A 63-year-old Pelican Bay woman was sentenced to 18 years in prison on Monday for killing her husband in 2010 and burying him in the front yard where his body was undiscovered for three years.
Just hours before jury selection was to begin in her murder trial, Neola Robinson reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in state District Judge Robb Catalano’s court.
She admitted that she killed 57-year-old Ervin “Shorty” Robinson on May 31, 2010. His body was exhumed on July 15, 2013, buried at a depth of just 15 inches.
“A person he should’ve been able to trust the most, his own wife, was responsible for putting him there,” said prosecutor Joshua Ross.
Robinson must serve half of her sentence before she is eligible for parole, court officials said Monday.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed a charge of tampering with evidence.
After Shorty Robinson’s employer reported him missing on June 16, 2010, Neola Robinson told investigators that her husband left with another woman and moved to Ontario, Calif. Authorities found no trace of him there.
Investigators who searched the couple’s property in the 1500 block of Partridge Court reported a spot in the yard where the dirt had been disturbed. But Neola Robinson told them that she had buried a dog there. Investigators found evidence that she had owned a dog, and the grave didn’t appear large enough for a person, they reported.
During the summer of 2010, Neola Robinson used an ATM debit card to draw money from Shorty Robinson’s personal checking account. Two checks with his signature were also cashed during that time, according to an affidavit in the case.
In August, authorities searched the house and found a large bloodstain in the bathroom. They also noted that the residence was much cleaner than when officers responded to a domestic dispute call the previous May.
But then the case went cold. And for three years, Neola Robinson stuck to her story that her husband had left her, a neighbor told the Star-Telegram.
The case was reopened June 6, 2013, when Pelican Bay Police Chief James Frawley contacted Texas Rangers for help. Ranger Clair Barnes interviewed witnesses again and reviewed evidence gathered in 2010.
Shorty Robinson had been married eight times before. He and Neola were married for three years when trouble began in 2010, relatives say.
On May 22, 2010, Neola Robinson found her husband at an Azle bar where she told a friend of his that Shorty had better not come home or “he would be missing body parts,” according to a 2010 search warrant affidavit.
That evening, Pelican Bay police were dispatched to a domestic disturbance at the Robinson home. Neola Robinson had locked her husband out.
After officers left, Neola Robinson went looking for Shorty again at bars, stopping at the Honky Tonk Woman in Azle, where she found another of her husband's friends and said she was going to kill him, according to the affidavit.
After his employer reported him missing, and investigators looked around the property, Neola Robinson seemed uninterested in finding her husband, the affidavit stated.
Rangers interviewed Neola Robinson again at a Texas Department of Public Safety office in Hurst during the weekend of July 13-14, 2013.
During this interview, Neola Robinson said she fought with her husband on the night of May 31, 2010, and sprayed a chemical in his eyes. At some point, she grabbed a knife, cut his hand, and ran to her bedroom and locked the door, she said.
He sat down in a living room chair, and she found him dead the next morning, according to the affidavit.
She told investigators that she left the body in the chair until that night when she placed it on an air mattress and dragged it to a hole that had been dug to correct a waterline problem in the front yard, the affidavit stated.
However, a boyfriend told Rangers that Neola Robinson had confided in him that she cut her husband’s throat while he slept in their bed in the master bedroom, according to the affidavit.
Days after the killing, her boyfriend told Rangers, he helped Neola Robinson move a mattress and bedsprings to the curb for garbage pickup.
The Star-Telegram is not naming the boyfriend because authorities did not charge him in the case.
‘I put him right here’
After her interviews with the Rangers, Neola Robinson agreed to return home to show officers where her husband was buried.
She led officers to the northeast side of the corner lot, pointed and said, “I put him right here,” according to the affidavit.
While searching the single-wide mobile home, Rangers found a calendar with writing on it, “words to the [e]ffect ‘Neola Robinson was tired of this issue being brought up and she did not want the children of Ervin Robinson to have anything she owned’,” they reported.
Neola Robinson was arrested on July 13 and her husband’s remains were exhumed two days later.
An autopsy found that the cause of death was strangulation, prosecutors said.
“Much may be said about the investigation and the delay in locating his remains, but the important consideration is that after three years of being concealed from his family, his friends and everything important to him, after three years of being stuffed in an air mattress and buried in his own front yard, he was found,” Ross said Monday in a news release. “His family, after consultation, blessed this resolution and now have closure they needed.”