Harvey M. Robinson, 19, was convicted last night of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of two Allentown women and a teen-age girl.
A Lehigh County jury will have to decide whether to sentence Robinson to death or life imprisonment for killing Joan Mary Burghardt, Charlotte Schmoyer and Jessica Jean Fortney.
The county's first serial killer was also convicted of raping the three victims, who lived on Allentown's East Side.
Jurors deliberated for six hours. They were sequestered overnight in a hotel and will return to court today to hear evidence for and against the death penalty.
Robinson showed no emotion when the verdicts were read at 8:50 p.m. in the courtroom, where 16 sheriff's deputies and the sheriff stood guard.
Judge Robert K. Young asked each juror individually whether he or she agreed with the verdicts. Each answered without hesitation, "Yes."
James Burke, one of Robinson's court-appointed lawyers, quickly left the courtroom to start preparing for today's hearing.
Outside the courtroom, parents and other relatives of the victims wept and hugged each other and the families of the other victims. They clung to each other for long moments, smiled and laughed between tears.
They hugged and kissed detectives who worked on the case and thanked District Attorney Robert Steinberg.
The prosecutor said the jury recognized how dangerous Robinson is. "One of the things that scared me was: God forbid that he would ever get out," Steinberg said. "He is someone that, in my opinion, would kill over and over and over."
Robinson struck Burghardt, a 27-year-old nurse's aide, 37 times on the head. He stabbed Schmoyer, a 15-year-old Dieruff High School student, 22 times and slashed her throat. He beat, strangled and suffocated Fortney, a 47-year-old grandmother. There were 50 injuries on Fortney's body.
Schmoyer would have been 17 yesterday. In memory of her daughter, Karen Schmoyer wore a small blue satin ribbon attached to her sweater with a gold guardian angel pin. On the ribbon were the words, "Forever loved, Charlotte."
"I felt she was with us the whole way," Mrs. Schmoyer said. "Now, maybe she can be put to rest."
Denise Sam-Cali, 39, who survived a rape and beating by Robinson, was relieved the other families didn't have to go through more torment.
The families were elated at the outcome but know it won't bring back their loved ones, she said.
"I had to put it through my mind again and again to make sure I was hearing it correctly," said Stanley Burghardt of the verdict in his daughter's case. "Once I was sure of it, I can't say what I really felt."
"It's just been such a long ordeal. It's hard to describe," said his son, Carl, the victim's brother.
Through 52 witnesses and 135 exhibits, Steinberg tried to piece together the victims' final moments, where they were killed, with which weapons and how.
"What causes someone to rape, sexually assault and murder three women?" Steinberg asked in his closing argument. "What state of mind does that person have when he commits such acts?"
He questioned what causes a man to commit "unspeakable acts" on Burghardt, a woman with a troubled mental history who was trying to put her life back together; on Schmoyer, a girl whose life revolved around family and school activities; and on Fortney, who walked her granddaughter to school and helped her daughter run a household.
Steinberg said Robinson is more than a predator. Looking into the eyes of the young man, who blinks incessantly, one sees wickedness, cruelty and evil, the prosecutor said.
It's difficult, he said, for the average person to fathom what is going on behind those eyes.
Robinson didn't know any of the victims, who lived in the neighborhood near his home at 709 N. Kearney St. Prosecutors speculated that he may have stalked his victims before deciding when to strike.
No one knows how and why he chose these particular victims.
Robinson did not take the stand in his 12-day trial.
Carmen Marinelli, one of Robinson's court-appointed lawyers, said the state's case had huge gaps, and prosecutors used a smoke screen to hide a lack of evidence. Prosecutors had no murder weapons, no motive, no eye witnesses and no finger prints, he said.
Marinelli asked the jury to acquit Robinson of all the charges. "They haven't proved it," he said. "It just is not here."
The prosecution's strongest evidence came in the Schmoyer killing.
Prosecutors found a hair on the girl's sweatshirt and another on her knee that experts said are consistent with Robinson's head and pubic hair.
A blue car with passenger side damage had been seen in a parking lot at the East Side Reservoir the morning Schmoyer's body was found there in dense woods. Witnesses said Robinson had been seen driving his mother's blue Ford Tempo with side damage.
Steinberg said Robinson was calculating and cunning and did not leave finger prints because he wore gloves.
Marinelli attacked the reliability of the one piece of evidence that linked Robinson to all three murder victims -- results of FBI tests that compared DNA in Robinson's blood to DNA in semen.
One of the state's experts defended the accuracy of the scientific tests and said the genetic components in Robinson's blood matched those in semen taken from two of the bodies and from a pair of shorts belonging to a third victim. Based on the tests, there is a one in a billion chance that Robinson is not the killer, according to an FBI agent who reviewed results of the tests.
Marinelli said the DNA evidence was suspect, but Steinberg noted that the defense did not call its own expert to rebut the state's DNA results.
In all three cases, the DNA in semen matched Robinson's DNA, the prosecutor said.
Steinberg said the case was put together by ranking and uniformed police officers trained to spot morsels of evidence, people in the community who were able to testify about minor details that contributed to the overall case, courageous family members of the victims who had to identify belongings of their loved ones, expert witnesses and science.Copyright © 2015, CT Now