Cigarette butt leads to life sentence - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Cigarette butt leads to life sentence

Released by the office of Henderson County District Attorney R. Scott McKee:

Charles Ray Robinson, 56, was sentenced to life in the penitentiary Monday by 3rd District Court Judge Mark Calhoon for the May 16, 2010 robbery of the Shell Station at 1117 East Tyler Street in Athens. 

Robinson initially pled not guilty to the offense and a jury trial was held in March of this year.  The jury heard testimony from the victim, a DNA analyst, the first officers to respond to the scene as well as detective James Bonnette and lead detective Bill Carlow of the Athens Police Department.  In addition to the detective's testimony, the jury viewed the security footage which showed Robinson committing the crime.  After all of this evidence was presented to the jury by District Attorney Scott McKee and Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Gode, Robinson decided to change his plea to guilty. 

The security video captured Robinson entering the store just after 5 am on May 16, 2010.  While entering the station, Robinson discarded a cigarette he was smoking on the recently swept ground outside the front door.  The video then showed Robinson make his way behind the clerk near the cash register.  When the clerk attempted to grab a pair of scissors to fend off her robber, Robinson grabbed the clerk from behind the neck and took the scissors away from her.  Robinson then grabbed two boxes of petty cash and fled the scene.  According to District Attorney Scott McKee, the footage showed the entire crime, but did not capture the facial characteristics well enough to generate an accurate picture of the then unknown assailant.  Since the parking lot was recently swept, the victim was able to point officers to the lone cigarette butt lying outside the door which belonged to the robber.  Detectives gathered the cigarette butt for DNA testing. 

One of the officers who responded to the Shell station was Dana Dykes, also of Athens PD.  After hearing the description of the robber, Dykes recalled making contact with a man with a similar description, Robinson, a few days earlier in the same vicinity.  After viewing the security footage, Dykes was able to determine that Robinson could be their man.  A photo line-up was compiled a few hours later containing Robinson's driver's license photo along with 5 other similar looking males.  The store clerk was able to identify Robinson as her assailant.  The next day, police received information and evidence while working another case that further connected Robinson to the crime.  Armed with this information and the photo line-up, detective Carlow prepared a search warrant for the DNA of Robinson.  A few months later, detectives received confirmation that the DNA gathered from Robinson matched the cigarette butt from the store.

District Attorney Scott McKee praised the Athens Police Department for the work they did on the case.  "Absolutely textbook" said McKee. "The perfect combination of good Sol fashion police work and DNA testing technology."  The District Attorney also credited Officer Dykes for his solid street level police work in recalling that he had made contact with a man with the same description, Robinson, in the same area a few days before. 

During the sentencing phase of the trial on Monday, McKee highlighted Robinson's extensive criminal background, which included other robbery and theft convictions in Illinois, before asking the judge to sentence him to life in the penitentiary.  "I don't know why the state of Illinois hadn't locked him up for life already" said the D.A.  "He has been a career criminal since the early 1970s." 


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