A cigarette butt discarded outside the front door of a murder victim's Northeast Baltimore home led detectives to a suspect, who has now been charged with stabbing a 91-year-old woman during a burglary.
"The way we closed this case was right out of a scene from 'CSI,'" city police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Friday, referring to the popular television series that focuses on solving crimes through high-tech forensic techniques.
"We're very pleased," said Irene Ushry, the daughter of the victim, Irene Logan, who lived on Moravia Road. "It hasn't been easy. It gives us some peace of mind now that they've arrested someone."
Police said DNA taken from the cigarette matched the genetic fingerprint of Anthony Robinson, a 45-year-old who also lived in Northeast Baltimore, near Lake Montebello. "That was our lucky break," said Baltimore police Col. Jesse Oden, who heads the Criminal Investigation Division.
At the time of the killing, Robinson was free on $25,000 bail, awaiting trial on charges that he burglarized a house on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Baltimore. In that case, police responding to an alarm confronted the suspect, who was hiding in the attic, and arrested him after the ceiling collapsed and he fell into front bedroom, according to the report from the July incident.
Police said Robinson's DNA, which was used to compare to the DNA found at the scene of the slaying, was collected after that arrest. His trial in the Frankford Avenue burglary is scheduled for Oct. 25. A police report says a gold bracelet, a gold pin and a gold watch were taken.
A woman who answered the phone at Robinson's house in the 1900 block of East 30th St. would not give her name and hung up.
Robinson was charged early Friday with first-degree murder, two counts of assault, robbery and theft. He was ordered held without bail and could have a hearing on Monday. Police said he was arrested Friday at his girlfriend's house in Northwest Baltimore, where they said they found two watches and a ring belonging to the victim.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, attended by the lead homicide detective, Gary Niedermeier, and several members of the command staff, authorities said that the motive for the killing was burglary and that the suspect has no connection to the victim. Police said they are looking at other burglaries in the area to see if there are any similarities.
Ushry had found her mother's body on the afternoon of Aug. 3 on the floor of a small kitchen. She said a first-floor bedroom had been rummaged through but saw no signs of a forced entry. The victim had moved to Baltimore as a small child. She and her husband, who died in 1999, had been married for 50 years. She loved church and dancing.
Logan's son, Bill, is a community activist who knows Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and had worked to set up National Night Out Against Crime events in his Mid-Govans neighborhood just two days before the killing. The mayor had attended the event.
Police charging documents reveal new information about the killing. Items that were taken included costume jewelry, watches, a portable CD player, a checkbook and a Home Depot card. The documents also say that Logan was stabbed, strangled and beaten so badly that her back was broken.
Police said detectives considered the cigarette butt at the crime scene unusual because no one in the house smoked. It's unclear when it was discarded, and police did not disclose how the intruder got inside the house or whether they found a weapon.
The Police Department's Trace Analysis Unit obtained DNA from the cigarette, and matched it to samples recovered from under the victim's fingernails, indicating a possible struggle. They also matched the DNA to samples taken from other items inside the house and from the suspect.
Guglielmi, the city police spokesman, described Robinson as a "career criminal" with multiple arrests on drug and robbery charges. He has few convictions, though, including two for drug possession: in 2007, for which got a suspended one-year jail term; and in 2009, for which he spent one month in jail. He also was sentenced to four years in prison for auto theft in 2005.