Kansas Murder Mystery Deepens

Friday, June 9th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Even to the neighbors who shared their garden vegetables with John Edward Robinson and saw him working in his yard and doting on his grandchildren, there were disturbing things they couldn't help noticing.

There was the surveillance camera he installed on his home, facing the street, and tense arguments between the 56-year-old Robinson and his wife. There were allegations he propositioned some neighbors for sex, and there were often barrels and loading tools in his truck.

Over the past week, police have colored in that picture with sinister details.

They say Robinson trolled the Internet for sadomasochistic sex under the name ``slavemaster'' and may be connected to the deaths or disappearance of at least nine people, including five women who were bludgeoned to death and stuffed in barrels.

While Robinson's lawyer has said his client is innocent and is unfairly being branded a serial killer, prosecutors have said their case against Robinson continues to grow. No murder charges have been brought against him.

``We don't want to believe that he's done this,'' said one neighbor in this Kansas City suburb, Sara Khamsihong, ``but we're going to have to.''

Robinson was arrested June 2 at his home at Santa Barbara Estates, a quiet, tree-lined mobile home park managed by his wife in Olathe. He was charged with sexually assaulting two women at hotels in the area and held on $5 million bail.

The two women — including a Texas psychologist who came to Kansas for an S&M encounter with Robinson in April — told authorities they objected to his photographing them and said he brutalized them in a way that went beyond what they intended.

Armed with evidence from Robinson's arrest in those cases, detectives went to a 16-acre piece of land he owns in La Cygne, Kan., 35 miles away. Near a trailer, investigators found two 55-gallon industrial barrels, each containing a woman's body.

Two days later, three more bodies were found in barrels inside a storage locker he had rented across the state line in Raymore, Mo.

Investigators have since said that Robinson was investigated in the disappearances of three women and an infant in the mid-1980s, but that no bodies were found and authorities were never able to prove foul play.

In addition, Johnson County, Kan., District Attorney Paul Morrison said Robinson was connected to a Polish woman who has not been seen for months. Morrison said one of the bodies found in La Cygne may be that of the Polish woman.

Authorities have identified one of the dead as Suzette Trouten, 28, of Newport, Mich. Her family said she was lured to Kansas through an Internet chat room on the promise of $62,000 to care for ``an elderly father.''

Trouten moved with her dogs to Lenexa, near Olathe, in February. But her family soon became worried and called police.

Morrison has not elaborated on Robinson's relationships with the other victims, saying only that the case continues to grow from a mountain of documents, computer files and calls to police.

He said there are allegations Robinson deceived people over the Internet through dummy corporations, but he would not provide details.

Robinson's family — in addition to his wife, he has at least two grown children — have said the allegations are ``almost beyond comprehension.''

``While we do not discount the information that has and continues to come to light, we do not know the person whom we have read and heard about on TV,'' the family said in a statement Thursday. ``The John Robinson we know has always been a loving and caring father.''

The allegations have unnerved Robinson's neighbors. Khamsihong, who has lived in Santa Barbara Estates with her husband and two children for six years, said the two families often helped each other, and Khamsihong would share vegetables from her garden.

Neighbor Henry Timmons recalled that Robinson was friendly and would routinely put out holiday decorations.

But neighbors also noticed the barrels in Robinson's truck and the alarm he recently installed on it. He later put up the surveillance camera.

Khamsihong also recalled that Robinson was ``kind of a showoff'' and bragged that he was involved in several business endeavors, including writing for a national mobile home newsletter. Prosecutors won't discuss Robinson's employment history.

Several doors down, Corey Friedemann described Robinson as a ``lonely old man'' who propositioned his wife and a neighbor. Friedemann said his wife threatened to tell Robinson's wife, and the propositions stopped.

``It's making all of the women in the neighborhood nervous, because I'm sure my wife and neighbor are not the only ones he's propositioned,'' Friedemann said. ``I wish I would have said something earlier. Maybe it would have got him to stop him from doing what he did.''