backseat, unhurt.
Police arrested White on murder charges after he confessed.
Almost a year later, White pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He refused to apologize to Estelle Robinson, or to her surviving daughter, Ladrena, who remains a doting and loving aunt to Zaylen.
White’s lawyer, a public defender, agreed with the plea after prosecutors showed in court that the evidence was clear that White did the killing – including White’s confession.
Since then, White has quietly filed a lawsuit – a post-conviction relief claim. It is a lawsuit filed by almost all convicted felons facing long years in prison. It normally alleges their lawyer botched their case somehow. Nearly all of those claims fail, but all must be taken to trial if the convicted criminal wants to get out of prison for a few days and go to York County’s courthouse.
White was so brazen in his lawsuit, claiming his lawyer “lied in court” about the facts of the case – when, in fact, his lawyer didn’t say anything about the facts of the case.
Prosecutor Willy Thompson did state the facts that day in 2012.
“Carl White was guilty and he still is guilty,” Thompson said last week. “There is no dispute about the facts.”
Because White has rights under the law to say almost anything, prosecutors with the state Attorney General’s Office had to spend months researching the case at taxpayer expense. White got another taxpayer-funded lawyer to help prepare for his claim.
He left prison a week ago and was brought to York County’s jail. Moments before the trial was set – when White’s preposterous lie would have become perjury under oath – White withdrew his lawsuit. The case is over, said Mark Powell, a spokesman for the attorney general.
White’s family has regular visitation with Zaylen on weekends and they love him, Estelle Robinson said. She harbors no ill will toward them or anyone else.
“He alone pulled that trigger,” she said.
White, now 31, cannot be released until 2041, court records show, when he will be almost 60.
Zaylen – the son White endangered in a three-hour drunken ride, whose mother White killed for no reason at all – is now 5.
In a few days, Zaylen starts his journey of school, of life, with a mother buried and a father in prison.
But he has a grandmother who will hug him as he steps onto the school bus for his first day, and she will hug him when he comes home. He will leap into her arms.