Stansbury dies on Death Row for 1982 rape, murder
By Bill Hetherman , Staff Writer
Justice was bittersweet for Sharon Strang.
Time and nature combined to rob Strang of her chance to see Robert Edward Stansbury put to death for killing her daughter.
Stansbury, awaiting execution by lethal injection for raping and murdering 10-year-old Robyn Leigh Jackson nearly 22 years ago, died of a heart condition on Death Row at San Quentin Prison on Dec. 12. He was 60.
"I had a credit card set aside just so I could fly there,' said Strang, 52, a former Baldwin Park resident who now lives in Crane, Mo.
Pomona Superior Court Judge James Piatt handed down the death penalty against the Pomona man in July 1985, two months after a jury convicted him of first-degree murder, kidnapping, rape and lewd conduct with a minor.
Stansbury was a crafty inmate who used every legal option, including representing himself at trial. He relegated attorney David J. Daugherty to an advisory role.
"He's one client who probably stands out in my mind more than any other,' Daugherty said. "He always said he would cheat the executioner, and he did.'
Stansbury, an ice cream truck driver, kidnapped Robyn from a playground near her Phelan Avenue home about 6:30 p.m. Sept. 28, 1982. Robyn was later sexually assaulted and thrown against the con crete slope of a Pasadena drainage ditch. She died of blunt force trauma and her body was found the next day.
Deputy District Attorney Richard Burns, the Stansbury trial prosecutor, called the Geddes Elementary School student's murder a cold-blooded, brutal crime.
"Mr. Stansbury was obviously a predator of the worst kind,' Burns said. "I'm sorry it took more than 20 years for this matter to be finally resolved.'
Stansbury was a burly man who stood well over 6 feet tall and had a red beard until shaving it to a mustache before his trial. He had spent about 20 of his 39 years in prison when he steered his ice cream truck though Robyn's neighborhood.
Stansbury's sex crimes began when he orally copulated two boys in 1963. Less than a year before he killed Robyn, he was paroled from prison for raping a girl and a woman in 1974, one in San Dimas and the other in Montclair.
The first victim was 14 and the second 21. Both were forced into a car at gunpoint and raped twice before being released in Pomona.
Robyn died long before there was a Megan's Law, an AMBER Alert or a way to put her name and photograph on a Web site. Robyn's murder received media attention, but nothing close to that of the deaths of other girls after the growth of cable television and the Internet.
Years of legal wrangling followed Stansbury's death sentence. His case was the focus of reviews by the U.S. and state supreme courts on whether he was in custody when questioned as a witness early in the investigation. His conviction was upheld.
Kevin Cooper recently won a stay of his execution for killing four people in Chino Hills in 1983. In contrast, Stansbury, who killed Robyn the year before, still had years of appeals available on various legal issues, Deputy state Attorney General Paul Roadarmel said.
Robyn's death, together with waiting for the system to carry out Stansbury's execution, took a toll on Strang and her relatives.
"It has destroyed my family,' Strang said.
The Azusa High School graduate gets flashbacks from hearing about cases similar to her daughter's around the country, including the recent death of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia in Florida.
But she's happy living in a Missouri town of about 1,400 people about 30 miles southwest of Springfield that's so rural it doesn't even have a McDonald's restaurant.
"There's snow out the back door and cows across the street," Strang said. "I feed my birds. We have a good time.'
"once upon a time i was a DOPE FIEND WITH NO HOPE...now i be a HOPE FIEND WITH NO DOPE..."