My son, Joshua Robinson, 20, was found dead, with a swing chain around his neck, in Amsler Park in McGregor, Texas, at 5:15 AM on February 16, 2006. The police immediately ruled his death a suicide.
For over two years, Joshua had been dating a young girl named Kayla, who lived with her maternal grandparents. Kayla’s brother was Joshua’s best friend. In late November, 2005, Joshua came to me, very upset, because Kayla had a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t understand his panic until he told me she might be pregnant and, if so, would be sent to live with her mother in Houston. I calmed him down by telling him that, if Kayla did prove to be pregnant, the two of them could get married, and Kayla could move in with us to have her baby. That seemed to make him feel better. I can only assume the pregnancy test was negative, as the situation was never mentioned again.
On February 16, 2006, the day before Joshua died, a stranger appeared at my door, demanding to speak with Joshua. Friends at my house recognized her as Mary Casareza, a daughter of Kayla’s grandmother. I told her truthfully that Joshua was not at home. Mary started complaining about Joshua’s relationship with Kayla, and I let slip the fact that there had been a scare in November. Mary went off like a sky rocket! She told me, “If Kayla is pregnant, your son is going to prison for statutory rape!”
When Joshua came home an hour later, I felt that I had to tell him about that encounter. Joshua left but soon returned, telling me that he’d had a talk with Mary and everything was all right. He went out again, and returned about 9:40 P.M., furious because he’d been told he couldn’t see Kayla. This was not the first time that had happened. Once in a while Kayla’s Grandma would lay down rules keeping Joshua away until the weekend. I knew that he was taking his frustration out on me because he didn’t want to further antagonize Kayla’s family. He left to walk off his anger and never returned.
It was a long and disquieting night for me.
Bill Holt, the father of Justin, a friend of my other son, Michael, routinely ran the perimeter of the park every morning. This particular morning he left his home at 5:15 A.M. When he reached the park he saw flashing lights, spotlights and two police cars. Nearing the swing set, he thought he saw his own son Justin. Bill raced home in a panic to make sure that Justin was safe in his bed. At 6:29, Justin called Michael to tell him that his father had told him that someone was hanging in the park.
Michael, who also lived with me, came to me to tell me he had something to tell me. “Mama,” he said, “Justin called me. Someone’s hanging in the park.”
My brain refused to wrap around that information. At some level I knew it was my son, yet it just wasn’t possible. I told Michael to run to the park, which was about a block away, to see what was going on and to come right back.
Michael started running, and I rushed after him, but after a half a block I collapsed in the road. When Michael didn’t return, I knew my fears were reality. A patrol car pulled up to our house, and an officer approached me. I said, “Please, don’t tell me what you are going to tell me.” He said, “I’m sorry, Ma’am.” That was the only contact I had with the police.
It was Michael who identified his brother’s body and responded to the officers’ questions. He told the police that Joshua and I had argued the previous evening, which was not unusual for us, as we’d always had a confrontational relationship. Police used that statement to convince Dr. Quinton, the Medical Examiner, who originally ruled Joshua’s cause of death as “undetermined,” to change that finding to “suicide.”
I learned about the “suicide” finding from an article in the Waco Tribune Herald. Police gave that information to reporters before they gave it to me or before there was an investigation or autopsy.
There is no evidence to indicate Joshua committed suicide or even that he died by hanging. A report by Det. Martin included the statement, “Reportedly Joshua was a drug user.” However, Toxicology came back negative on drugs and alcohol. The Medical Examiner found no evidence of strangulation and no damage to the neck area except from bruising by the chain. A brain study done at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Science showed that Joshua’s neck was not broken. Scene photos, which I finally received on April 28, 2006, do not show Joshua hanging from the bar of the swing as I had visualized. From the small amount of information I was given, I had assumed that Joshua had climbed to the top of the swing set, wrapped the chain, and jumped. Yet the photos make it clear that didn’t happen. They show Joshua on the ground on his knees with the chain almost looped around his neck. There was also bruising on the finger tips of Joshua’s left hand and on the inside of his right forearm. Upon an Internet search, I discovered that the bruising could possibly mean that Joshua had made an attempt to get free of the chain. That would mean that, if Joshua had been allowed to stand up, the chain would have released.
The police reports are a tangle of confusion and contradictions. According to reports, Officer Kirby was the first cop at the scene, running to the body and checking for a pulse. However according to dispatch logs, his car, #1507, was not dispatched to the park until 6:48 A.M.. So, how could he have been the first officer at the scene?
Reports state police were dispatched at 5:35 A.M., arriving at 5:36 A.M., which would seem to indicate that they were already there at the time they were dispatched.
Officer Jared Norris stated in his report that he did not recognize “the subject.” Yet police ran a “wants and warrants check” on Joshua at 5:44 AM, only eight minutes after arriving at the scene. Joshua was carrying no ID, and there was no suicide note. Police allegedly learned his identity from Michael over one hour later. How could they run a records check on an unidentified subject?
On March 10, 2006, I called Detective Martin and asked him why I, as Joshua’s mother and allegedly the last person to see him alive, never was interviewed. He told me, “We found out everything we needed to know from talking to Michael, Kayla and Mr. Holt.” When I questioned Kayla and Bill Holt about this, both told me they were not interviewed.
Amsler Park, where Joshua often went to walk off his anger, has a 10 P.M. curfew. Police check the park on an hourly basis to make certain that it’s unoccupied. On the night of Joshua’s death they allegedly were too busy to do that. However, during a recorded phone conversation on March 22, 2006, with Kelly Lewis Amecuzca of the Southwest Medical Center in Dallas, I learned that this was not the case. Ms. Amecuzca told me, “It says right here in the report that he was last seen at 1 A.M. by a patrol officer in the park, and (his body) was found about 5:30 A.M. …. Ooops, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that.”
What do I personally believe happened to my son that night? From physical evidence and from the actions and attitude of the McGregor Police Department, the scenario that appears most likely is that police did do a check of the park at 1 A.M., as indicated in the report they sent the Southwest Medical Center. If Joshua was there, walking off his anger at not being allowed to visit his girlfriend, he would not have taken kindly to being evicted. Joshua must have identified himself to those officers, or they would not have been able to run a background check on him. Perhaps they tried to force him to leave or to arrest him, and an altercation occurred that got out of hand.
I suspect Joshua’s death may have been an "overlay death," caused by placing a knee in the back of someone lying on the ground so the diaphragm cannot move and the lungs cannot inhale/exhale. Once those officers realized Joshua was dead or close to dead, I suspect that they panicked and attempted to stage a suicide. I believe that Joshua was "drug" to the chain, as his boots have "drag" marks on them in a straight line. I speculate that those cops then called in their fellow officers to cover up for them, and the Blue Code went into effect, influencing the actions of everyone involved in the investigation.
In June, 2006, four officers that were on scene were asked to resign for unknown reasons. The McGregor Police Department only has eight officers at any given time.
On January 7, 2007, on Channel 25 News, it was announced that the McGregor Police are now considering disbanding and allowing the McLwennan County Sheriff’s Department to take over. I’d like to believe that my efforts in publicizing the problems with Joshua’s case may have had something to do with this.
Cynthia Robinson (Joshua’s mother)