Schenectady County

DNA may prove existence of baby in Schenectady child rape case

DNA evidence recovered more than 3 1⁄2 years after prosecutors say a baby was born in a city apartme
Schenectady County sheriff's deputies lead accused baby killer and rapist Herman Robinson from his arraignment in Schenectady County Court in March.
Schenectady County sheriff's deputies lead accused baby killer and rapist Herman Robinson from his arraignment in Schenectady County Court in March.

Categories: Schenectady County

DNA evidence recovered more than 3 1⁄2 years after prosecutors say a baby was born in a city apartment, then killed and disposed of, may prove the baby’s existence and possibly more.

According to police, the baby was the product of the continual rape of its underage mother by Schenectady resident Herman Robinson, 38. Robinson, who now faces rape and murder charges, is accused of raping the child’s mother over the course of years, fathering the baby, then killing it shortly after it was born. However, the baby’s body has not been recovered.

The DNA was found on the bed on which the young teenager gave birth in March 2010, as well as carpeting in the room where the bed was located at the time, according to a prosecutor and a new court filing.

The items weren’t recovered until December 2013, when authorities learned of the allegations against Robinson. Prosecutor Tracey Brunecz, of the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office, formally requested in a court filing Thursday a sample of Robinson’s DNA to compare with the evidence recovered from the bed and carpet.

Brunecz confirmed later Thursday the DNA evidence is a match to the alleged rape victim. There is also DNA of a second individual that would be consistent with the murdered newborn, Brunecz said.

“There is an unknown profile, and that’s why we want to obtain his DNA,” Brunecz said.

Brunecz declined to characterize the evidence further, including how prosecutors believe the DNA got there, whether it was a result of the birthing process or some other means.

Prosecutors have not disclosed how they believe the baby was killed, how long after birth it was killed or whether the young mother saw it happen. The birth and murder are alleged to have happened on the same day, though.

Because the baby’s body has yet to be found, prosecutors may have to try a murder case without a body, but they also may have to prove the murder victim existed.

Brunecz said in March corroborating evidence existed for all of the charges against Robinson, including single counts of second-degree murder, predatory sexual assault against a child, first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child, first-degree criminal sex act and second-degree rape and two counts of first-degree rape.

The murder and predatory sexual assault counts each include maximum possible maximum sentences of 25 years to life, which could be served consecutively. Convictions on the other counts could also run consecutively.

Among the multiple rape accusations against Robinson is one from June 2009 that resulted in the girl’s pregnancy. She was 14 years old at the time.

The court paperwork filed Thursday indicated the carpeting was pulled from the apartment where Robinson lived, at 1205 Albany St., at the time of the birth. The bed still existed and investigators located it at another Schenectady address, according to the court filing.

That investigators could recover those items and extract relevant evidence so long after a crime took place, Brunecz said, shows the power of DNA.

“It’s amazing what DNA can do,” she said. “It survives. DNA survives a lot of things.”

The request for Robinson’s DNA comes after police had already obtained a sample earlier in the investigation through a search warrant. Brunecz said her reading of several appellate cases, including one from May, suggested a search warrant without notice to the defense may not be enough to withstand an appeal, should the case get that far.

Brunecz declined to discuss that sample Thursday, but she said it was not a factor in Robinson’s March indictment.

Robinson’s defense will have the opportunity to oppose Brunecz’s request for his DNA. Judge Michael Coccoma, who is presiding over the case, will then rule.

Robinson appeared in court Thursday and was expected to formally give up his right to a jury trial and instead have his case heard and decided by a judge. His attorney, Sven Paul, was ill, however, and that part of the proceedings was postponed until next week.

Prosecutors still have on the table an offer for Robinson to plead guilty to murder and rape and receive a total sentence of 33 years to life. Neither Robinson nor his attorney reacted to the offer when it was made in court last week.

Robinson has been in custody since his Dec. 13 arrest on the initial rape allegations. The murder charges came March 5, when he was indicted by a grand jury.

The investigation began Dec. 10 after he tried to kill himself, leaving a suicide note. He was hospitalized until his arrest on the rape charges.

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