tv Vanished MSNBC January 28, 2012 11:00am-12:00pm PST
at the center of any criminal investigation is a dark heart and the iron hand of justice. >> she came and told me she had a great job offer. she was thrilled about it. >> she packed her bags for a glamorous new career. then she disappeared. she was a pretty teenager with a tiny baby daughter. then she disappeared. a college student, a librarian, a lonely single mom. all of them missing. all linked to him. a church-going family man who seemed so kind. >> the first thing she ever told me was that she had met this
perfect man. and i said, stop. there's no perfect man. she said, oh, yes. i have met this man. and he is wonderful. >> if we had put him away back in '85, these things would not be happening today, i assume. >> a secret world of sadomasochism, sexual slavery, and more. a tangled web of intrigue. a mystery that took years to solve. >> it was something i won't forget. >> a real life jekyll and hyde? on this "dark heart, iron hand," "vanished." you can see it in the faces of parents of missing children. the anguish of not knowing what has happened to their child. sadly, it's an ordeal thousands of families have faced. you'll meet some of them tonight as msnbc investigates a mysterious case involving several missing women. these disappearances were scattered through many states over many years, and police say the women had one thing in common -- the one man they trusted. here's rob stafford.
♪ >> suzy was a very outgoing person. very kind, loving, gentle. >> the best way to describe her, she was just larger than life. >> at 28, suzette marie trouten, the youngest of carolyn trouten's five children finally decided to leave home. a hospice worker in rural michigan, her family says suzette craved change. you described suzette as the ultimate mama's girl. >> yeah, she was. in fact, my other kids used to tease that she thought she was an only child. >> she seems as though she was pretty independent. >> she thought she was. as long as she could call me every day, she was very independent. >> in the beginning of 2000, suzette asserted that independence by suddenly announcing she was moving to kansas. a man by the name of john robinson had offered what
suzette described as the perfect job. her sister kim recalls her excitement. >> she came and told me that she had a great job offer, that it was in kansas city, taking care of an elderly gentleman from a wealthy family. >> sounds like an incredible job. >> she was thrilled about it. she had no reason not to go. >> how much did the job pay? >> it was like $65,000 a year. >> the lure of a big paycheck, world travel, and a furnished apartment proved too much for suzette to resist. there was also something mysterious about suzette that drew her to john robinson. her family had no idea about the secret things robinson had offered her. but carolyn was suspicious enough to caution her daughter to be wary of robinson. >> he sent her contracts to sign for the job. he told her to get a passport because they knew they were going to be traveling. i thought it wasn't quite right. and we told her, are you sure you know what you're doing? are you sure this man is all right? oh, yeah. she was sure.
>> despite suzette's apparent happiness about her new job, carolyn began to worry about the man who had hired her daughter. although suzette called and e-mailed every day, the troutens were troubled by the fact that john robinson checked suzette into this motel instead of the furnished apartment he promised. to add to their concern, two weeks had passed and suzette had yet to see robinson's elderly father. did you think it was strange that she wasn't caring for this elderly man? >> i thought it was very strange, why they were paying her to be there for no reason. >> the troutens' fears escalated on march 1st when suzette suddenly stopped calling. do you remember the last phone conversation you had with suzy? >> yes. i talked to her. it would have been 12:00 their time. i said why are you up so late? she said we were going to leave tomorrow, mom, but i think we're not going to leave until thursday morning.
and i said, you know, make sure that you call me before you leave so i know you're traveling. and i asked her if everything was all right, she said yeah. everything was fine. they were getting along fine. everything was going good. >> did she sound happy? >> yes. she seemed to think he was absolutely legitimate. he was just fine. >> carolyn began to suspect that john robinson was anything but legitimate. the day after her last conversation with suzette, the desk clerk at the motel told a concerned carolyn, robinson had abruptly gathered suzette's belongings and closed the account. so the phone calls stop. >> yeah. >> you'd been talking with your little girl every single day, sometimes several times a day. >> yep. >> suddenly the phone calls stop. but the e-mails continued. >> the e-mails continued all the while. but we know from the first e-mail that it wasn't suz's. >> the troutens became alarmed when they couldn't reach suzette. yet they kept receiving e-mails
from her. carolyn was convinced they were not from her daughter. >> it wasn't her phrasing. it wasn't the way she talked. everything was spelled right, for one thing. suzy was one to just dash down things. four letters for seven-letter words. we knew immediately, everybody did. >> you had the phone numbers for robinson, right? did you call and ask where's my daughter? >> yes. he said this is john robinson. what do you want? i said, well, where is suzy? she hasn't called. he said, well, she decided not to take the job. you know? she met this other man, and that she decided she was going to go traveling with him. and i said do you know him? he said, well, vaguely. his name is jim turner. >> did that sound like suzy to you? >> no. >> that she'd meet some guy and just leave? >> what really didn't sound right is this man spent thousands of dollars flying her back and forth and interviewing and everything and then all of a sudden, you know, i'm sure we'll be hearing from her anytime, you know. like if you really hired somebody and went through all this expense and everything, you would not be happy about them going off with somebody else. >> and there was something else very strange. robinson seemed amused by the
phone call. he was laughing on the phone with you? >> yeah, just about -- like, it's okay that she decided to go. i'm glad for her. you know what i mean? in fact, he had told me that he had got an e-mail from her. that they were in california and that she would be getting in touch with him as they went along on their trip. >> what robinson didn't know, while he chuckled on the phone, was that the police were listening. carolyn had called the authorities in kansas. it turns out they knew robinson and they knew something else. that jim turner was robinson's internet alias. when the police were told the name was john robinson, how did they react? >> they immediately jumped on it. >> what suzette trouten's family did not know, but local police knew all too well is that john edward robinson was a convicted felon with a disturbing past. did investigators tell you that robinson was linked to a woman who disappeared in 1984? >> no. >> did they tell you he had been linked to a woman who disappeared in 1985?
>> hmm-mm. >> that he had been linked to a woman who disappeared in 1987? >> they never told us any of that. >> just who was this man john robinson? the trouten family was about to find out that he was a man with many dark secrets. some so horrifying that even authorities could not have imagined. still ahead -- >> the key to this man is manipulation. he wants to manipulate and therefore control you. >> i think everyone in law enforcement that day had a pretty good idea what was going to be found in those barrels. i had enough of feeling embarrassed about my skin. [ designer ] enough of just covering up my moderate to severe plaque psoriasis. i decided enough is enough. ♪ [ spa lady ] i started enbrel. it's clinically proven to provide clearer skin. [ rv guy ] enbrel may not work for everyone -- and may not clear you completely, but for many, it gets skin clearer fast, within 2 months, and keeps it clearer up to 9 months. [ male announcer ] because enbrel suppresses your immune system,
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>> john robinson would steal. john robinson would write bad checks. >> john robinson was all about lies. >> by all accounts, john edward robinson was a man with two distinct sides. john robinson, married and father of four, the devoted church-going family man who played santa for the neighborhood children and john robinson, the relentless swindler who couldn't resist cheating even his closest friends. the man suzette trouten believed to be a wealthy jet-setter was actually a career con artist with a laundry list of convictions. >> he will lie, he will cheat, he will steal. the key to this man is manipulation. he wants to manipulate and therefore control you. >> former fbi behavioral scientist clint van zandt studied robinson's history for nbc news.
and he says robinson is a highly organized sociopath for whom people, including his own family, were pawns. >> this is a stone cold anti-social personality who doesn't care about other people. he only tells you what he has to tell you to move you from point "a" to point "b." >> for three decades robinson bilked one employer after another, stealing everything from $640 in stamps from the mobil oil company to tens of thousands of dollars from harry truman's personal physician. a criminal chameleon, he forged a variety of identities, lawyer, businessman, medical technician. in the 1970s, he worked at a hydroponic system to grow crops in water. in his self-authored book, he described himself as a sensitive and stimulating human being. investors he defrauded said he used his children to promote his businesses. he was tireless in building his fake credentials. in 1977, he made kansas city
headlines. after orchestrating a man of the year award for himself for helping the disabled. a few weeks later, it was revealed to be yet another scam. >> he didn't achieve what he wanted, so he sought criminal means to get himself attention. >> van zandt says clues to robinson's crime spree lies in his past. he said that robinson loved the limelight that he first experienced as a 13-year-old eagle scout in 1957. robinson led his fellow chicago scouts at a command-winning performance before queen elizabeth at london's palladium. afterwards, robinson, the first american boy to sing for the queen, was rewarded with a kiss from judy garland. the choir boy told reporters his ambition was to become a priest. there were high hopes for this kid. >> absolutely. >> how did this happen? >> somewhere along the line when his emotional needs were not met at the level that he expected
them to be met, he decided to meet them himself. and the way he was going to do that was create his own, in this case, fictitious universe. >> it's hard to picture this bespectacled roly-poly man as charismatic. but john robinson proved even law enforcement wasn't immune to his charm. when his financial crimes landed him in prison in kansas, he persuaded prison officials to let him reprogram the prison computer system, saving the prison $100,000 a year. later while serving time at this prison in missouri, robinson convinced prison doctors that his health was so fragile that they recommended he be released without delay. he became very good friends with one prison doctor and the doctor's wife, the prison librarian. such good friends that when robinson left here, the librarian divorced her husband
and followed robinson to kansas. if robinson were just a con man, this story would end here. but it turns out robinson was involved in something much bigger and far sinister than the financial crimes he'd been charged with. beginning in 1984 the overland park police began looking into a series of strange disappearances of young women. 19-year-old paula godfrey. 24-year-old catherine clampitt. and 19-year-old lisa stasi. what did these women have in common? they had all been offered jobs by john robinson. what authorities didn't know at the time was that robinson was using a battery of computers trying to lure hundreds of women. some he offered jobs, others a new life or romance with a well-to-do handsome businessman. >> the first thing sheila ever told me was that she had met the perfect man. and i said, stop. there's no perfect man. she said, oh, yes. she says, i have met this man and he is wonderful.
>> nancy guerraro said it was a personal ad posted on the internet that drew her best friend sheila faith to john robinson. >> she said that he had promised her a cruise, and that he would have someone to take care of debbie. that she would not have to worry about debbie. and she would have a life that was worth living. >> nanny said sheila and her quadriplegic daughter debbie left for a brief kansas visit in 1994. they never returned. alarmed, nancy tried desperately to find them, but they had vanished. what could have possibly led john robinson to seek out a lonely single mother and her severely disabled daughter? investigators got their answer when an alert kansas businessman gave them a call. randy davis runs and operates a postal store in the suburb where robinson lived. he said robinson was a regular customer. how often did he come in here? >> well, every month. on a regular basis over a six-year period. >> which of these mailboxes was john robinson's? >> 215 right there. >> what kind of mail did he receive? >> it was strictly two
department of treasury checks every month. >> all the mail that went to this box is government checks. >> right. >> did the envelopes have robinson's name on them? >> no. >> whose name was on them? >> sheila and debbie faith. >> police believe that for six years robinson collected thousands of dollars in federal and state disability checks meant for debbie faith. and there was another mailbox. box number 182. who was that registered to? >> beverly bonner. >> when you asked about beverly bonner, what did he say? >> he said she had moved to australia. >> beverly bonner. she was the prison librarian who divorced her prison doctor husband to come to kansas to be with robinson. bonner hasn't been seen since 1994, and authorities believe robinson was character her alimony checks for years. baiting vulnerable women and trying to seduce them seems to have to turned into robinson's full-time job. and the strange disappearance of
many of the women hinted at something much more sinister than seduction. when we return -- >> john robinson was really able to control my mind and control my attitude when we were together in person in a way that nobody has before or since. can't help you clean, a kenmore progressive canister vacuum can. it cleans carpet, but goes further with built-in attachments for floors, tight spaces, high and low places and pet traces. the kenmore progressive canister vacuum offers advanced features like stair grip and an infrared dirt sensor that senses unseen dirt. it combines true hepa bags and filters to trap dirt and allergens. and unlike bag-less uprights, it doesn't require messy cleanup.
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after years as a con artist, investigators say john edward robinson, a middle-aged kansas city businessman, suspected of abducting younger women had a variety of ways of finding his female victims. according to investigators, robinson lured his prey on the internet. he joined the secretive society of bdsm. bondage, discipline, sadomasochism. what exactly is bdsm? >> it's a lifestyle. this power exchange between the partners. the giving up of control. it's a romantic idea in many ways.
the surrender that one person does to another. >> attorney lloyd hall participates in the bdsm lifestyle and often represents other members of the bdsm community. bdsm is whips and chains and handcuffs? >> it doesn't have to be. it essentially is a neurotic power exchange between a sexual dominant and sexual submissive. the core of the modern bdsm movement is ssc. safe, sane, and consensual. the things must be safe. >> john robinson posted this personal ad on the internet, describing himself as the erudite master. robinson advertised himself as a businessman who traveled worldwide seeking a, quote, submissive female to become my active slave on a 24/7 basis. >> he was fun to date. >> charming? >> charming, intelligent, challenging.
>> meet chloe, not her real name, a successful kansas businesswoman who participates in the bdsm lifestyle. chloe said she met john robinson through a classified ad in 1996 and took an immediate liking to him after only a couple of telephone conversations. >> my first impression, having not met him, was that he was the type of man that i was looking for. he was older. he was a business owner. he was successful and secure. >> she also was pleasantly surprised when she met robinson in person. >> he dressed well. he looked well. he was attentive to me. he had nice vehicles. he talked about nice things, a nice life, things that i was accustomed to and things that i wanted to continue in my personal relationship. >> but beyond looks, chloe says john robinson intrigued her. >> i was seeking a man who was masterful and successful, and he came across as very masterful
and dominating. he was very demanding and had good control. >> on their first date chloe says john robinson asked her to sign a contract, something common in the bdsm community, detailing how he would treat her throughout the course of their relationship. >> it was very simple in that it showed my intention to allow the man in the relationship to be dominant and to be the one who make decisions and who is in control. so i signed the contract. >> chloe said she agreed to be his bdsm slave and says in the beginning the relationship seemed to be going well. >> john robinson was really able to control my mind and control my attitude when we were together in person in a way that nobody has before or since. he was demanding. the sexual relationship was good. it was controlling. it was strong, it was firm in a way that most dating relationships were not. he was self-assured. he was the kind of master i
wanted for a lifetime, except that he was not honest. >> not honest, chloe said, from the very beginning when robinson told her he was 46 years old. six years younger than his actual age. chloe said early on in the relationship, robinson professed his love for her and even asked for a key to her home, talking of marriage. she thought he was rushing things, so she ran a background check and discovered robinson had lied about being single and was dating multiple women. but that wasn't all. >> i found out that he had done some time in prison, which he certainly had not mentioned. there was a period of ten years as he was documenting his life for me through conversation, he just really didn't involve those ten years. and there were other things that made me question his sincerity. >> an entrepreneur, chloe believed that john robinson was after her money. and chloe confronted robinson, she said he faxed her these angry letters. >> "as i told you yesterday, your attitude must change. if you are to be my complete slave, body, mind, and soul must
be offered without reservation. you must hunger to please me. you must need and desire to be punished. will give you pain. therefore, these are my orders. when you receive the package, it is to remain unopened. you are to take it to your room, undress yourself totally, place your slave collar around your neck." >> according to attorney lloyd hall, punishing women using extreme pain was a particular john robinson fetish. hall represents catherine m., a paralegal from georgia, who contracted to be robinson's so-called slave for a year. >> he was to play the dom, the sexual dominant, the master. she was to play the submissive, we sometimes call it master and slave. >> katherine m., like chloe, initially had a good feeling about robinson, according to her lawyer. >> he was sweet and endearing
and treated her nicely in many ways and was very much involved in her life. very much as any boyfriend and girlfriend would be. >> but there was another sign of john robinson. >> obviously so. >> what kinds of things did john robinson want? >> he enjoyed a kind of sexuality that involved semiconscious individuals. the idea of being choked almost to the point of death, to pass out. or being slapped around or bludgeoned, as in his case, to the point of semiconsciousness. >> hall says his client, who was dating robinson at the time of suzette trouten's disappearance, barely survived her last encounter with robinson at this kansas motel. >> they had had an argument before their last meeting. she had a date with an old friend. just a dinner date. and he had become very angry about that. it was a very rough scene, as they say. she was knocked around a little bit. almost knocked unconscious at that time.
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funerals and demonstrations are being held inside zsyria. over 70 people have been killed, including small children. they are vowing to clean the soil of outlaws and four days before the next primary context, mitt romney and newt gingrich are crisscrossing florida. at the center of any criminal investigation is a dark heart and the iron hand of justice. >> one man with so many different faces.
john robinson. the friendly neighbor who played santa. a regular at church. john robinson the convicted con artist who police say he sought out vulnerable women and seduced them with promises of new jobs, new lives, new loves. john robinson, who authorities say is a man whose sexual preference led him to the world of bdsm, bondage, discipline, sadomasochism. who was he really? one woman might be able to give authorities a clue. here again is rob stafford. >> long before john robinson contracted with women like chloe and katherine m. to be his sex slaves, there was this woman, teresa williams. in 1985, williams, who asked to us conceal her face, says she was a young sexually naive 20-year-old when she started dating john robinson. >> he seemed actually like quite
the gentleman. pretty nice, pleasant. >> williams said she knew nothing about john robinson's life. but during their five-month relationship, teresa said she was held as robinson's virtual prisoner in this apartment complex, where robinson did unspeakable things to her. but one day in particular stands out. the day john robinson's personalty took a dramatic turn for the worse. >> he was just a different person when he walked in through the door. very demanding. he was very rushed. i made him mad enough that he assaulted me bad enough to -- he could have taken my life. and he hurt me, but i was lucky enough. he didn't kill me. and he could have, and he let me know that. >> days later the fbi showed up at her apartment, warning her that a woman with connections to john robinson vanished and advising to leave robinson
immediately. >> robinson was just a strange dude. he had a variety of sexual acts that he wanted her to perform for him. i don't want to get too specific, but they were pretty perverted. and i think he also wanted to sell her to other people. >> thomas lavin was one of the fbi agents who spoke to teresa williams that day. >> we didn't have enough evidence to go on a federal charge. >> your decision to leave that day with the fbi and not stay with john robinson, what difference do you think that decision made in your life? >> i think it saved my life. i think i was very lucky. >> teresa williams says she is still traumatized by the terror she endured. >> he took respect. he took trust. he took a lot of dreams from me. he gave me fear.
i thought he had scarred me for life. >> what should people know about what john robinson is capable of? >> he is capable of being able to look you right dead in the eye and let it be known that -- that he will hurt you. >> observers say john robinson was a criminal whose perversity was only equaled by his creativity. he attuned himself to the latest technology, using the internet to attract women with job offers. joining the bdsm website to lure women. and before that, posing as a wealthy benevolent businessman, interesting in helping unfortunate young women, the prettier, the better. >> lisa is certainly important to this family. she's probably not important, you know, to a lot of other people, but she's important to this family. >> since january 1985, sarah jo hanley has been waiting for news of her missing daughter lisa and granddaughter tiffany. 19-year-old lisa stasi and her baby disappeared after john robinson recruited them from a battered women's shelter. as part of what investigators say was yet another scam. >> he wanted to help young pregnant females as well as
young women who were homeless and had just delivered. >> social workers sharon turner jackson and kiran gattis say they'll never forget robinson, the smooth-talking businessman who solicited their help. >> he said he wanted to give back to the community. he said he and his family had been blessed with an affluent lifestyle and that he and this group of men had decided they wanted to give something back. and they wanted to create a program, an entire program for young women. >> the women recall robinson came to their clinic and pursued them relentlessly, asking them to refer some of their young pregnant clients to his program. >> i think he thought we were a real fertile ground for young women that nobody would be looking for. >> the social workers say they refused to help robinson, but he called to boast that he had
found his first client, lisa stasi, and her 5-month-old baby girl tiffany. >> he said he had met her, and she agreed that she and her child would come in and come to his program. and then shortly after that, she and the child disappeared. >> lisa's mother sarah said she and her family were stunned by lisa's disappearance. what exactly did the police tell you? >> they told me she had left a note, and the detective read me the note and said lisa had signed it. >> but sarah said these notes in which lisa explains her abrupt departure are phonies. >> i've decided to get away from this area and try and make a good life for me and tiffany. i finally realized that i have a baby to take care of and she is my first responsibility. >> no. >> that does not sound like her? >> no.
i don't think she would use "my first responsibility" in this sentence. >> why not? >> lisa didn't like school. she wasn't very good academically. i don't think she would structure a sentence in that way. that doesn't look like her handwriting either. >> who do you think wrote the letters? >> probably john robinson. >> like so many other women who have been enticed by job offers or romantic overtures, lisa stasi had vanished. in fact, when suzette trouten dropped out of contact with her family in march 2000, it made eight women with links to robinson who disappeared over the last 15 years. carolyn trouten, suzette's mother, didn't know about the other disappearances, but it was her persistence that got investigators back on robinson's trail. a trail that would lead to john robinson's tightly guarded pandora's box. >> they followed him immediately after we called. i mean, they were following him 24 hours a day. >> but days turned to months and the troutens lost hope. the police, they say, insisted they still didn't have enough evidence to arrest robinson. in your heart, did you believe that she was alive? >> no.
i really didn't. i had my sister send an e-mail telling her i wanted her to call me, that i was sick. when she didn't answer, i knew. >> the troutens' agonizing wait for news about suzette finally came to an end on june 2nd, 2000. after months of investigation and round-the-clock surveillance, police arrested john edward robinson. nothing could prepare the public for the horrors that arrest would yield. when we come back -- >> a detective called our house and started asking my husband some questions. he asked if he had heard about the serial killer in kansas. my husband said yes. ♪
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> after years of investigating by both local and federal authorities, the mystery behind john robinson, a kansas city businessman, husband and father, was about to be uncovered. >> a frightening discovery on a la cygne farm in kansas. >> june 2000. la cygne, kansas, population just over 1,000. a rural community seven miles from the missouri border. a town where issues involving land conservation generally making the news now making national headlines, because of john robinson's farm. police found two barrels stuffed with the remains of two females. and the next day, across the border in missouri, investigators opened a storage locker robinson had rented. >> the storage facility was about a 10 x 12'storage facility.
it was mainly filled with nondescript clutter. dusty and old. >> in the back left corner, three more barrels. >> i think everyone in law enforcement that day had a pretty good idea what was going to be found in those barrels. within ten minutes of being there on scene that day, i think you just knew that this was going to be the kind of case that every community hates to get. >> clay county prosecutor chris koster oversaw the 12-hour recovery process. >> they were carefully loaded then into a police vehicle, and we brought them up to be examined at the jackson county medical examiner's office that night. >> that must have been a horrific scene. >> yeah, it was something i won't forget. in each of the barrels was the body of a female. it was clear they had not been in there days or weeks. we were talking about years that these barrels had been hidden away. >> were all of these women killed the same way? >> it appears they were killed in generally the same way. the charging document states that they were killed with either a hammer or hammer-like instrument. >> how difficult has it been to
identify the victims? >> it's been a challenging process. the best way to identify them has been through dental analysis. and that means we have to go find who the dentist was that helped these women 10, 15 years ago and go find x-rays. >> fbi agent thomas lavin helped teresa williams escape from john robinson in 1985 when the fbi was hot on his trail. today, lavin is frustrated by the fact he didn't have enough evidence to put robinson away back then. >> if we had put him away back in 1985, these things wouldn't be happening today, i would assume. but a lot of that stuff is beyond my control. >> also devastated and angry, friends and family of john robinson's alleged victims. >> a detective called our house and started asking my husband some questions. he asked if he had heard about the serial killer in kansas. and my husband said yes. but we had no idea our friends
were there. >> two of the bodies in the storage locker were identified as nancy guerrero's best friend sheila faith and sheila's severely disabled 16-year-old daughter debbie. the other was beverly bonner, the former prison librarian in missouri who had divorced her husband, the prison doctor, to be with robinson. as for the barrels next to john robinson's farmhouse, one contained the body of a missing purdue university co-ed, izabela lewicka. they say she was lured through the bdsm network and the other, the body of suzette trouten. her sister kim still remembers the day she learned suzette would never come home alive. >> the detective said we believe we found suzette. he said, we don't have positive identification yet, but i wouldn't be calling you if i wasn't sure it was her. and i said, is she okay? he said no.
>> it turned out, according to authorities, suzette, unknown to her family, had been active on the bdsm internet circuit. police believe robinson killed trouten the morning after she spoke with her mother on march 1st. >> i'll always remember the times we had together. i still can't get past the way she died right now. i mean, that is something that i have a real hard time with. i know i've lost a lot of sleep to bad dreams. >> she was only 28 years old. it's a horrible thing to think about. she had her whole life ahead of her and he -- and it's so senseless. it just -- it boggles my mind that anybody can be as wicked as that man. >> for the troutens and the other families and friends of the missing women, the long wait had come to a painful end. there was still another mystery with a bizarre twist.
the story of what became of a baby girl who fell into robinson's hands. when we return, a secret kept for 16 years. a startling case of hidden identity. ♪ ♪ [ multiple sounds making melodic tune ] ♪ [ male announcer ] at northrop grumman, every innovation, every solution, comes together for a single purpose -- to make the world a safer place. that's the value of performance. northrop grumman.
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john edward robinson is accused of killing for sex, for money, and above all, for the thrill. >> john robinson is an emotional drug addict and his drug of choice is dominating another human being and murdering them. >> former fbi behavioral scientist cliff van zandt believes john robinson's appetite for controlling and torturing women had become insatiable. >> it's like emotional heroin, and he is going to mainline that emotion every time.
and once you get a hit of heroin or once a serial killer gets a hit of going out and dominating and murdering another human being, you want it again. >> could robinson's early brush with fame sparked his need for power and control over women? in an eerie coincidence, we noted that the very day young john robinson made the papers as the first american boy to sing before the queen of england, he shared the front page with a notorious serial killer. the man who inspired the story "psycho," a man who kept the bodies of his female victims on his farm. in addition to the five bodies found so far, authorities now believe robinson is responsible for the death of three other women who have never been found, including lisa stasi. but one mystery has been solved. the story of what happened to lisa stasi's baby girl, tiffany, who disappeared with her mother years ago.
is lisa stasi's daughter alive? >> yes. >> attorneys brian grady and harry smith say they know because they represent john robinson's younger brother, donald. >> is john robinson's brother, donald, the man who's been raising lisa stasi's daughter? >> yes. >> nbc news learned that tiffany stasi grew up here, in this chicago suburb, with a new name and a new identity. tiffany stasi is now known as heather robinson. since 1985, she'd lived believing she was john robinson's niece. authorities now allege that john robinson set up a phony adoption and scammed his own brother by pocketing thousands of dollars in phony legal fees. investigators say that on the night lisa stasi disappeared, john robinson gave baby tiffany to donald robinson and his wife, freida. unable to have children of their own, the couple says they were overjoyed with their new baby girl and had no idea john robinson had orchestrated an
illegal adoption. >> the john robinson that don knew was a caring, nice brother. the john robinson that is coming out now is not at all the john robinson that don knew. >> don never saw his brother be violent? >> don never saw his brother be violent. don never saw a dark side to his brother, john. >> did donald robinson and his wife think they were doing anything wrong when they took this child into their lives? >> absolutely not. quite the contrary. they thought they were starting a new journey in their life and providing a life for someone who had no family available. >> their lawyers say donald robinson and his wife, freida, raised tiffany as their only child, providing a loving home
and believing exactly what john robinson told them, that tiffany's mother had committed suicide. but before tiffany turned 18 in september 2002, questions were raised as to whether the robinson's should keep custody of the girl. >> give me your best argument as to why with this child should stay with donald robinson and his wife? >> the future for this child reinvolves around the best interests of the minor. it's clear that the best interests would only be served by keeping this family together. to drive a wedge between them would be a new tragedy, it would create more suffering and pain for people, you know, who don't deserve it. >> her uncle may have murdered her biological mother. >> that is correct. but that does not affect the fact that my clients are innocent victims in this
tragedy, and they feel as much victims as the other families who have been victimized by john robinson. so that should no way play into the adoption process that transpired 15 years ago and where this child resides currently. >> so you add donald robinson to that long list, that growing list of the victims? >> not only donald, his wife, and his daughter, are all victims. >> further charges are anticipated in this matter. >> prosecutors have amended the murder charges against john robinson to include the kidnapping and sale of tiffany stasi. lisa stasi's family is happy to know that tiffany is alive and safe. >> i want tiffany to know that i love her as a grandmother and if she wants to have a relationship with me, that she is -- my arms are open to her. >> john robinson is in prison now, but teresa williams, a woman who says she barely survived robinson's violent fantasies in 1985, told us her emotional scars have become open
wounds now that investigators have uncovered robinson's chambers of horrors. >> they should know that he's capable of being a murderer. that he's capable of being a calm, gentle person on one hand and a tortured murderer on the other. this is somebody you don't want to take at face value. i say -- i tell people, i never want to run into someone like that again. >> robinson has pleaded not guilty. as he faces murder charges in two states and the possibility of the death penalty, we wondered what could possibly be going through his mind. fbi behavioral scientist, cliff van zandt. >> i don't think he could care
less about his victims, because he sees them as chattel. >> you're saying he could not care less about the people he has hurt and harm? >> the hard thing to understand about him is the complete callousness that one could go out and manipulate, horribly violate, murder another human being, stuff them in a 55-gallon barrel and walk away and continue your life. you and i say, how can you do that? and he would say, it's very easy. it's what i do. >> a kansas court sentenced john robinson to death for murdering izabela lewicka and suzette trouten. for lisa stacey robinson got a life sentence. in 2003, robinson avoided the death penalty in missouri, getting life without parole by pleading guilty to the murders of sheila and debbie faith, beverly bonner, and two other women whose bodies were never found. that's our report. i'm john seigenthaler.