Death leaves family searching for truth

Robin Welshon's life, punctuated by drugs and depression, ended violently in a motel

December 16, 2006|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

Just before daybreak on a Tuesday in February, Robin Lee Welshons answered a knock on the door at an Aberdeen motel room and was shot several times at close range. The 35-year-old mother of three, who was two days away from beginning an 18-month prison sentence, died in the doorway.

According to police, the motel operator replaced the bloodstained carpet and made the room available for customers the next day.

Welshons' last-ditch attempt to salvage a life riddled with depression, drugs and arrests had led her here. In an effort to reduce her prison sentence, Welshons had worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency as a confidential informant, family and friends say, helping conduct drug purchases involving dealers as agents watched and listened in.

Nearly a year after her death, however, those close to her have received little information from police about the investigation.

"I feel like nothing has been done, because she got killed for working with the system," said Welshons' mother, Mary.

Rex Allen Hodge, who has no blood relationship to Welshons but watched over her like a daughter, has offered $10,000 for information leading to an arrest, but police have not taken him up on the offer.

FOR THE RECORD - A caption to a photograph that accompanied an article in Saturday's editions of The Sun about the investigation into the shooting death of an Aberdeen woman incorrectly described the assistance that a Cecil County man gave to the woman. The man, Rex Allen Hodge, provided support to Robin Lee Welshons, but he did not take her in.
The Sun regrets the error.

Though prosecutors, police and DEA spokesman refused to comment, a source familiar with the investigation who insisted on anonymity confirmed Welshons' involvement as an informant. Police have a suspect but lack the evidence to charge him, the source said. The suspect was taken into custody a day after the killing - on charges stemming from a three-month drug purchase involving a DEA informant - but was later released, the source said.

In life, Welshons frequently tormented those close to her. First it was her mother, who disapproved of Welshons' lifestyle as a teenager - smoking, drinking and hanging out with boys - and kicked her out of the family's home. Then it was Hodge, who raised her like his own and provided bail when she got tossed into prison, only to revoke it when Welshons showed up at hearings haggard and inebriated. It ended with her children, who friends say could not count on their depressed, drug-addicted mother to pick them up from school or help with homework.

But Welshons' killing and the unanswered questions after the crime torment her survivors even more.

"I am angry, and I am in shock," a childhood friend, Tammy Budkey, said at a small funeral service for Welshons in February.

For all her troubles, Welshons is remembered by friends as brash and fun-loving, a bigger-than-life personality who could put others at ease.

But too often she found trouble easily. Welshons was arrested several times, and her problems escalated in 2004, when authorities tracking her fiance, Timothy Eugene Fisher, on suspicion of drug and weapons trafficking were led to her brick-front, two-story townhouse in Belcamp.

During a November 2004 raid, officers from a county drug task force swept through, a report of the incident shows, recovering packaged bags of cocaine, a stash of semiautomatic rifles and pistols, and stolen prescription drug forms.

One of many police photos taken during the raid shows a man sitting on top of 26 bags of cocaine. Another depicts Fisher lying down on a bed, his hands shackled behind him. Yet another shows Welshons, her right cheek pressed against the floor as a few strands of hair, sprung loose from her ponytail, rest on her grimacing face.

As police make their way around the top floor, the photos show, there are more people to round up. One of them is Welshons' daughter, 13-year-old Brittany, sitting on a couch with another girl.

The last photo shows 5-year-old Tyson, the son of Welshons and Fisher, tucked in bed with his hands clasped across his chest in fright.

In two handwritten letters sent from jail, Fisher asked Circuit Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr. to consider expediting his bail hearing, pleading that the family was in danger because of his arrest.

"I will say there are some major things involved [sic] please do what you can," Fisher wrote.

Fisher's case was sent to U.S. District Court, where he pleaded guilty to a weapons charge last August. As she awaited trial, Welshons went back to drugs and Tyson was placed in a foster home in Bel Air, said Budkey. Hodge, who had covered Welshons' bail, withdrew the bond - sending her back to prison - after she appeared at a court hearing inebriated.

Yet for the first time, Welshons seemed to snap out of her yearlong funk, Budkey said. In prison, Welshons became involved with a program that assists women at the Harford County Detention Center in getting their lives back on track.

Though not ordered by the court to participate, Welshons was "very positive" during the sessions, said Phyllis Doolittle, the program's coordinator, and showed a sincere desire to change her life. At the urging of her children, Hodge bailed her out.

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