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What you need to know for 01/21/2018

Call prompted Schenectady murder probe

Call prompted Schenectady murder probe

The investigation into the allegations of rape and murder leveled against a city man this week began
Call prompted Schenectady murder probe
Assistant District Attorney Tracey Brunecz addresses members of the media at a news conference with District Attorney Robert Carney in the Grand Jury Chambers of Schenectady County Court Thursday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

The investigation into the allegations of rape and murder leveled against a city man this week began in December with a call to the man’s house for medical assistance, prosecutors said Thursday.

Prosecutors were guarded about the exact details of the call, but it involved the eventual murder suspect, 38-year-old Herman Robinson.

Police and paramedics responded to the call, and police soon gathered information on the possible sexual abuse of a girl, prosecutor Tracey Brunecz told reporters. The girl was not in the home at the time.

“[Police] then proceeded to speak to his victim,” Brunecz said. “From there, she disclosed what had been happening over the course of the years.”

What they learned was that the girl had been raped at the hands of Robinson almost continually from 2006 until the days leading up to the medical call, police say.

The girl also told them of the pregnancy she hid in late 2009 and early 2010, the baby she gave birth to in March 2010 and how Robinson allegedly took the newborn girl from her and killed it.

The ensuing investigation resulted in an eight-count indictment handed up this week charging Robinson with murder of the baby and continual rape of the girl.

“It’s hard to put a gauge on what is the worst and what isn’t,” Brunecz told reporters in a Thursday afternoon news conference, “but it is certainly amongst the most heinous crimes that I have experienced in my career.”

If convicted of murdering the child and the continual rape of the girl, Robinson faces up to 50 years to life in prison. Convictions on other counts of rape could ensure Robinson never got out again.

He is due back in Schenectady County Court on Monday for his formal arraignment.

Robinson has been held at the Schenectady County Jail since his Dec. 13 arrest on allegations that he raped the girl.

The initial medical call to Robinson’s Lenox Road address resulted in him being taken to the hospital, Brunecz said. He was taken into custody from there.

The rape and murder indictment alleges Robinson committed the acts through threats “expressed or implied to harm himself,” his victim or her family.

Robinson has been in the jail’s medical floor since his arrival, Undersheriff Gordon Pollard said Thursday. The unit includes 15-minute rounds by corrections officers. Pollard also said records indicated there were no visible wounds on him upon his arrival at the jail. He would not say why Robinson was on the medical floor.

Robinson has been a resident of Schenectady since at least 2004, records show. He had minor brushes with local police in 2004, 2005 and 2006.

In 2010, less than three months after allegedly killing the newborn girl in Schenectady, Robinson pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Vermont to a drug-related conspiracy charge.

Robinson was among two dozen charged there in a series of indictments targeting drug trafficking from upstate New York into Vermont, records show. Besides Robinson, five others charged in the case also had Schenectady addresses.

Robinson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine from 2007 to summer 2009. He was sentenced to time served. It was unclear Thursday how much time he actually served.

He was also placed on five years of post-release supervision, which he appeared to be still under at the time of his December arrest.

Prosecutors this week have only identified the girl as someone known to Robinson.

Brunecz said Robinson had four children, three biological children and one stepchild. He is not known to have had a job, but is believed to have been on some sort of public assistance because of a back injury.

Among the multiple accusations that Robinson raped the girl was the one in June 2009 that resulted in her pregnancy. She was 14 years old.

She gave birth to the child at Robinson’s then-residence, 1205 Albany St., prosecutors allege. It was there that Robinson is accused of killing the newborn girl, then disposing of the body. Brunecz has declined to say whether authorities have recovered the body.

The newborn never received a name. Brunecz said Thursday that the girl may simply be known in proceedings going forward as Baby Girl Doe. Next week, she would have turned 4.

The 14-year-old mother and rape victim attended school throughout her pregnancy, taking steps to conceal it, prosecutors say. Brunecz said the girl told authorities how she hid it through that fall and winter, but the prosecutor declined to say how.

Brunecz repeated that they have no information that anyone other than the girl and Robinson knew about the pregnancy.

Prosecutors did not say which school district the girl attended. A spokeswoman for the Schenectady City School District spoke generally Thursday, saying that if a teacher notices a girl is pregnant or hears that she is, the teacher is to inform a school social worker or nurse. They then speak with the girl.

If there is any indication of sexual abuse, they immediately contact child protective services, the spokeswoman said. If there is no indication of abuse, they proceed with assistance consistent with that information.

Brunecz said the girl in the Robinson case continued with her schooling throughout the yearslong ordeal. She has since graduated high school and is now attending college.

She also has support of her family. Brunecz said the girl’s mother has been very supportive in helping her daughter any way she can.

Brunecz called the girl “a remarkably strong young lady.”

“This is something that she has had to deal with over the course of the last six years or so,” Brunecz said. “She is handling things very well and I am truly amazed by her strength.”

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