Valessa Robinson is scheduled to walk out of prison Friday a free woman after growing up behind bars. Robinson’s murder trial more than a decade ago held Tampa in its grip for the better part of two years.
The fanfare for her release will be considerably less dramatic — and public — than it was 13 years ago, when the teenager was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 1998 slaying of her mother in her Carrollwood home and theft of her minivan.
Robinson’s defense attorney, Dee Ann Athan, has kept in with Robinson, who is now 30, since the trial. She last talked to her by phone just a week ago.
“Valessa’s case … was profoundly life-changing for me because it was so public and she was so defiled,” the Tampa lawyer said. “I have three daughters of my own, just younger than she was at the time and now, and I became protective as a mother and as an attorney.”
On the other side of the aisle was Jim Iverson, a retired Hillsborough County sheriff’s homicide detective who worked the case from start to finish.
“It was one of the biggest cases I had as a homicide detective,” Iverson said. “She was convicted and that’s all you can hope for as a law enforcement officer. I would have liked to see her do a little more time since it was mostly her idea. I think the jury must have looked at her as a child — and she was a child at the time — and, well, at least they did convict her.”
It all started out, Iverson said, as a simple missing persons case and ended as one of the highest-profile murder cases in Hillsborough County in decades.
On June 27, 1998, Vicki Robinson, 49, stepped into her kitchen and was attacked by her daughter, then 15, Valessa’s 19-year-old boyfriend, Adam “Rattlesnake” Davis, and Davis’ pal, Jon Whispel, at the time also 19.
On an LSD trip, the three teens talked about and planned the murder of Vicki Robinson so that Valessa Robinson and Davis could be together. Testimony at the trial suggested that the daughter came up with the idea of killing her mom because her mother had indicated she wanted to end her daughter’s relationship with Davis and send her to a school for troubled teens.