A Flathead County District Court judge sentenced 19-year-old Karrolyn Robinson to eight years in prison Thursday for charges connected to an April beating death in Kalispell.
Robinson had already pleaded guilty to evidence tampering and theft following the murder of Wesley Collins. District Court Judge Stewart Stadler’s sentencing came after an emotional hearing complete with testimony from family members of both Robinson and the victim.
Stadler called the sentence, which includes a seven-year suspended prison sentence, the only way the court could provide justice for the victims, adding that he could have handed down tougher punishment.
“The sentence that was recommended by the state, I think, is lenient,” Stadler said.
Robinson pleaded guilty to felony charges in October. She admitted to deleting text messages from her common-law husband Robert Lake’s phone knowing that they were of evidentiary value to law enforcement.
Lake, 22, and Jeffrey Nixon, 19, are accused of beating 49-year-old Collins to death on April 12. Robinson said she orchestrated the text message deletion, and failed to inform authorities when more than $1,500 of Collins’ belongings appeared in her apartment on April 17.
Lake and Nixon remain in jail on multiple charges, including deliberate homicide.
Along with changing her plea in October, Robinson also asked for a bond reduction so she could spend time with her daughter, born shortly before she was arrested. Stadler denied that request.
At the Dec. 16 sentencing hearing, Robinson’s family told Stadler that she had been close with them until she met Lake. Then she became withdrawn.
“As a rule, she was a pretty good kid,” Roy Robinson, the defendant’s father, said.
Roy Robinson said his daughter had a temper and had acted out, but she had also worked to overcome obstacles in her life.
Ashley Robinson, the defendant’s sister, said she believed Lake was a controlling boyfriend and that her sister’s behavior changed when she started dating him.
“She couldn’t come see me without him there,” Ashley Robinson said. “She couldn’t do anything without him.”
Robinson’s grandmother, Carol Mistic, testified that she had raised Karrolyn and that when she was younger Robinson had trouble making friends. Her parents’ divorce affected her deeply, Mistic said.
“When she was smaller, she had a big heart, she was always happy,” Mistic said. “But she always had something missing.”
Robinson’s attorney, Daniel Minnis, also called Theresa Reed, a licensed clinical psychologist, to testify about Robinson’s emotional, social and behavioral development.
Reed said that after reading police reports, educational records, court transcripts and interviewing Robinson, she concluded that Robinson is socially, emotionally and behaviorally immature for her age, and is susceptible to negative influences and peer pressure.
At the time of the crime, Robinson’s decision-making skills were comparable to a mid- to late-adolescent when considering consequences and risks, Reed said.
Reed recommended incarcerating Robinson for no longer than one or two years because prison could socialize her into a hardened criminal. After prison, Robinson should be moved to a community-based pre-release center and undergo chemical dependency treatment, she added.
“This (sentence) is recommended because she’s still salvageable,” Reed said.
Minnis told Stadler that at her core, Robinson “is a kid,” and should be punished similarly to a juvenile offender. He recommended 10 years in prison with seven years suspended.
Prosecutor Alison Howard, however, pointed to text messages sent between Lake and Robinson that Howard said showed Robinson’s ability to consider consequences when she knew a crime had been committed.
The messages referenced Robinson’s affection for Lake despite the consequences, such as “It doesn’t bother me at all, but I’m scared I’m going to lose you.”
Howard also asserted that Robinson’s history of acting out as a teen –skipping school, using drugs and alcohol, driving on a suspended license and incurring traffic violations – was not abnormal in adult offenders.
“Everything she’s experienced is fairly normal,” Howard said.
“Everyone here is trying to put the blame on Mr. Lake,” Howard added. “The defendant made horrible decisions and now she has to pay the consequences for those.”
Kathleen Collins, Wesley Collins’ sister, told Stadler that she has a 15-year-old grandson who also comes from a broken home, and she believes he will turn out fine.
“It’s all about choices, right from wrong,” she said.
Robinson tearfully addressed the Collins family before she was sentenced. She apologized and said she is taking responsibility for her mistakes.
“Nothing I can say can end your suffering,” Robinson said. “I want you to know that Wesley haunts me.”
Stadler sentenced Robinson to five years in prison for the theft charge and 10 years for the evidence tampering, with seven suspended. He noted that the e-mails and text messages between Robinson and Lake were part of his decision.
“They are very cold and very calculated,” Stadler told Robinson. “Good luck.”
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