Larry Keith Robison

Executed January 21, 2000 by Lethal Injection in Texas

9th murderer executed in U.S. in 2000
607th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
4th murderer executed in Texas in 2000
203rd murderer executed in Texas since 1976

Since 1976
Date of Execution
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder-Execution)
Date of
(Race/Sex/Age at Murder)
Date of
Method of
to Murderer
Date of
Lethal Injection
Larry Keith Robison

W / M / 24 - 42

Rickey Lee Bryant
W / M / 31
Georgia Ann Reed
W / F / 34
Scott Reed
W / M / 11
Earline H. Barker
W / F / 55
Bruce M. Gardner
W / M / 33
with knife

at DOC

At 4:30 p.m. on August 10, 1982, Junett Bryant went to the home of her adult son, Ricky Lee Bryant, in Fort Worth, Texas, and discovered him lying on the floor - his head severed from his body. Ricky Lee Bryant had been sexually mutilated and had suffered two gunshot wounds to the head, eight cut wounds, and forty-nine stab wounds. His penis was found in the kitchen sink and his testicles were never found. His decapitated head was posed in the crook of his arm. Four more homicide victims were located in the house next door to Bryant's. The fully-clothed bodies of Earline Barker and Bruce Gardner were lying in the living room. Barker had multiple gunshot and stab wounds, including one very deep cut wound to the neck. Gardner had several gunshot wounds and a cut wound to his neck. In a bedroom was the body of 11 year old Scott Willard Reed, lying on his stomach. He had been shot once, suffered a contusion of the head due to blunt trauma, and had been cut and stabbed multiple times. Finally, the nude body of Georgia Reed was located in another bedroom. She had been shot twice, stabbed multiple times, and had a deep cut wound to the neck severing the jugular veins and carotid arteries. The next day, Robison was arrested in Wichita, Kansas driving the car of Bruce Gardner and in possession of a woman's wedding ring, some bullets, three wallets containing the driver licenses of Robison, Bruce Gardner, and Ricky Lee Bryant, and a loaded .22 caliber handgun, later determined to be the murder weapon.About a month before the murders, Robison had moved in with Bryant. An insanity defense was presented and rejected at trial. The original conviction and death sentence was reversed on appeal due to an error during jury selection. On retrial in 1987, Robison was again convicted and sentenced to death.


Internet Sources:

Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Executed Offenders (Larry Robison)

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Texas Attorney General Media Advisory


AUSTIN - Thursday, January 20, 2000 - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Larry Keith Robison who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m., Friday, January 21st:


At 4:30 p.m. on August 10, 1982, Junett Bryant arrived at the home of her adult son, Ricky Lee Bryant, in Fort Worth, Texas. When he did not answer the door, Ms. Bryant entered the house and discovered her son lying on the floor -- his head severed from his body. Ms. Bryant summoned the police. The chief medical examiner testified that Ricky Lee Bryant had also been sexually mutilated and had suffered two gunshot wounds to the head, eight cut wounds, and forty-nine stab wounds.

Four more homicide victims were located in the house next door to Bryant's. The fully-clothed bodies of Earline Barker and Bruce Gardner were lying in the living room. Barker had multiple gunshot and stab wounds, including one very deep cut wound to the neck. Gardner had several gunshot wounds and a cut wound to his neck. In a bedroom was the body of a child, Scott Willard Reed, lying on his stomach. He had been shot once, suffered a contusion of the head due to blunt trauma, and had been cut and stabbed multiple times. Finally, the nude body of Georgia Reed was located in another bedroom. She had been shot twice, stabbed multiple times, and had a deep cut wound to the neck severing the jugular veins and carotid arteries.

Shortly after 4:00 a.m. on August 11, 1982, a police officer in Wichita, Kansas, noticed a suspicious looking vehicle backed up to a local church. The officer approached the vehicle and asked Larry Robison, the sole occupant of the vehicle, to get out of the car and for identification. Robison claimed not to have any identification and told the officer that his name was Jeffrey K. Kennedy and that the car belonged to his brother, George. Further investigation revealed that the car's registration had expired in 1980, although the license plate bore a 1983 sticker. Thereafter, Robison volunteered that he had a checkbook in the car that would serve as identification. The checkbook was in Robison's given name. A search of Robison's pockets revealed a woman's wedding ring, some bullets, and three wallets containing the driver licenses of Robison, Bruce Gardner, and Ricky Lee Bryant. Robison was handcuffed and placed in the police car.

The vehicle identification number on Robison's car revealed that the car was registered to Bruce Gardner. In the car, officers found a loaded .22 caliber handgun under the driver's seat. Additionally, four rings, more bullets, and two watches were found in a suitcase in the car. A pawn shop manager sold Robison a .22 caliber handgun one week before the murders, and identified the handgun found in Robison's possession in Kansas as the one he had sold Robison. An assistant hardware manager at a Winn Dixie store sold Robison three boxes of .22 caliber ammunition on the day of the murders. All of the shell casings recovered from the murder scene were fired from Robison's handgun. Three knives recovered at the crime scene tested positive for blood, and the blood type on two of the knives matched three of the victims. A pair of shorts and a matchbook recovered from the suitcase in Kansas tested positive for blood. The rings and two of the watches recovered from Robison were identified as belonging to Ms. Reed and Ms. Barker. Another watch taken from Robison at the time of his arrest was identified as belonged to Gardner.

Thomas Ozmer, a close friend of Ricky Bryant's testified that he had known both Robison and Bryant since 1976, and had introduced Bryant to Robison in June 1982. About a month before the murders, Robison moved in with Bryant. Ozmer stated that he had stored an old, inoperable 1966 Chevy Belaire at Bryant's home. The license plate found on Gardner's car in Kansas was from Ozmer's car.

The primary defense at trial was that Robison was insane at the time of the murders. The defense presented testimony that several members of Robison's father's family had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and that Robison had exhibited behavior consistent with schizophrenia. Robison had also been diagnosed and treated for schizophrenia. A defense expert stated that Robison is a chronic paranoid schizophrenic, and was delusional and legally insane at the time of the offense.

The State presented competing evidence that Robison was faking a mental disorder, and had a long history of drug abuse, including marijuana, methamphetamines, amphetamines, tranquilizers, LSD, and PCP. The State's expert stated that Robison's past behavior was attributable to a drug psychosis, which has similar symptoms to schizophrenia. There was no evidence that Robison was under the influence of drugs at the time he committed the murders.


In November 1982, Robison was indicted in Tarrant County, Texas, for the intentional murder of Bruce Gardner while in the course of committing and attempting to commit the offense of robbery of Earline Barker. In 1983, Robison was convicted of the capital offense and sentenced to death. However, in 1986, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Robison's conviction and sentence due to an error during jury selection. The State retried Robison before a jury upon his plea of not guilty. Rejecting Robison's defense of insanity, on November 13, 1987, the jury found Robison guilty of capital murder. After a separate trial on punishment, the trial court, the 297th District Court of Tarrant County, Texas, sentenced Robison to death.

On June 29, 1994, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Robison's conviction and sentence. The United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review on June 26, 1995.

Robison filed an application for state writ of habeas corpus on April 22, 1996, and a supplemental application on July 19, 1996. On August 8, 1996, the trial court recommended that the application be denied and the supplemental application be dismissed as untimely filed. On October 9, 1996, the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed and denied habeas relief. On December 12, 1996, Robison filed a federal habeas petition in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. On February 9, 1997, the district court entered an order denying habeas corpus relief. On April 1, 1997, the district court denied Robison's request for a certificate of appealability. On August 13, 1998, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief. The Fifth Circuit denied a motion for rehearing on September 21, 1998, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari review on May 3, 1999. A clemency petition is pending before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY At the punishment phase of trial, the State presented evidence that Robison had received a three-year probated sentence for a felony theft conviction. Robison had violated one of the terms of his probation, but his probation was never revoked.

Judy Smith, a friend of both Robison and Ricky Lee Bryant, testified that Robison had called her several times from the Tarrant County Jail. With regard to Bryant's murder, Robison told her that "he went into the bathroom and shot him like a kamikaze. . . . He said that after he had killed Ricky Bryant, he could not find the car keys, and that's why he went next door." He also told her, "If I could have found the car keys, I could have gotten away with it." Concerning the other murders, Smith testified that Robison expressed puzzlement about "why Mrs. Barker didn't do something because Georgia Reed was screaming and begging him for her life." He killed Scott Reed, the young boy, because he "couldn't leave any witnesses." With regard to his arrest in Kansas, Robison told Smith that "the lady police officer was very lucky that he didn't shoot her, too," but Robison realized that if he shot a police officer, "they'd never leave him alone." Smith also testified that she had seen Robison use amphetamines and knew he used LSD. Susan Wood testified that, in early 1982, she bought drugs from Robison, and they both used the drugs at her house, including speed, crystal, and marijuana.

DRUGS AND/OR ALCOHOL - There was no evidence of drug or alcohol use connected with the offense.

Larry Robison was sentenced to die for the August 10, 1982, murder of Bruce Gardner, a General Dynamics assembly line worker. Robison, a former construction worker from Abilene, was arrested Aug. 11, 1982, in Wichita, Kan., driving the car of 33-year-old Bruce Gardner of Lake Worth. The previous day, Bruce was one of five people found mutilated, shot or stabbed in neighboring cottages near Lake Worth. Also killed were Bruce’s girlfriend, Georgia Ann Reed, 34; her mother, Earline Barker, 55; and Georgia’s 11-year-old son, Scott. Robison, who has acknowledged a history of drug abuse, was convicted of capital murder for Bruce's death.

But before Bruce arrived at the Shore View Drive cottage, Robison had slain Rickey Lee Bryant in the bathroom of the home they briefly shared. Rickey, 31, had been shot twice in the head, decapitated, sexually mutilated and stabbed 49 times. His penis was found in the kitchen sink and his testicles were never found. Robison then went next door and killed Georgia Ann Reed in her bed. Reed's son Scott, who in two days would have been 12, was killed in the living room. Under his body was a hammer, which authorities suggested may have indicated that the boy had intended to defend his mother. Reed's mother, 55-year-old Earline Barker, was also killed in the living room. She had been recuperating from surgery to correct a brain aneurysm. Bruce was killed when he arrived to pick up Georgia for a date. Rickey's mother found her son's body, posed with his head in the crook of his arm. Authorities then found the bodies of the other victims. Greg Pipes, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted Robison, said the idea that he was insane is an illusion. “They did diagnose him (as schizophrenic),” Pipes said. “But there are an awful lot of people diagnosed as schizophrenic that aren’t killing people." Pipes also stated that if Robison's sentence were to be commuted to a life sentence, he would be released from prison in a few years since mandatory release laws were in effect at the time of his crime. Mandatory release requires an inmate to be given "good time" credit of one and a half days for every day served in prison. When the inmate's time served plus his good time credits equal his sentence, he must be released, regardless of his potential as a future danger to society, after only one third of the actual sentence is served.

Inside the death chamber, Rhonda Kreps, whose mother, sister and nephew were slain by Robison, dabbed her eyes as she watched him die. She sobbed heavily and was comforted by the other 5 witnesses and by prison officials as she was helped outside. After the execution, relatives of the 5 people Robison killed issued a statement saying, "Justice has been done. Larry Robison has paid with his life for the 17-year nightmare of trauma and heartache he caused for the families of his victims," the family said. "We will cherish the memories of our loved ones. We are grateful for the support of our friends and families, the community and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Victims Services Division."

Larry Robison Homepage

This web site is dedicated to my brother Larry Robison, and to the families of his victims.

The state of Texas refused to assist my mother in obtaining proper long-term treatment for him. Long-term treatment was denied due to Larry not being violent. Persons with certain types of schizophrenia may become violent after having gone without treatment for long periods of time. This happened to Larry who in the midst of an extreme psychotic episode killed five people. This is the one and only act of violence Larry ever committed both before and after the incident. Larry was sentenced to death and executed on January 21, 2000, despite pleas from around the world to spare his life. Please don't believe that this could not happen in your family. Our family has learned the hard way that it happens more often than you think! ~~ Vickie Robison-Barnett.

Larry Keith Robison (August 12, 1957 - January 21, 2000) Larry developed a strong faith in God while incarcerated which brought him from the depths of despair to an awareness and understanding of the true meaning of life and unconditional love. Larry did not die in vain. Farewell my sweet brother--I love you!

Email; Home; Case History; Medical Records; Death Penalty Links; Letters of Support; Picture Pages; Mental Health Links; News Articles; Petitions; Religious Links; View Memory Book; Sign Memory Book; View Guestbook; Sign Guestbook; Forgotten Victims; Victims of Grief; Victims Dedication; Larry on Peace; Larry's Last Will & Testament; Larry's Last Letter; Rev. Kim Robison-Derby; Susan Moulton Memorial Poem; Larry's Poetry; Webrings; View Darlie Routier's Guestbook; Sign Darlie Routier's Guestbook.

48 Hours

"A Family's Shame: A Killer in the Family" (July 3, 2000)

(CBS)What happens when a vicious criminal turns out to be your child or sibling? 48 Hours takes a probing look at family members coping with the ordeal of having a killer in the family.

A Son On Death Row: Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reports on the Robisons, who are fighting to save their son from execution. But the killer himself, Larry Robison, says that he is ready to die. (When this 48 Hours segment first appeared on Jan. 13, Larry Robison was still alive. On Jan. 21, he was executed. Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reported on a family struggling to deal with a murderer who was also a son and a brother.)

For years, Ken and Lois Robison struggled to cope with the death of their son Larry - even though he was still alive. He was on death row, at the Texas state penitentiary in Huntsville. The Robisons knew when he was due to die, down the minute.

In August, as his execution drew near, Larry's sister Vickie worried about her parents. "I'm worried most about my mother because she fought so hard to save his life," she said. The day he's executed will be the "worst day of my life," she declared. "This has absolutely devastated this family," Vickie Robison said about the crime her brother committed 17 years ago. "In some ways it's just torn the guts out of our family."

In August, 1982, in Lake Worth, Texas, Larry Robison, then 25, killed five people. He decapitated and castrated his roomate, Ricky Bryant, and shot and stabbed four others. That day Rhonda Kreps lost three people she loved: her mother, her sister Georgia and her 11-year old nephew, Scott. "The pain - you just don't even know the pain," she said recently. Larry Robison's killing spree also destroyed his own family. "Things will never be the same for me or my family," said his father Ken Robison, a former schoolteacher. "I will be identified as the father of Larry Robison more than anything else." "We're just horrified for the families of the victims," said his mother, Lois Robison, a retired teacher. "Somehow, you just feel kind of to blame somehow."

His parents did not expect their life to take this turn. They married 37 years ago and eventually raised eight children. Larry was a "good baby," Lois Robison recalled. "He was a good little boy, he was very smart, did very well in school, no problem whatsoever to take care of," she added. But later his behavior changed; he used drugs. He had "severe problems," his mother said.

His parents took him to a hospital for evaluation four years before the murders. Larry Robison was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. According to Lois, he was refused long-term treatment because he did not have insurance. Before the murders, he did not seem dangerous and never had been violent, according to his mother. At his trial Larry Robison pleaded insanity. Defense experts testified that he suffered from schizophrenia, while state experts argued that his symptoms were caused by prolonged drug abuse and that he was in full control on the day of the murders. The jury agreed with the prosecution; Robison was found guilty and sentenced to death.

The Robisons thought the sentence was unfair and argued that their son was insane at the time of the murders. His parents blamed the system for failing to help their son before the killings. For years, they fought to save his life. This fight took its toll. "I'm very close to my mother," Vickie Robison said. "But she devotes so much of her time and energy to this, that it kind of puts a damper on the relationship that we could have."

Rhonda Kreps, though, wanted Larry Robison to die. "I need closure. I need him to go - go to sleep an leave me alone," she said. Vickie Robison tried to balance her contradictory feelings. "I feel all this sympathy for the families that were also devastated by this," she said. "But the world automatically grieves for them. But what the world does not realize is that this family - this good family - is going to get nothing but spit in our face when our loved one dies."

Fighting To Save A Son: As the appeals drag on, the Robison family becomes divided over whether to keep fighting to save Larry Robison's life.

Larry Robison was slated to be executed by lethal injection on Aug. 17, 1999. As the date approached, the Robisons continued to visit him at Huntsville, Texas. As the execution date neared, seeing their son became harder for the Robisons; they knew that soon he would be dead. "The visits are good," said his father, Ken Robison. "It's going to leave a void in our lives (when Larry is executed.)"

For his part, Larry Robison believed that he was responsible for the five murders. He deserves to die, he said. He was philosophical: "I don't presume to second guess what God's will is for me. If it's my time to go, I'll gladly get on that table and leave." Although he appeared lucid, his parents insisted he was insane at the time of the murders. "This wouldn't have happened if we had got him the proper treatment," his mother said. It is "hard to say" if he deserves responsibility for his crimes, because he was extremely psychotic when he committed them, she said. Even though he thought he deserved to die, Larry Robison said that he was proud of his parents' fight to save him. "It's given them a purpose in their lives," he said.

Although he remembered the day of the crime, he didn't know why he committed the murders, Larry Robison said at one point. "(That's) something maybe I probably won't ever know." He also said at one point he didn't think he currently was a paranoid schizophrenic. He was not taking medication. In August his parents arrived for what would be their final visit. "I just want to tell him good-bye and that we're going to miss him," mother Lois Robison said, citing "all the memories we have of when he was a little boy and what a wonderful boy he was." "He's preparing to go over to the other side," she said of her son. "He says he's already halfway there."

But four and a half hours before Robison was due to die, the Texas Supreme Court issued a stay and ordered a hearing to decide if he was competent enough to be executed. His parents were ecstatic. Rhonda Kreps was shocked. She believed the jury's verdict was fair and should be carried out. In December, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Robison was competent and could be executed. Following the hearing, Lois Robison was allowed to hug her son for the first time in 12 years.

Afterward the family discussed whether it wanted to appeal one more time. "I say no," said Larry's sister Vickie, arguing emotionally that it was not what he wanted. "There's a lot of people suffering here," Vickie Robison said. "It's not only our family. Our family is only one part. The victim's families are suffering, too. Larry's suffering." Even so, Lois Robison refused to give up. Her son's execution was sated for Jan. 21: Larry Robison requested that date because he wanted to die on a night with a full moon.

APBNews Online

"We Became the Parents of a Mass Murderer; Mother Asks Mercy," by Robert Anthony Phillips.

BURLESON, Texas ( -- Lois Robison will talk about her son cutting off a man's head and of the murders and madness that invaded and changed her life. She's become the mother of a mass murderer, she said, not a son. Most of the time, Robison doesn't cry when she tells how her son, Larry Robison shot, stabbed and killed five people. But sometimes she just breaks down and can't stop crying. "Talking about it makes me feel pretty awful," Robison said. "Sometimes I can tell it without breaking down. It is horrific. As my husband said, the moment we found out about it, we were no longer Lois and Ken Robison, but we became the parents of a mass murderer. It changes the way people look at you." But talking about it is the only way to save her son. She believes he is mentally ill, diagnosed by some doctors as having a severe psychotic brain disease and schizophrenia. At the worst, she thought the state would lock her son up forever. Then, at least, he would get treatment.

A 16-year battle

For the past 16 years, Robison, a 66-year-old retired third-grade schoolteacher, and her husband have been trying to save their son. The courts have turned them down. She has gone on television, given speeches and traveled around the world to gather support -- Geraldo, CNN, the Today show. She has sat through countless magazine and newspapers interviews, and fielded constant calls from reporters recounting the murder and madness of her son. It was all public. It was righteous, Robison said, to fight against the execution of a mentally ill person.

Countdown to death

There are just 14 days to go before Larry Robinson, 42, will be strapped to a gurney at the Huntsville Unit and given a lethal injection. He is one of seven condemned men scheduled to die in Huntsville this month. Prosecutors say he deserves to die for butchering five people. A week before for execution, Larry Robison will be moved to solitary confinement and everything will be taken away from him. Lois Robison cries at the thought. "No books, paper, radio, just mental torment," she said. And on Jan. 21, 2000, he will be brought into the death chamber. It should take about seven minutes for Larry Robison to die as drugs costing Texas $86.08 cents are injected into his veins. The sodium thiopental will sedate him. The pancuronium bromide will collapse his diaphragm and lungs. Then, potassium chloride will stop his heart.

Wants to 'cross over' with full moon

Robison has been there for her son since 1983, trying to save him from execution. She never blamed him for changing her life. She says she never hated him for killing. She blames the state and the hospitals for not giving him treatment. She says she's always loved him. But, Robison said she won't be there to watch him die. She says her son doesn't want her there. Robison doesn't know where she will be. Larry Robinson, in court documents, said he wants to die Jan. 21 because there will be a full moon that night, and a friend told him it would be a good day. "He believes that is the most favorable time for a soul to cross over," his mother said.

Victims' families want justice

The families of Larry Robison's murder victims are in favor of him being executed. They released a statement through their attorney, when the execution date was set, stating, "We look forward to seeing justice carried out and getting on with our lives." Greg Pipes, assistant district attorney in Tarrant County who won a death sentence against Robison, views him as a dangerous killer who "wiped out three generations of one family." "Is it justice?" Pipes asked. "It's a shame it won't bring back the five people he killed, but it's the only way society can protect itself. He's as dangerous today as the day he killed those five people." Now, the only thing Larry Robison and his mother have left is mercy. "We are going strictly on mercy," Robison said. "That's the only thing left. It is coming to an end one way or the other. He's either going to have his sentence commuted or be executed. I thought at first if people knew the truth, they wouldn't execute him. But this mechanism in Texas is where the truth doesn't much matter. If I can't save Larry, I'm hoping to make a difference with other families." She delivered 24 copies of legal documents, letters, medical records and petitions to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole in a last ditch effort to save her son's life. She said one of the letters urging that her son not be executed is from Tom Landry, the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys. She admits she has little hope. The board will read her documents in their offices and homes around the state and then fax in their responses. The board has only recommended clemency once in all its years.

Case spurs debate

Is Larry Robison mentally ill, unaware that he was murdering five people, or is he faking? "This state has one job: to execute the condemned as quickly ... as possible," said Rick Halperin, a member of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Amnesty International. "Any mitigating circumstances, innocence, juvenile status, mental retardation means nothing." Robison says several psychiatrists have testified that her son is mentally ill. But Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for Attorney General John Cornyn, said that while the state agrees that Larry Robison suffers from some form of mental illness, probably from a drug psychosis, he "exhibited knowledge" that he had committed the murders. "He knew what he was doing and what he was accused of," said Browne. "He did everything from cleaning up after himself at the crime scene to changing license plates on different cars. We believe that all the evidence shows that he was clearly sane when the murders were committed and that is what we have argued all along."

'He had a motive' Prosecutors and police say that on Aug. 10, 1982, Larry Robison decapitated and sexually mutilated his roommate, Rickey Lee Bryant. He then went to an adjacent home and killed Georgia Ann Reed, 34, her son, Scott, 11, and her mother Earline Barker, 55. When Bruce Gardner, 33, arrived at Reed's house, Robison killed him as well. Prosecutors say that Larry Robison stole rings, watches and the wallets of some of the victims. "He had a motive, he had a plan," Pipes said. "He had the ability to understand that he needed to leave as soon as he killed those five people. He killed Ricky Bryant and couldn't find his keys to his car to get away. That's why he went next door -- to get a vehicle. Then afterwards, he goes out and buys more ammunition and flees." Robison said that after the murders, she didn't believe her son could have done it. "I thought the Mafia did it," she said. "I didn't believe any one person could do so much damage." Robison said there is now no doubt that her son killed the five people.

A picture of Goliath's severed head

"He remembers watching someone else do it," Robison said. "He thought God was telling him to do this -- that there was evil here and he had to do something about it. When he was first hospitalized [prior to the murders], he had been saying that God had been telling him to do things. He believed he had to kill 2,000 people. He had read in the bible about David and Goliath, and he had a picture of David holding Goliath's severed head. After the murders, he sat in the blood and muck for several hours waiting for them to come back to life." After the murders, Larry Robison fled to Wichita, Kan., with Gardner's credit cards and car. That's where he was captured. Larry Robison's first murder conviction was overturned in 1983 after an error was made in jury selection. He was retried, found guilty and sentenced to death in 1987. But last year, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Larry Robison's execution on Aug. 17 -- just 4 1/2 hours before he was scheduled to die -- in order to hold a competency hearing. In December, the nine-member panel ruled that Larry Robison was competent and ordered an execution date be set. Pipes said the only issue the appeals court addressed was whether he was competent to be executed. He said Larry Robison understands that he is going to be executed and why he is being executed. "Two different juries concluded that any mental illness he had had no affect on his ability to know his conduct was wrong," Pipes said.

Background of madness and drugs

Robison says mental illness runs on both sides of her family. One of her daughters is now in a treatment facility in Texas. She has had uncles and great-grandfathers who were mentally ill, she said. Larry Robison was an ideal child, one of eight children, his mother said. His natural father died of a malignant brain tumor when Larry Robison was just 2 years old. Larry Robison was in the Boy Scouts. He went to Sunday school. He was smart. Then things started to go wrong. "When he was 12 years old, he would have spells where he was extremely frightened," she said. "He had been a good student, with straight A's, but then his grades dropped. He did get involved in drugs. We thought that was the problem. I know he smoked pot, but I don't know what else. I think he experimented with pills." She said that her son had been placed in several mental hospitals since he was 12 years old but was discharged because he was not violent or because the family had no medical insurance.

Treatment at 15 She first placed her son in an outpatient treatment facility in Kansas when he was 15. They never diagnosed what was wrong with him, Robison said. In Fort Worth, she tried to place her son in a private hospital that cost $200 a day. Robison said she couldn't afford the hospital fee and, with no medical insurance, the hospital refused to keep her son. Another county hospital kept Larry Robinson for 30 days, but let him out because he wasn't violent, his mother said. He was next placed in the Veterans Hospital (VA) in Waco. He was eligible because he had served a year in the Air Force, before being given a discharge after he began hallucinating. However, he was only in the Veterans Administration hospital 30 days because he was not violent, Lois Robison said. But Pipes argues that the "psychosis" and schizophrenia that allegedly made Robison kill was not brought on by mental illness -- but by abusing drugs. The prosecuting attorney said records show that in the cases where Larry Robison was hospitalized, he was treated for drug abuse. "If the mental disorder is brought about by abuse of drugs, then he's still held accountable," Pipes said.

Time running out

Time is running out, and no one is left who will listen. Lois Robison shows psychiatric reports that have been filed in the courts. Dr. Henry A. Nasrallah, chief of mental health services at the VA Medical Center, said that Larry Robison suffers from chronic bipolar disorder -- a severe psychiatric brain disease whose symptoms come and go and can drastically impair judgment and competency, according to court documents filed in the case. Another doctor, Anthony G. Hempel, found that "Larry was psychotic both before and during the mass murder, and it is my opinion that he knew the legal wrongfulness of his actions but not the normal wrongfulness."

Still will fight for condemned

If her son is executed, Robison says she will still have her cause. She believes that many inmates in the prison system are there because they are mentally ill. She says she will fight for them. She recalls years ago when she found out that the families of her son's victims were going to file a lawsuit against a pawnshop that sold him the gun he used to kill. "I wanted to join that lawsuit, but they told me I couldn't. They said I hadn't lost anything."

Baltimore Sun

"The Lost Boy Scout," by Marego Athans. (October 2, 1999)

For years, Lois and Ken Robison begged for psychiatric help for their son. Today, they plead for his life and those of other mentally ill prisoners on Death Row. Lois and Ken Robison raised eight children the old-fashioned way -- Sunday school, Boy Scouts and family outings to drive-in movies. She taught third grade; he taught Spanish. They are not the sort of people who expected to be visiting Death Row.

But something went wrong with their son Larry: paranoid schizophrenia, doctors finally concluded. The hospitals wouldn't keep him because he wasn't violent. Then, in 1982 at age 24, he proved the doctors wrong and killed five people, including an 11-year-old boy. That's when Lois Robison, who had spent years fighting to get someone to treat her son, found herself fighting to stop the state of Texas from executing him -- and everyone else who's mentally ill and on Death Row. In the past 16 years, she has taken her crusade across the country and beyond, from the Texas legislature to the "Today Show," from the Philippines to Baltimore when Flint Gregory Hunt was executed in 1997. "It never was about just Larry," Lois Robison said recently from her home in Burleson, outside Fort Worth, the day after her son got a temporary reprieve from execution. "It was about all the mentally ill in prison and about getting the proper mental health care for everyone who needs it so we don't have to have these tragedies."

Today her struggle has reached the 11th hour, with the state's highest criminal court set to decide in November whether Larry Robison, 42, is sane enough to be executed. If Robison -- whose story is part of the current "An Exquisite Dream of Fire" at Baltimore Theatre Project -- is deemed too ill, the state faces a ghoulish prospect: If doctors are assigned to treat him, they could make him well enough to be executed. "It's a real ethical conflict for the psychiatrists and doctors," said Richard Dieter, executive director of Washington's Death Penalty Information Center. "You're treating them so they can be healthy so they can be executed." The case, besides adding to the debate over death sentences for the mentally ill, has exposed the frustrations often faced by those desperate for treatment. Had someone listened to Lois Robison early on, five -- maybe six -- lives might have been saved.

The couple, with Lois in the more visible role but Ken working tirelessly by her side, have drawn attention in part because they're so ordinary, both former Scout leaders and Sunday school teachers who were in church whenever the doors were open. The gray-haired grandmother, describing how a happy middle-class life unraveled, asks people to examine how society handles its mentally ill. "My Texan culture is very pro death penalty, and my family's attitude is that it's a necessary evil," said Suzanne Rittenberry, vice chair of the board of Texas CURE, which works to improve life for inmates and their families. "But when my parents met Ken and Lois, people who could be their relatives, they had this sense of `there, but for the grace of God.' "

Family members of the victims, however, aren't swayed by the Robisons' dedication, and argue that the death penalty should proceed against a convicted murderer pronounced sane by a jury. "His mother cannot live with the horror of the fact that her son murdered five people, so she has convinced herself that he's insane and has recruited advocacy groups by convincing them as well," said Melissa Estes, first cousin to one of the victims. "She's retrying the issue of his insanity in the press, which is a subversion of trial by jury in our justice system."

The family history

Larry Robison started showing signs of trouble as an adolescent, though he was never violent until his sudden rampage in 1982, according to family members, and attorneys, medical records and letters going back 20 years. Larry was the third child and first son of Lois and her first husband, Lloyd Epp, who died of brain cancer when Larry was two. Three years later, Lois -- struggling to raise four children -- met Ken Robison, a father of two, at church. They couldn't afford baby-sitters, so Lois and Ken dated with six little chaperones. They piled the kids in the station wagon with sandwiches and cookies and a big quilt and headed for the drive-in movies on dollar night. They married and had two children together, for a total of eight.

Larry was quiet and easy going, a day dreamer who loved Captain Kangaroo -- but also an avid reader with high marks, active in Boy Scouts, the swim team, the church youth group and the school band. He was 12 when his parents first noticed something was wrong. He disrupted class. His grades dropped. He collected strange things, lots of pencils and staplers. By high school he was into drugs, running away from home, suffering bouts of irrational fear and hearing voices. A Kansas City psychiatric center couldn't identify his problem, nor could a mental health center in Fort Worth.

At 17, he enlisted in the Air Force, but his condition deteriorated -- he was now hallucinating -- and he was honorably discharged after a year. By then, Larry thought he could move things with his mind. He built a plywood pyramid and slept under it because he thought it would give him special powers. He worked briefly as a wallboard hanger and got married, but the relationship only lasted a few weeks. He called home, sometimes begging for help, and said his roommates were trying to hurt him. People could read his mind. He had been flying out of his body over the middle of Fort Worth while singing the story of his life. The CIA and Air Force were chasing him. The power coming out of his head had exploded a car and killed its passengers. He was responsible for everything in the newspapers: wars, accidents, disasters, divorces. The CIA was giving him secret messages on the TV news and the programs were making fun of him.

Finally, emergency-room doctors diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic and said he needed long-term treatment. But upon discovering that Larry was 21 and his parents' insurance didn't cover him, Lois Robison said, the hospital discharged him. Repeatedly, Larry was pronounced mentally ill, a condition intensified by drug abuse. Repeatedly, he was released, his mother said, because he wasn't "violent" and the hospital needed the bed, or because he didn't have insurance. When in 1979 he was arrested for stealing a truck, his parents left him in jail for six months; the judge would not commit Larry to a mental hospital. "I am frankly afraid for him to be turned loose on the streets again, which is one reason we did not arrange for bail ," Lois Robison wrote to her attorney, Kenneth Price, three years before the murders. "I was told by a doctor at the VA hospital that if he doesn't get (treatment) he will continue to get worse and could be a danger to himself and others." Eventually, a residental drug treatment program took Larry. He worked construction jobs and had a daughter with a woman who, spooked by his behavior, soon left.

Then, on Aug. 10, 1982, five people were mutilated, shot and stabbed at the home of Larry's friend, Rickey Bryant -- where Larry was living temporarily -- and a neighboring cottage near Fort Worth. They included Bryant, who had been shot twice in the head, decapitated, stabbed 49 times and sexually mutilated. Larry Robison, who did not deny committing the crimes, pleaded innocent by reason of insanity but was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. The conviction was overturned. Robison was retried, convicted and condemned again.

That's when Lois Robison, who had never before made a speech, became a spokeswoman for mentally ill inmates, who make up about 16 percent of the U.S. prison and jail population, according to recent Justice Department statistics. She wasn't arguing to have Larry set free but to have him committed to a hospital for life. "She promised herself and the family she was not going to lie down and accept this," Vickie Barnett, her daughter, said. But Lois and Ken were not only advocating for Larry; in fact, their hopes for saving Larry diminished with each execution of a Texas inmate who claimed to be mentally ill or retarded. ("It's like trying to hold back a freight train with your bare hands," Lois said. "It doesn't seem to matter what makes sense. They just keep running over people.") Still, the couple pressed on, hoping that publicizing Larry's case would lead to changes in policy. "The most horrible crimes are done by the few mentally ill people who are untreated," Lois said. "The only way to prevent that is to treat people early on." According to a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, mentally ill people may be executed if they understand the punishment that awaits them and why they are being put to death.

In 1983, immediately after the sentencing, Lois and Ken joined CURE, Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, and now publish the group's newsletter. They founded HOPE, Help our Prisoners Exist, a support group for the families and friends of death row inmates. They also signed on with Journey of Hope, an educational pilgrimage that has taken them to marches and speaking engagements across the country, mostly at their own expense. They spearheaded a project that put fans in Texas prisons. They have cataloged and exposed incidents of prisoner abuse. Barnett, Larry's sister, created a Web site for the case,

"That's why in Huntsville you see a throng of people," Rittenberry said. "People react on the merits of the case, but there also are a lot of people very grateful to Ken and Lois for the work they've done." In the years since the first trial, the Robisons have learned of a history of mental illness on both sides of Larry's family. And while they were fighting for Larry, new problems arose at home. In 1989, the Robisons' youngest daughter, Carol, was diagnosed as manic-depressive and schizo-affective, and is now living in a residential mental health center. But much of that history, along with the testimony of doctors, was not heard by jurors, something that lawyers familiar with the case attribute to a weak defense. The family has exhausted its appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the case. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously refused to recommend commuting the death sentence, and Gov. George W. Bush did not weigh in. The execution was set for Aug. 17.

On that day, 200 family members and supporters of Larry Robison, as well as the victim's families and advocates for and against the death penalty, gathered in Huntsville. Four hours before the scheduled lethal injection, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted a temporary stay and sent the case back to trial court to examine Robison's competency to be executed. The stay was an unusual decision that may have been influenced by a new state law, effective Sept. 1, that spells out procedures for deciding whether an inmate is mentally competent for execution. And alternately, some death penalty authorities speculate that the Republican-dominated appeals court saved Bush from looking one too many times like the execution governor when he's running for the presidency as a "compassionate conservative." So, a planned memorial service for Larry turned into a thanksgiving celebration at First Methodist Church in Huntsville.

Families of the victims, however, were not celebrating. "Lethal injection is too good for him," Gloria Windham, whose mother, sister and nephew were killed, said from her home in Alabama. "In Alabama, we'd fry him. I'd like him to suffer like Georgia [her sister] did, to beg for his life and know the terror she must have known." Though Larry got a stay, Lois Robison wasn't finished. She was telling anyone who'd listen that Joe Mario Trevino, a fellow inmate of Larry's who was scheduled to die the next day, was also mentally ill. But Trevino's case drew little media interest. Before he was put to death, Trevino gave Larry his fan. "They're all my sons," she said, sobbing.

`Blank and sad'

As lawyers prepare for the competency hearing Nov. 8, Lois Robison continues to make the four-hour trip to Huntsville every week, usually with Ken, to visit Larry. Through a glass partition, they talk about the family, which now includes 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and how they love each other. The Robisons aren't allowed to touch their son; instead they each press their hands on the glass, and Lois kisses the glass and hugs herself in a symbolic hug for him. They all cry. In the weeks leading up to the execution date, Lois has told Larry things she wanted him to know before he died: what he was like as a little boy, how much she enjoyed having him, what a good boy he was and what a fine student. He responded, she said, with a big smile. Right after the stay, Lois said, "He looked kind of blank and sad. It didn't seem to matter, like they couldn't kill him anyhow." Recently he told her: "Remember, Mom, this is really just a movie. What you think is happening is not real. When the movie's over, we'll find out what is really real." The Rev. Melodee Smith, one of Robison's attorneys, said Larry does not believe the state has the power to kill him. He has evolved into a higher, spiritual being, he contends, and nothing can affect him. He believes he has already died several times.

Larry has not received psychiatric treatment or medication in prison. Now, psychiatrists selected by the state and the defense are evaluating him. If he is found competent, he will likely get another execution date. If not, he will likely return to Death Row, where he may be treated for his illness and periodically re-examined for competency. "The sad thing about this," Rittenberry said, "is that 17 years after the fact, who is being punished here? It's not a punishment for Larry. The only people who are going to be punished here are Ken and Lois, the very people who were trying to prevent this from happening from the start."

World Socialist Web Site

"Paranoid Schizophrenic Executed in Texas," by Kate Randall. (24 January 2000)

Larry Keith Robison, 42, was put to death on Friday, January 21, despite pleas to Texas Governor George W. Bush to spare the life of the mentally ill man. He died by lethal injection in Huntsville Friday evening. The European Union, Pope John Paul II and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill had called on Bush to halt the execution.

Larry Robison, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of five people in 1982, carried out while he was in a psychotic state. Robison's mother, Lois, had repeatedly sought treatment for her son, but was unable to find affordable psychiatric help in Texas. Because her son was unemployed and over 21 he was not covered by his parents' medical insurance and they couldn't pay the enormous cost of private mental health care.

Robison was the fourth person put to death in Texas this month. Executed earlier this month were David Hicks, Earl Heiselbetz and Spencer Goodman. The state plans to execute Billy Hughes, Glen McGinnis and James Moreland this week. Since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, 202 men and one woman have been put to death in Texas, more than any other state. Virginia, the second-highest state, has put to death 75 people.

Texas Governor and Republican presidential frontrunner George W. Bush, campaigning in Iowa, took no action to stop the execution. Bush spokesman Mike Jones commented that it is not the place of the governor to make judgments about the mental competency of inmates. “Those are issues to be dealt with by the courts,” Jones said. As governor, Bush has presided over 114 executions since taking office in 1995, and has commuted only one death sentence. Included among those executed have been the mentally ill as well as those convicted of crimes when they were juveniles. There are currently 460 men and 9 women on death row in Texas. According to Judge Michael McCormick of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, “The reason we have so many people on death row is plain and simple: We have a lot of bad people committing capital murders, and we are doing something about it.”

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a stay of execution in Robison's case last August 17, ordering a lower court to hold a hearing to determine whether Robison was mentally competent to be executed under Texas law. State law says that a prisoner must be coherent enough to understand why he is being put to death, but does not prohibit execution of those who are mentally ill at the time of the crime. The lower court ruled that Robison understood the nature of his punishment and therefore could be put to death.

At Robison's two criminal trials juries never heard evidence of his mental illness. The assistant district attorney who prosecuted his case commented, “There are an awful lot of people diagnosed as schizophrenic that aren't killing people.”

This latest execution underscores the brutalization and criminalization of the mentally ill by the US criminal justice and prison system, and the state of Texas in particular. There are currently a quarter-million mentally ill individuals incarcerated in the nation's prisons and jails. While Texas has institutionalized the execution of the mentally ill, the state ranks forty-second among the 50 states in per capita spending on mental health services.

ABOLISH Archives

01-21-00 - TEXAS: (impending execution)

Barring a last-minute stay by Lt. Gov Rick Perry, Larry Keith Robison will be put to death Friday evening for killing 5 people near Lake Worth in 1982. The 42-year-old Robison is scheduled to die by injection sometime after 6 p.m, despite pleas from Pope John Paul II and several national and international human rights organizations.

Mr. Robison's supporters say he suffers from schizophrenia, which was not adequately reflected in his sentence. Although he has asked his lawyers to end any appeals that could delay his execution, his mother, Lois Robison, continues fighting for his life. Ms. Robison's clemency appeal was unanimously rejected Wednesday by the 18-member Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. She said her son's death sentence should be commuted to life in prison. "The only hope we have is for George Bush to have mercy," Ms. Robison said Thursday.

Linda Edwards, spokeswoman for the governor, said he is campaigning in Iowa, and Lt. Gov. Perry will decide whether to grant a 30-day reprieve. "We want to be sure that all of the appeals are exhausted. We will look at the case and determine whether Mr. Robison received due process from the courts," said Ray Sullivan, Lt. Gov. Perry's spokesman. One of Mr. Robison's attorneys, Melodee Smith of Miami, said a 1-month stay would allow her to return to court with more evidence about her client's mental illness. "A reprieve would allow us to present evidence we've uncovered about Larry's recurring illness," said Ms. Smith, who has represented Mr. Robison since October.

"Throughout his life, he's suffered from a bipolar disorder. Larry does not want to die but he does not want anyone to think he's mentally ill," said Ms. Smith, a United Methodist minister. She said Mr. Robison's case highlights the "ineptitude of the judicial system to deal with mental illness issues." "The state doesn't want to make Larry Robison a martyr, but clearly the state has been remiss in acknowledging his mental illness. We're asking for justice, mercy and compassion," she said.

Mr. Robison was condemned for the Aug. 10, 1982, slayings of 5 people near Lake Worth. Among those killed in the bloody rampage was Mr. Robison's roommate, Ricky Lee Bryant, who was shot, stabbed and decapitated. Mr. Robison then went next door and killed 4 others, including an 11-year-old boy. His 34-year-old neighbor, Georgia Reed, was caring for her sick mother Earline Barker, 55, who was recovering from surgery. Both women died from stab wounds. Ms. Reed's son, Scotty Reed, was fatally shot. The boy was 2 days from his 12th birthday. The 5th victim was Ms. Reed's boyfriend, Bruce Gardner, who arrived at the home to pick Ms. Reed up for a picnic. Prosecutors said Mr. Robison shot Mr. Gardner in the head and fled in his car.

During a court hearing in November, Mr. Robison apologized to the families of the victims. A spokeswoman for the families did not return a call Thursday. Ms. Robison said that her son asked the state to schedule his execution because he no longer wanted to live on death row. She said her son has asked her not to attend his execution. "He wants us to remember him the way he was when he was alive," she said.