May 8, 2015
A man who pretended to be a police officer during a home invasion and slaying in St. Petersburg in 2012 was found guilty of first-degree murder after jury deliberations Tuesday.
Christopher Roberson and three other men claimed to be police when they stormed into Richard Shaw’s north St. Petersburg home on June 19, 2012, and demanded money and drugs from the man before shooting him in the back, prosecutors said.
Roberson, 33, wasn’t charged in the slaying for more than two years. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Police in 2012 said another home invasions happened about 30 minutes earlier than the incident in which Shaw, 41, was killed at 7014 Orpine Drive. The earlier incident took place in the 5800 block of First Avenue North. In both cases, intruders shouted they were police officers upon entering the homes, St. Petersburg Police said in October. Roberson and two other arrested men are suspects in the earlier case, authorities said, but have not been charged.
Roberson’s attorney, Kelly McCabe, said evidence tying her client to the crime isn’t adequate. Prosecutors used cell phone records to build their case against Roberson, showing the phone he was given for work was used in the vicinity of Shaw’s home after 4 a.m., about the time Shaw was killed.
But McCabe said Roberson didn’t have the cell phone at the time because he was expected in court on June 20 and was going to plead guilty to an unrelated charge. Knowing he would be taken to jail, on his last day of working with his cousin he returned the job-issued phone.
Records show the phone being used early on the 19th when Roberson says he was home with his children, and it continued to be used after he was taken to jail on June 20, 2012.
“He doesn’t have a cell phone in the jail,” McCabe said during closing arguments Tuesday.
Assistant State Attorney Michael Marr told jurors in his response that to distance himself from Shaw’s death, “he’s got to distance himself from that phone.”
Justin Maurice Hart and Charles C. Stone were arrested in the months following the slaying. Stone identified Roberson as being involved, and Roberson was arrested in October. Stone testified in court in exchange for lesser charges of second-degree murder, which carries a maximum 25-year prison term.
McCabe argued Stone’s testimony incriminating Roberson was self serving, and that he would have said anything the state wanted to ensure he wouldn’t face a first-degree murder charge.
McCabe tried to shift involvement in the home invasion to Roberson’s cousin, who better fit a physical description of the suspect police said was Roberson, and who was in possession of the phone after June 18.