Joshua Robinson was found hanging from the swing set in Amsler Park on February 16, 2006. Just shy of his 20th birthday, this man hadn’t shown any suicidal tendencies, wasn’t on medication for depression, and although he had been a drug user in the past, wasn’t on anything. Toxicology reports would prove this.
Why would this man commit suicide? His family and friends vehemently declare he wouldn’t. After viewing the crime scene photos it would seem impossible for him to end up in such a peculiar position.
I’m getting ahead of myself. Backing up. What are the particulars in this case?
First, you have a 19-year-old man who ends up dead. He is 5′ 8″ tall and weighs a 185 pounds. Joshua Robinson lived with his mother Cynthia and his brother Michael in McGregor Texas. He had been dating a woman named Kayla for a while now but her family was not happy about it. On many occasion, Kayla’s grandmother would refuse to let Joshua see her granddaughter at all.
The night before Josh was death a woman appeared at Cynthia’s home and threw a fit wanting to talk to Joshua. He was not home but when Cynthia mentioned the possibility of Kayla being pregnant the woman became irate and threatened to have Josh were arrested for statutory rape. Cynthia would later discover that this woman was none other than Mary Casareza; Kayla’s aunt.
When Joshua made it home that evening his mother related the story to him. He immediately went out to visit Kayla’s family and to smooth things over. When he came back he vented his frustrations on his mother and decided to go for a walk to cool off. This was a standard practice for him. It was not unusual for Joshua and his mother to have a row, nor was it unusual for him to choose to walk around the perimeter of the nearby Amsler park.
When Joshua didn’t return home in the morning Cynthia was worried, but that fear became a panic when her neighbor found a man hanging from the swing set in the park and made a frantic call to 911.
Here is where things become even stranger. When one hears of a person hanging from the swing set one automatically pictures the victim hanging from the crossbar above his head, but this is not the case. Viewing the crime scene photos, one is struck by the strange position of the body.
For those who can’t handle the crime scene photos at the end of this post, I will try to explain them. First of all, he is on his knees, the chain is partially wrapped around his neck, and oddly the seat of the swing is flipped upside down upon his back. He is not facing forward as one would assume. His body is angled towards the swing next to him with his feet turned inward and angled towards the exterior poll of the swing.
In order to land in this position, this man would have had to climb up on to the cross beam on the end of the swing and dive inwards towards the swing. At 5′ 8″, this would be very difficult to do. After obtaining pictures of the swing set, I am startled to realize that the A-frame crossbar is missing. (Also strange: shortly after this event, the city removed the swing completely)
If this were the only discrepancy, in this case, one could assume that gravity and physics could have played a trick upon us, but this is just the beginning of the discrepancies.
Here is the timeline for this case:
5:15 a.m. – A jogger sees the body hanging from the swing set and in a panic dials 911
5:35 a.m. – The police were dispatched to the scene
5:36 a.m. – The police radio into dispatch that they are on site
Former officer Walter Kirby claimed to be the 1st officer on the scene. His report states that he ran to the body to check for a pulse and found none. The only problem is there is no record of his car being dispatched to Amsley park until 6:48 a.m.
According to their own statements all 4 officers that were on site claimed to not have known the victim and yet 8 minutes later they called in and ran a “Wants & Warrants” check on the victim. How could they have run this check if they had no idea of the victim’s identity?
If this where the end of the discrepancies one might excuse this case, but this is only the beginning.
At the autopsy, one would figure the medical examiner would label the cause of death as “Death by Strangulation.” Instead, the M.E. found something unusual about the cause of death. The bruises from the chain around the victim’s neck were only surface deep.
There was no damage to the tendons and muscles in the neck and the neck itself was not broken. The victim was not strangled by the chain around his neck. Therefore, the M.E. initially ruled the cause of death as “Undetermined.”
This ruling was changed when the medical examiner received a report from Detective, Kory Martin. It contained three things.
1. The victim was a drug user
2. He had a fight with his mother the night before
3. It was an apparent suicide (chain vs. neck)
Somehow this was enough to change the medical examiner’s report from an undetermined cause of death to suicide.
Cynthia’s arguments on these points:
1. Although Joshua had been arrested as minor for possession of marijuana, his toxicology reports came back clean he had no drugs or alcohol in his system. (For the record: I have seen the toxicology report)
2. As for the argument with his mother, this was a common occurrence but they had a very loving relationship otherwise.
3. The chain only left surface bruising, not enough to cause strangulation.
Another strange twist, in this case, was the odd bruising that appeared upon the body after death. The victim had bruising to the tips of his fingers on his left hand, and bruising upon his right bicep and shoulder as if he had been clawing at the chain. If he were choking, why didn’t he stand up? That was all that was required to release the pressure.
Studying the autopsy reports:
5’8″ male – 185 lbs.
The neck was not broken, no obstructed airway. No damage to the strap muscles in his neck.
Here’s a little anatomy lesson for you:
The lungs are covered with a thin membrane, called parenchyma, this is where the Alveoli are. Alveoli are tiny lung capillaries covering the lungs. These tiny vessels burst, causing ‘reddish-purple spit to drip from mouth. The chest cavity fills with blood causing congestive heart failure, or as in this case, death by suffocation. The official diagnosis: Red-purple parenchyma with pulmonary edema
How does this happen?
When a person is lying face down and a heavy object is placed between the shoulder blades, this puts pressure on the diaphragm. If the pressure is too great the Alveoli burst causing suffocation.
Could a knee have been placed in the middle of his back?
This would have been my first question as an investigative journalist and armchair detective. Why then, wouldn’t the authorities investigate this as a possible homicide until proven otherwise?
What follows appears to be a small town police force refusing to investigate a murder. Maybe they were understaffed? Maybe they had already come to their own conclusions because the victim had been labeled by his criminal record? Who knows, but what follows is even stranger than the story so far.
All four on scene officers were forced to resign within three months of this event. No public reasons were given. To make things look even worse, the interim chief of police resigned within the year. Why? We may never know.
Synova’s two cents:
While I was raised to respect law enforcement, I find all of these discrepancies hard to swallow. I fall short of thinking there was a massive police cover-up, but I find it strange that no one investigated Kayla’s family. Could there have been an irate brother or cousin that resented Joshua? She certainly had an aunt that did.
Twelve years a poor mother has struggled and fought to have this case investigated. Her emotions have run wild, she has spent years trying to drink away her sorrow. Sure her son wasn’t perfect and he had a criminal record, but does that mean he deserved to die without the basic rights of all Americans? Did he deserve to be labeled as a thug and therefore he gave up his right to have his death investigated? I think not.
If someone reading this has compassion for a grieving mother, and possesses the ability to get this case reopened I think it is your responsibility to do so.
She was a beautiful, brown-eyed, 10-year-old from Springfield, MO. Hailey Owens was walking home from a friends house in the 3200 block of W. Lombard St. It wasn’t a long way, nor was it unusual for the child to traverse the area. On February 18, 2014, neighbors watched in horror as she was snatched off the street and tosed into a pickup truck. The male witness jumped in his vehicle and tried to chase the truck, while the woman wrote down the lisence number and made a frantic call to 911. Unfortunately, the heavy traffic afforded the kidnapper an easy escape.
Police arrived on the scene just before 5 pm to take witness statements. The statewide Amber Alert was issued by 7 pm. By 8:30 pm the truck was located at the home of Craig Wood.
Police arrested Wood and began searching for Hailey hoping to find her alive. After all, it had only been four hours since she was snatched. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
Officers noticed a strong bleach smell as they entered the basement of Woods’ home. Later, Hailey’s body was found stuffed in a plastic tub. She had been raped and shot in the back of the head.
Anger erupted across the Ozarks and quickly spread nationwide. How could an ex-coach rape and murder a tiny 77lb girl?
Wood, 45 was a former employee of the Springfield school system. He worked as a teacher’s aide and a football coach for sixteen years. Officers found child pornography including pictures of four young female students from the school where he had worked.
A candlelight vigil was organized on February 23rd. 10,000 people marched from Commercial St. to the Jefferson Ave. footbridge. The bridge was lit up with purple lights. Purple was Hailey’s favorite color.
The trial began on October 30, 2017. Wood claimed his Meth binge caused him to kill Hailey Owens. He was convicted of 1st degree murder on November’s 4th. Defense attorneys argued that the lack of premeditation should spare Woods from the death penalty. Much to the public’s surprise, the jury couldn’t decide on the death penalty.
Defense attorneys quickly filed a motion requesting a new trial citing errors by the judge.
While the public went on with their holiday celebrations, the family of Hailey Owens were forced to wait on justice. The ruling wouldn’t come until after the new year.
January 11, 2018:
Judge Thomas Mountjoy denied Craig Wood’s appeal for a new trial. Later the same day he sentenced Wood to death by lethal injection.
Hailey’s parents are working hard to get “Hailey’s Law” passed. If passed, it will help streamline the Amber Alert system in hopes of saving lives. A 2-hour window elapsed between Haily’s abduction and the Amber Alert. Could those 120 minutes have saved Hailey? We will never know, but if it saves one child in the future then I say pass it. Get it on the books.
This case took an odd turn when Craig Woods’ family joined Hailey’s family in trying to push through Hailey’s Law.
There are many photos available of Craig Woods online, but I refuse to plaster his sorry face on my blog. If you want to see him then you can google it.