Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Harvey Robinson: Adolescent Serial Killer

Case Pending

From prison in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, Robinson has posted on prisoner Web sites, looking for correspondents.  He indicates that he enjoys exercise, writing, music, and reading self-help books.  He particularly likes to help others.  "Life is so truly precious," he writes, "so anything I can do for another is something I'm interested in and like."  In 2005, he indicated that many family members and friends had abandoned him.

While no one can say what actually caused Robinson to rape and murder, or why he kept on doing it, he did grow up with disadvantages that could have influenced his resistant and suspicious perception of other people.  It's little surprise that he turned to antisocial acts.  He simply grew angrier, and with each failure, he probably filled his fantasies with scenarios of things he could do to empower himself.  Each time he broke a law and was caught, and each time he harmed or killed someone, he updated his perceptions of the world, viewing power as equivalent to taking something from others via burglary, rape and murder.

If current theories about the stability of antisocial personality factors hold true, then outside prison, Robinson would likely have continued to act out with violence, especially toward authority figures, as represented by women who apparently resembled his mother and by officers of the legal system.  Even as a juvenile, he tended to graduate to more secure facilities with each new incarceration, rather than less secure ones.  He may have been born physiologically with a reactive temperament or absorbed it from his father, who also used violence against others, as some experts have suggested. Perhaps he then processed the world through how others reacted to him, which to him would have seemed negative and unpleasant. 

In any event, despite reports that in recent years he has been a quiet prisoner, it's difficult to know what he might have done had he returned to an environment full of triggers for his form of antisocial behavior.  In general, it's been found that past behavior is a strong predictor of future behavior.  Robinson has declined psychopathy and, despite the physical evidence and the multiple identifications of him by victims, has long insisted that he did not commit the crimes.  This lack of acknowledgment or insight is not generally productive for reformed behavior.  Even those who supported him after his initial arrest admitted he could be manipulative.  He might put on a show of obeying rules, one probation officer said at his trial, just to keep authorities off his back, and when he was offered opportunities in the past to better himself, he ignored them.  Whether he will one day be executed or instead spend his life in prison, there's little chance, despite his attempts, that this convicted serial killer will ever be free.


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