MISSING AND MURDERED IN THE MIDWEST: A podcast looking into crimes that made the headlines, starting in the Quad City area and expanding throughout the Midwest. Podcast host and News 8 Executive Producer Toria Wilson, dedicated her time into researching the murder cases that shocked us and the missing persons cases that left us with unanswered questions.
EPISODE 14: In the late 1990’s to early 2000’s the World Wide Web, also known as the information superhighway, was just that. You could dial up and go anywhere in the world, talk to people you’d never meet in person or educate yourself on anything you wanted to know. It was truly the Wild Wild West in the then-nearing 21st century.
Immediately after the boom, people failed to foresee the dark side of the Internet: An interconnected network where every awful thought, every crass and cruel thing humans could imagine would eventually appear.
The Internet became a place where people could share thoughts and feelings with people who felt the exact same way.
Just like when this country was slowly arising, and the new frontier was being established, laws and rules weren't up to par to fight the evil lurking in the shadows
Deep into the dark hours of the night at a home in Missouri, one of those wicked figures, illuminated by a computer screen, scoured the internet for vulnerable prey: those desperate for a companion, a job, a place to live or even a master.
Just like a hunter in the wild, John Robinson would strike.
Chapter one: John Robinson's Origins and Early Crimes
Robinson was born December 27, 1943 in Cicero, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago: a time when gangsters had left their mark on the state. Tales of Al Capone and his men leaving blood on the streets and creating their own rules over the minions below made an impression on young kids but more so on Robinson.
See, even in his young age Robinson wasn’t very good looking. He had a doughy physic and his demeanor did not command respect.
Al Capone once said "You can get much farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone." Similarly, Robinson's seemingly kind attitude would help him reach farther and darker depths than he ever imagined.
Robinson had a seemingly typical family growing up with all the normal dysfunctions.
He had four siblings who he rarely got along with, a father who worked too much and every once in awhile drank too much to the point of chaos, disaster and some jail time. Robinson especially couldn't stand his mother who was the head of the household in caring for and disciplining the children.
In his teen years, Robinson became an Eagle Scout. Later, he attended Archbisop Quigley Preparation Seminary, a school in Chicago for boys who were interested in joining the priesthood.
While the priesthood seemed like a good path to Robinson, pay was minimal.
After comparing his father’s menial work at Western Electric to the gangsters who could turn a quick buck, he decided to make a change.
By 1961, Robinson attended Morton College in Cicero. Although he never graduated, he would claim to be a trained X-ray technician and successfully started a career at a Chicago hospital. Three years later, Robinson got Nancy Jo Lynch pregnant and they rushed to the altar to get married.
Their ceremony? Catholic.
The pressures of starting a family quickly became more and more expensive, so Robinson decided to cut some corners. He didn’t want to follow rules, he needed money fast.
So he got it by stealing from his employer.
When confronted with allegations Robinson begged and pleaded for another chance, promising to pay back every penny. With that promise his employers decided not to press charges.
At that moment Robinson learned that if he asked for forgiveness, not for permission, he could continue what he was doing thus setting off decades worth of financial crimes for John.
And I know what you’re thinking... "Where’s the blood, the victims!? Serial killers don’t commit fraud or theft, they kill animals first! They are sociopathic, crazy people, right!?!?"
While I guess you could say that is true, Robinson is unique and unlike anything previously seen or experienced.
He was stealthy, meticulous and constantly thinking six steps ahead. Which is why he was able to avoid capture from both his financial and deadlier crimes later in life.
Chapter two: Fraud, sex and theft from Chicago to Kansas City
After being caught for stealing Robinson moved his family to Kansas City, Missouri for a fresh start.
Citing his medical background he landed two jobs: one at Children’s Mercy Hospital and one at Truman Medical Center. He told his employees he had a background as a technologist in medical labs, nuclear medicine and radiography fields, which in truth, he had no experience in any of those fields.
Using kind words to convince his coworkers he belonged there, Robinson's performance indicated otherwise.
He was clumsy with children and couldn’t read an X-ray, let alone take the picture itself. But people chalked up his ineptitude to nerves since Robinson had just moved to a new town and was beginning two new jobs at two new hospitals.
Robinson left little room for doubt and lined his office with forged credentials and fancy documents. His extensive training was seemingly on display, lies for all to see.
Not only could Robinson not do his job, he also quickly built an unsavory reputation among his colleagues.
He tried to have affairs with his coworkers, but would end up at local night clubs where his thirst for the darker side of sex started to arise.
Robinson was soon fired from his job due to his gross incompetence and his extracurricular activities. The smooth-talker shortly landed something a new gig at Fountain Plaza X-ray, a newer business Kansas City owned by President Harry Truman’s personal doctor, Wallace Graham.
Just like Robinson's past places of employment, Fountain Plaza was impressed by his alleged background. But Robinson's desires were unabated.
He tried to have sex with some of the female patients that came in and started to steal from Dr. Graham. Robinson forged checks with Dr. Graham's name to give himself extra cash and would occasionally tell patients after an X-ray to pay him directly.
By 1966 he stole so much money, employees were unable to receive their yearly Christmas bonuses. Estimates indicated between $100 to 300,000 stolen from the business.
When Robinson was once again confronted he made up an excuse that he was moving money around, but Dr. Graham didn't believe him and called the police. In 1969 Robinson was found guilty for stealing by means of deceit and ordered to three years of probation.
But the game never stopped and even on probation Robinson continued to steal.
He'd get a job by lying about his qualifications but impressing his employers. He'd fumble around while stealing from his work until he got caught. Sometimes he was arrested, but he never really served time, instead getting extensions on his probation.
By 1971 Robinson's schemes started to grow. After spending a few weeks in jail for violating his probation, he created a scam and stole $30,000 from a retired schoolteacher.
He continued to forge documents and, under well-known local companies' names, he asked people to invest in their work. One man fell for the scam and gave Robinson $2,500.
The businesses eventually discovered the scheme and Robinson was arrested and charged, but AGAIN, he served no time in jail and was given an extension on his probation.
Chapter three: New endeavors from Missouri to Kansas and back again
Despite Robinson's copious lawbreaking activities and cheating ways, he was still married to Nancy and had four children. Somehow, his family, neighbors and community didn't view him as a criminal.
Robinson was just a dad.
He taught Sunday school at church and referee'd school games. He cleaned up trails and ponds in town and was head of his neighborhood's homeowners association. He played the part of a Midwestern father, and he played it well.
In 1977 Robinson moved his family over the border to Kansas where he started a new business called Hydro-Glo Inc., helping people grow vegetables in their homes.
Obviously, it was an elaborate scam.
One man, on the verge of losing everything as his wife died from cancer, believed Robinson's company would be a profitable investment. He gave Robinson $25,000, never seeing that money again.
Several others fell for the scheme, but it's unknown exactly how many people invested in the fake company.
Despite this cruel business plan, and apparently unbeknownst to his probation officer, Robinson was released from his probation by 1979. His probation officer said he hoped Robinson would "continue to reap the rewards of good citizenship.”
Far from good citizenship, Robinson continued the devious cycle and stole tens of thousands from his next job at a place called Guy's Foods. He also had an affair with a secretary who told his wife everything.
He was fired, sued and spent 60 days in jail. Over the following four years, Robinson was ordered to pay back $41,000 of the 50 grand he stole.
Hopefully by now one fact is pretty obvious: John Robinson is a bad guy.
But this one last scheme is important because some of the things he learned are later used during his deadlier crime sprees.
Robinson decided to create another fake company called Equi-Plus, described as a management consultation service.
While the business was getting started, two neighbors and several investors introduced Robinson to a new computer which was still a rare piece of technology for the average homeowner in the early 1980s.
Until this point, Robinson's scheme consisted of a typewriter, white-out and a Xerox machine to make fake letters, documents and certificates look legitimate. A computer presented him with new opportunities including options he never could've imagined.
Robinson later created Equi-Two, described as providing consulting services to medical, agricultural and charitable ventures. During this time he also rented a duplex and opened a brothel. According to some rumors, cocaine sales were also a possible source of income.
In 1984, Equi-Two hired 19-year-old Paula Godfrey, a great student in high school and well-known ice skater.
Robinson promised Paula and other girls a skills training program in Texas and picked Paula up from her parent's house on the day of her flight. Paula's father assumed when his young daughter landed safely and got situated that he’d get a call.
But the call never came.
Worried, Bill Godfrey flew to Texas to find out she never even checked into her hotel. Bill came home and confronted Robinson on the whereabouts of his daughter who had no answers.
Sometime after that confrontation, Bill received a letter, apparently sent from Paula. It essentially said she was fine, grateful for Robinson’s help, and didn’t want to see her family ever again.
The letter had a lot of red flags.
Swear words, spelling errors, grammatical issues and her signature were all unlike Paula. Her family called the police and blamed Robinson who said he didn't know anything and couldn't help them.
Paula Godfrey would never be seen again.
Chapter four: The last words of vulnerable girls
In the mid-80’s, there was one man who knew, deep in his soul, that John Robinson was more than just a white-collar crook; District Supervisor for the Missouri Board of Parole and Probation, Stephen Haymes. Haymes worked with thousands of criminals who exit the prison system.
Haymes knew of Robinson's crimes and his potential involvement in the disappearance of Paula Godfrey, but hadn’t seen his parole case which was being supervised in Kansas.
But that didn’t stop Haymes from digging around when he received an alarming wake-up call in 1984 from a woman named Ann Smith.
Smith worked at a non-profit that helped single, pregnant women receive needed support. Smith informed Haymes that Robinson had called them a few days prior, claiming to have started an organization called 'Kansas City Outreach' he said helped unwed mothers with job training, housing and other services.
Smith was impressed and when Robinson asked her non-profit to refer candidates to participate.
Robinson was contacted around Christmas of a black mother in need of help but he turned her away. Concerns about black-market adoptions were raised as white babies brought a higher price.
After speaking with Smith, Haymes talked to a judge setting off a small investigation into Robinson's past. But it was too little, too late.
Robinson had already reached out to Smith's non-profit as well as his former employers, Truman Medical Center.
They contacted him to help 19-year-old Lisa Stasi. She had moved to Kansas City where she got pregnant and married. Once the baby came, her marriage fell apart and her husband Carl re-enlisted into the Navy leaving Lisa all alone.
When she met Robinson, he told her his name was John Osborne and offered her a job and a place to live.
The job never came and instead of setting her up in a duplex like he promised, he put her up in a Rodeway Inn. He made Lisa sign four blank pieces of paper and give him the names and addresses of some of her family members.
On Jan. 9, 1985, Lisa visited her sister-in-law, Kathy Klinginsmith, at her home where she ranted and raved about a businessman who was helping her out. Kathy was concerned but didn't push it thinking it was a good thing for Lisa to get back on her feet.
When Lisa called the motel to check her voicemail, she discovered several messages from Osborne (Robinson) who was panicked about her whereabouts. When the two finally got in touch with one another, Robinson said he was immediately coming to get Lisa and the baby despite a massive blizzard hitting the Midwest.
Lisa wasn’t sure if she should go with him and now Kathy was fearful. When Robinson showed up, he barely acknowledged Kathy and convinced Lisa to bring the baby and leave with him.
Despite the blizzard he was parked a block away and Kathy watched them leave with a gut feeling she would never see Lisa or the baby again.
Later, Lisa tried to call Kathy but got no answer so she called her mother-in-law, Betty. In tears Lisa tried to explain what was going on, believing Betty was trying to make her give up her baby.
Betty tried to correct her, save her, but Lisa ended the phone call, saying “I’ve got to go. Here they are.”
She hung up and they were Lisa's last known words.
The next day Kathy and Betty contacted the police and FBI. Lisa and the baby were gone and had checked out of the hotel room. The man who paid for the room, wasn’t John Osborne but John Robinson. When the family found this out, and where Robinson worked they tried to confront him, just like the family of Paula Godfrey, but got no information.
An apparent priest from a mission center named Father Marin later called the family saying Lisa and the baby were safe. When the family called back, no one named Father Marin worked there.
Lisa and the baby were gone.
Chapter five: Victim #3
It's unclear when, but Robinson arrived back home with a baby in hand. His wife, was obviously shocked; the couple already had four children. But she wasn’t just shocked that her husband had a child, the child was dirty, smelly and hungry.
Robinson explained that he got the baby from a private adoption agency and he spent $4,000. He told his wife that his younger brother Don and his wife Helen were flying in from Chicago to pick the child up the next day. The couple didn't have any children of their own, trying everything they could think of to get pregnant with no luck. The year before, during a family reunion, Don asked his older brother if he knew of anyone who’d want to give up their child or for a referral to an adoption attorney. Robinson said he would try.
Once this “adoption” was nearly finalized, Robinson told tale to his brother and sister-in-law that the child’s mother had killed herself, and the child was left alone at a shelter. Later, he sent them court documents and a birth certificate.
The names signed on all those documents, the judge, the attorneys, while all real people, never signed off on an adoption. The notary that also signed turned out to be one of Robinson’s mistresses. She later said that John made her sign her name on some blank pieces of paper.
While the entire Robinson family rejoiced in this new addition, the family of Lisa Stasi, was frantic.
Haymes, on the other hand, was trying to figure out what the hell Robinson was up to. It took a few letters, but in late January Robinson showed up to Hayme's office ready with an excuse for everything in his criminal past.
Haymes was not pleased with any of his answers and when Robinson left, became extremely frustrated. Police didn't believe any crime was committed in Paula's or Lisa's disappearance.
One letter Lisa reportedly wrote was addressed to the social worker of the Hope House, a shelter she previously stayed at. It read:
“Dear Cathy, I want to thank you for all your help. I have decided to get away from this area and try and make a good life for me and Tiffany (her baby). I borrowed some money from a friend and Tiffany and I are leaving Kansas City. The people you referred me to were really nice and helped me with everything. I am very grateful for everyone’s help. I will be fine. I know what I want and I am going to go after it. Again thanks for your help and Hope House and thanks for telling me about outreach. Everyone has been so helpful I owe you a great deal. "
Another letter, addressed to her mother-in-law essentially said the same thing.
When confronted once again about Lisa’s disappearance, this time by police, Robinson claimed Lisa and the baby moved to Colorado. After this claim, Lisa’s husband, family and even police stopped seaching for her.
But not Stephen Haymes.
He contacted the FBI, not only for the missing women, but the financial crimes and various legal issues as Robinson hopped between Kansas and Missouri. It wasn't until Irv Blattner, a former business partner, gave written testimony tying Robinson to a number of different financial crimes that they felt some hope.
Haymes and the FBI agents were ecstatic thinking they were able to finally slap cuffs on Robinson and put him away.
But Robinson was stealthy. He posted his $50,000 bond and continued to roam the streets looking for new prey.
It almost happened to Theresa Williams, a smart woman from Boise, Idaho. She met Robinson at McDonald's where he promised to improve her life.
First with business, then offering pleasure. The two became lovers before Robinson moved her into an apartment becoming her pimp. He paid for her place and other items and she performed sexual favors to those who paid. The longer she stayed under Robinson’s care the more demanding and dangerous he became.
In May 1985 Robinson came over to the apartment while Theresa was sleeping. He violently woke her up, grabbed her hair, spanked her and threw her on the floor.
He pulled out a gun and pointed it right to her head.
He pulled the trigger.
He lowered the empty gun from her face and penetrated her with the barrel of the gun. Theresa was hysterical and begging for her life. Robinson just stared at her, took the gun, reholstered it and walked out the apartment.
The fear Robinson instilled in Theresa would help him.
He tried to use her to discredit the things Irv Blattner had told investigators by forcing her to write in a diary that Blattner was going to kill her. Robinson planned to implicate Blattner for the disappearance of Lisa and Paula so if Blattner tried to testify against him, Robinson would just have to show the diary to a judge and jury proving that Blattner couldn’t be trusted.
In exchange for these simple words written in a diary, Robinson promised Theresa a trip to the Bahamas for June 15.
On June 7, police unexpectedly showed up at her door. At first Theresa lied, but then began to unravel an insane tale of everything between her and Robinson and the diary. She told police that Robinson put all her things in storage.
Little did she know, the last day of her life was only a week away.
Haymes and investigators worked quickly to get Theresa in a safe space. She was now a key witness to the monster that John Robinson hid from everyone else and had to be protected at all costs.
Robinson found out and began to travel throughout Kansas City trying to find her. For the first time, the FBI was one step ahead moving her the minute he got close. Robinson even hired a private detective to hunt her down, so investigators gave Theresa a plane ticket and a safe place to get away.
At a probation hearing, Robinson tried every trick in the book to stay out of a jail cell including letters from people who he "helped” but none of it persuaded the judge.
Robinson's probation was finally revoked and he was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Filing an appeal, he stayed free, arguing his constitutional rights were violated since he was denied the opportunity to confront his accuser, Theresa Williams. A Missouri appeals court sided with Robinson and Robinson was again a free man.
But that was the Missouri side. On the Kansas side Robinson faced more legal trouble.
He went to trial over his financial schemes and was found guilty, ordered to spend five to 14 years in prison.
Chapter six: One more crime before prison
Catherine Clampitt came to the Midwest in January of 1987.
Growing up she was intelligent but had a wild side to her. Her brother, just wanting what’s best, tried to find her a stable job and stumbled upon an ad that Robinson placed in a community paper. She was quickly hired and spent a lot of time away from home, sometimes days at a time.
Her brother never knew where she went and when she was gone for a week, her brother called the cops. Even Robinson himself seeking answers.
But police would AGAIN do nothing. Just like Paula Godfrey and Lisa Stasi, there wasn’t enough evidence that Robinson had anything to do with Catherine Clampitt going missing.
And just like Paula and Lisa, Catherine would never be seen again.
Robinson began his prison sentence on May 16, 1987.
He was considered an excellent inmate at Hutchinson Correctional Facility in Kansas. He complained about his health and even suffered from small strokes, leading to some droopiness on the right side of his face. But he was still strong both body and mind. He was smart, diving deeper into the world of computers. He learned everything about them.
Before long, experts were led to believe that Robinson was rehabilitated and not a threat to society. But there was still one person standing in his way of freedom; Stephen Haymes.
Haymes didn’t believe for a second that Robinson was a changed man, but again, Robinson was smart. He pleaded to a judge in May of 1991 for mercy and freedom, claiming poor health and that Haymes was out to get him, lying to bend the law and keep him in jail.
It didn’t work and Robinson was ordered to spend another two years in jail, finally leaving prison in 1993, but not without a mess on his hands.
He had numerous convictions under his belt and scathing articles that tarnished his good name. Robinson's family had to move out of their home and Nancy Robinson had to pick up the financial slack, moving her family into a mobile home park to live manage.
But Robinson wasn’t planning on living life outside of prison as the stand up guy he created to fool the prison and the probation board. He knew what he wanted next and he knew exactly how to get it.
And that’s where we will pick up on Episode Two.