Conviction overturned, man enters guilty plea Westminster man to serve life sentence, this time with parole, in friend's killing

May 16, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Westminster man whose conviction for the 1993 murder of his best friend was overturned on appeal last year is going back to prison for life.

The difference -- at best a marginal one, his lawyer says -- is that Roy Monroe Robertson, 47, will be eligible to seek parole about 2017. Robertson pleaded guilty to murder in a brief Carroll County Circuit Court appearance yesterday.

When first convicted for slaying William C. Prodoehl near Starner's Dam beside the Monocacy River in Taneytown, Robertson was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

The 1995 conviction was overturned in December because the Maryland Court of Special Appeals decided Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., who presided at Robertson's 14-day trial, failed to properly instruct the jury to consider Robertson's alibi.

The defendant had not testified in his defense, but the appellate judges ruled Burns should have reminded jurors that a state police trooper testified that Robertson said he was running errands at the time of the murder Feb. 18, 1993.

Once the conviction was overturned, Robertson was returned to the Carroll County Detention Center to await a retrial.

"I have no idea why he decided to plead guilty," Jerry F. Barnes, the state's attorney for Carroll County, said yesterday. "I was surprised and very pleased. It brings some resolution to the [victim's] family."

Mary Vaught, the victim's mother, declined to comment yesterday, but asked a victims' advocate to tell journalists, "The matter is not over, not for me, and not for Roy Robertson."

Barnes said he became aware of Robertson's decision to plead guilty about two weeks ago.

"He [Daniel Shemer, the public defender representing Robertson] spoke to me about it and I was agreeable," Barnes said. "At Robertson's age, a life sentence is really no different than life without parole."

Shemer said he could not comment on why his client decided not to stand trial again.

"My client chose not to [speak at yesterday's] sentencing, and I have to respect his wish," Shemer said.

In addition to yesterday's life sentence, Burns imposed a five-year concurrent sentence on Robertson for using a handgun in the commission of a violent crime.

According to testimony at the 1995 trial, Robertson had been having an affair with Gina Prodoehl, the victim's wife.

Police have said Robertson shot Mr. Prodoehl twice in the head with a .32-caliber pistol, intending to split a $100,000 life insurance policy, which named Mrs. Prodoehl as the primary beneficiary.

The three had lived together for about one year at the Prodoehls' Singer Drive townhouse in Westminster.

Robertson and Mrs. Prodoehl reported finding the victim's body lying in the snow. Mrs. Prodoehl told police that her husband had gone fishing and did not return home the night before.

A break in the case came after Robertson was charged in 1994 with sexually molesting several children.

While incarcerated at the Carroll County Detention Center, Robertson told his cellmate, an undercover state trooper, that he had killed Mr. Prodoehl.

Later, while serving time at Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown on child abuse charges, Robertson befriended another cellmate, John M. Staubitz Jr.

Staubitz, a former state official who was convicted of burglarizing eight homes in suburban Baltimore, told authorities that Robertson wanted help writing letters to his lawyer and to Mrs. Prodoehl.

Staubitz said Robertson wanted Mrs. Prodoehl to know he would not implicate her in her husband's death.

Barnes said yesterday that the case is still under investigation.

Pub Date: 5/16/97

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