Select It Sunday: Robin Kerry

Chosen by Anka, this week’s Select It Sunday case is Robin Ann Kerry, who disappeared with her sister Julie from St. Louis, Missouri on April 5, 1991. Unlike with many of my cases, it’s perfectly obvious what happened to Robin: she and her sister were gang-raped and thrown off the Chain of Rocks Bridge into the Mississippi River. Julie’s body turned up several weeks later but Robin was never found.

I wrote about this case in 2009. It was a horrific crime, made all the more so by the fact that the four perpetrators were complete strangers who just had a random encounter with Robin and Julie and their cousin Tom Cummins that night, and the fact that Tom Cummins was wrongfully arrested and charged with his cousins’ murders before the situation got sorted and the cops caught the real killers.

I will quote part of my earlier entry:

There are still some people online who think Cummins killed his cousins and framed the four suspects, but the evidence against the defendants is pretty strong. One of them had Cummins’s wallet either on his person or in his house (I forget which) when he was arrested. All four suspects confessed at one point or another, although three of them later retracted their statements. One defendant pleaded guilty and testified against the others. Cummins’s sister Jeanine wrote a wonderful book about the case called A Rip in Heaven. Many news accounts say Cummins confessed to the crime. According to his sister’s book, after the police told him their theory about him being the killer he said something like, “If that’s what you said, then that’s what I did.” That’s hardly a confession.

I Googled the case again for today’s entry and discovered that Reginald Clemons, who spent over twenty years on death row for the Kerry sisters’ murders, had his conviction overturned and is awaiting a second trial. I don’t think he has much of a chance, though, even though it appears his confession has been ruled coerced and cast out of evidence. This article says they’ve got “a match consistent with Clemons’ DNA to a degree of one in 16,690 individuals in the African-American population,” something they didn’t have in 1991. I’ll have to update Robin’s casefile, I guess.

One of the four defendants, Daniel Winfrey, was released from prison in 2007. He was the only one who didn’t take part in the rapes, and he only fifteen years at the time of the crime, too young for the death penalty, and he took a plea deal: thirty years in exchange for testifying against the others.

Robin and Julie Kerry’s killer’s execution stayed

One of the men convicted of murdering nineteen-year-old Robin Kerry and her twenty-year-old sister Julie was due to face the gurney later this month, but they’ve stayed his execution indefinitely. He’s been on death row for close to twenty years. The case is a particularly heinous one: the two girls and their cousin, Tom Cummins, were walking on a bridge over the Mississippi when they were jumped by four men, none of whom had met any of the victims before. One of the men held Cummins down while the three others raped Robin and Julie, then pushed them off the bridge and forced Cummins to jump. He survived, only to be accused of murdering the Kerry sisters himself. Within a few days, though, the cops realized they were barking up the wrong tree and arrested the real killers. Julie’s body turned up about six weeks later; Robin’s was never found.

There are still some people online who think Cummins killed his cousins and framed the four suspects, but the evidence against the defendants is pretty strong. One of them had Cummins’s wallet either on his person or in his house (I forget which) when he was arrested. All four suspects confessed at one point or another, although three of them later retracted their statements. One defendant pleaded guilty and testified against the others. Cummins’s sister Jeanine wrote a wonderful book about the case called A Rip in Heaven. Many news accounts say Cummins confessed to the crime. According to his sister’s book, after the police told him their theory about him being the killer he said something like, “If that’s what you said, then that’s what I did.” That’s hardly a confession.

Anyway, I found this article about Reginald Clemons’s appeal. It was written before the stay of execution and it seems really biased to me. For example: This allegedly rehearsed and coerced confession was to rape, not to murder. Clemons was charged with rape in the case, but has never been tried for it. A body identified as that of Julie Kerry had no injuries suggesting rape. Um, what sort of physical evidence of rape did they expect to find on a dead body that had been in a river for weeks? Also: Daniel Winfrey, the only codefendant who is not black, cooperated with the prosecution, was sentenced to 30 years in prison and was released on parole in 2007. The article doesn’t mention that Winfrey was (A) the youngest of the four, just fifteen years old and therefore too young to face the death penalty and (B) the only one who didn’t participate in the gang rape. I’m surprised the article didn’t dredge up the old slurs against Tom Cummins.

I don’t really have an opinion as to whether Clemons should be executed or not. I’m against the death penalty in principle, but the guy is scum and I don’t care whether he lives or dies. But I definitely think he’s guilty. Whether he gets executed or whether his sentence is commuted to life in prison, I hope it happens quickly, because for the Kerry and Cummins families, whenever this case makes the news like this, it’s got to be like opening the wound again.

Additional articles:
The Kansas City Star
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Columbia Missourian
The St. Louis American
United Press International