By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – The trial of Dylan Robinson over the alleged murder of his father, Kenneth Robinson, at his Worcester home began Monday, June 21, at the Otsego County Courthouse.
Robinson is accused of attempting to rob his father of about $5,000 in marijuana and cash. Robinson was 15 at the time. Robinson and several other local teens were arrested several days after the murder, as was then 32-year-old Oneonta resident Nicolas Meridy.
Alexander Borggreen, then 16, Anais Soto, then 15, Alexis Lotterman, then 16 and Tatiana Febo, then 17, were also arrested.
All of the defendants with the exception of Robinson pled out; Febo and Lotterman had their cases moved to juvenile court.
The robbery apparently went badly, leading to a physical altercation. Kenneth Robinson suffered two fatal gunshot wounds, one to the head and one to the chest.
Afterwards, the defendants attempted to burn his house down to disguise the murder-robbery.
The first day of the trial was punctuated by a couple of dramatic moments, which mirrored the intensity of the crime itself.
“It’s a very simple case,” District Attorney John Muehl said in his opening statement. “A very straightforward case, very heartbreaking case and very sad.”
Defense attorney Thomas Hegeman’s opening statement suggested the opposite.
“This is going to be a very difficult case,” Hegeman said. “Remember that you have only heard one side of what is going to be presented. There is no presumption that a witness who testifies is necessarily telling the truth.”
The first witness was Carl Hoecker, a neighbor of Kenneth Robinson, who had known him for six years, and said that he was “one of the first people who invited me and said thanks for being in my neighborhood.”
Hoecker first recognized something was wrong when Kenneth Robinson’s children, Cory and Aiden, came to his front door in their underwear while he was watching TV. He said one of them said, “My brother shot my dad.”
Hoecker said the children were “totally in shock. (They) couldn’t comprehend what was happening.”
The next witness, Mark Hage, a New York State Police trooper, went to the Robinson house along with two other troopers. Hage said he had known Robinson “most of my adult life” and noticed “very heavy smoke” upon entering the property.
He noticed the bottoms of feet with toes facing up which turned out to be the body of Kenneth Robinson. He dragged the body outside. “Half of the face was missing,” Hage said.
Brian Mackey, an investigator for the New York State Police, took the stand, and said he picked up Dylan Robinson, but he had to stop the interview because Robinson was then 15 and needed parental permission to be interviewed.
Robinson’s story, according to Mackey, was that they left school around 11 a.m. to smoke marijuana blunts and drink tequila at Neahwa Park but came home around 8 or 9 p.m. when he heard something had happened.
However this story, according to Mackey’s testimony, was changed when Robinson said he stole marijuana from somebody and, in order to repay what he stole, promised he could get marijuana from his father. He said he was there, but that another person shot Kenneth Robinson twice, along with who Robinson described as unknown Black and Hispanic accomplices.
However, Mackey said he determined that these people weren’t involved at all and had no knowledge of what had taken place.
Mackey said Robinson “didn’t seem to have any remorse” and was “just nonchalant.”
However, he said that eventually Robinson started acting “shaky,” saying multiple times that “you have to protect my family.”
The defense attorney argued that Robinson was alone in the interview room for two hours and that it was “not unusual demeanor” for someone being left alone for that length of time.
A particularly dramatic moment came when Borggreen, shackled and in a prison jumpsuit, his chains audibly clinging, refused to testify at the trial, despite the fact that he would be vacating his plea bargain and instead of getting a shorter sentence for robbery would be facing 25 to life for murder.
Borggreen refused to even speak, but would only shake his head yes or no.
The only testimony that topped that in terms of drama was the testimony of Soto, an Oneonta resident who was present during the attempted robbery and murder.
Soto had only known Robinson for a couple of months at the time, she said. At some point, when they were hanging out at Meridy’s house, they decided that “we was gonna rob somebody.”
They drove in Febo’s car and Dylan Robinson passed out guns to everybody once they got there, she said. Soto had never used a gun before, so Robinson showed her where the safety was and how to use it.
Lotterman and Febo stayed in the car while Soto went to the back and was told to stay there and watch while Meridy and Dylan Robinson went to find a way into the house, she said.
Inside, they found the Robinson children and told them to go in the backroom. That’s when Soto said she heard shooting.
“I just heard someone let off a shot and I just heard arguing. Alex was saying he needed help,” she said.
Then she said heard two more gunshots.
“I heard (Kenneth) Robinson say ‘why, why, why’ and that’s when I didn’t hear him anymore.”
Soto became emotional during this testimony.
“The next thing I heard was Nick talking to Dylan about burning the house down,” Soto said.
A brief exchange about what to do with the kids occurred, she said, and the men said “just leave them there.”
Soto grabbed the kids and walked the kids out of the house. She saw smoke from the house as she walked away. It was only at that point that Soto recognized them as Robinson’s brothers.
Eventually, Meridy told them to walk back.
“The girls asked if we were OK and Dylan had a smile on his face and said ‘Yeah, I just killed my dad,’” Soto said and that he just kept repeating that phrase.
Muehl asked, “Was he upset about it?”
“Not at all,” Soto said.
In the end, they got neither marijuana nor money, she said.
Soto said she expects to get eight to 10 years for burglary with a firearm.
“I came here because I wanted to speak the truth about what happened,” Soto said in response to the defense attorney asking if she had accepted a plea deal.
In a redirect, Muehl asked Soto about what she was thinking when they left.
“I was just lost and I just knew that my life was …” Soto said, but couldn’t finish the sentence because she was distraught. Eventually, she was told to step down.
The trial continues at 9 a.m., Tuesday, June 22. Muehl said he expects to call Robinson’s brother, Carl, to the stand. However, Muehl said he is concerned that the witness may be tampered with.