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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 14, 2011
Date of arrest: December 27, 2011
Date of birth: 1993
Victim profile: Selvin Mamerto Lopez-Mauricio, 23 (restaurant worker)
Method of murder: Shooting (.22 semi-automatic handgun)
Location: Phoenixville, Chester County, Pennsylvania, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on July 12, 2013

Monique Robinson sentenced to life in prison for Phoenixville robbery-murder

By Michael P. Rellahan -

July 12, 2013

WEST CHESTER – Monique Robinson, the former Phoenixville Area High School senior who was found guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of a borough restaurant worker, wept Thursday when her attorney made it abundantly clear what separated her from her co-defendants.

The two men who had helped rob the man as he made his way home from work, including the man who fired the fatal shots, accepted plea offers from the prosecution and thus face release dates from state prison sometime in the future.

Not Robinson, said veteran West Chester defense attorney Robert J. Donatoni.

“Miss Robinson, as things stand right now, is going to die in jail, and that is a tragedy of monumental proportions,” Donatoni said, in addressing President Judge James P. MacElree II before MacElree pronounced the mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Robinson, 20, of Phoenixville, dressed in the same coral colored blouse she wore during the April trial in which a jury found her guilty, dropped her head to her chest and began crying as she heard his words.

Tragic as her fate may have been, Robinson had chosen it. The judge noted, and Donatoni agreed, that she had been offered a plea bargain by the prosecution that would have allowed her to win her release after 30-to-60 years in state prison, but she rejected it and “rolled the dice” with the jury.

“This day didn’t have to come for you,” MacElree said before handing down the mandatory life in prison without parole sentence, plus an additional term of eight years and 10 months to 34 years in prison. “There could have been a different day and a different outcome. But you chose what you had to do and you have to live with that.”

Robinson, who at 18 years old was entering her final year at Phoenixville high school when the shooting of Selvin Mamerto Lopez-Mauricio took place, did not address the court except to indicate that she planned to appeal her conviction.

Lopez-Maurico, 23 at the time of his death and a native of Guatemala, was on his way home after finishing his shift at a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant in Royersford early the morning of Sept. 14, 2011. As he sat in an alley near his home on Prospect Street and spoke with his uncle, he was approached by Robinson and two friends, Saleem Williams, 22, of Sharon Hill, and Stephen Reidler, 26, of Linfield

The men accosted Lopez-Mauricio and his uncle, with Williams allegedly pointing a .22 semi-automatic handgun at the uncle. Testimony at her trial showed that Robinson grabbed Lopez-Maurico’s backpack, and Williams began punching him while Reidler kept the uncle from telephoning police.

When Robinson ran from the scene, Lopez-Maurico tried to chase her. Robinson then allegedly turned and told Williams, “Shoot him.” Williams shot Lopez-Mauricio once in the abdomen. He died on his way to Phoenixville Hospital.

After the shot was fired, the trio of Robinson, Reidler and Williams then returned to an apartment on Bridge Street that Williams shared with his girlfriend. There, they divided up the contents of the backpack, including food that Lopez-Mauricio had brought home from Wendy’s for his late dinner and $300 in cash he intended to send home to his family.

In addressing MacElree before the sentence, Deputy District Attorney Peter Hobart, who prosecuted the case against all three, asked that he impose consecutive time in the case to act as a “safety net” in case Robinson’s murder conviction should be overturned. Donatoni, however, said he was almost certain that there were no significant appellate issues to raise, and that even if her conviction were overturned for some other reason, it was very likely she would be convicted of the same offense again.

Hobart noted that Robinson, since her conviction, had not been on good behavior at Chester County prison, and had earned three infraction citations there.

Speaking on behalf of the victim’s family was his brother, Carlos Lopez. With the aid of an interpreter, Lopez thanked MacElree for his attention to the case and to all the police and prosecutors who had worked on it.

He said his family had a strong belief in hard work, and that his brother was looking forward to a new job that would help him earn money to support his parents at home in Guatemala. His death ended that dream, he said. “I never thought that people were going to hurt him and take his life away.”

“This is a very painful moment for me because I remember all that happened to my brother,” Lopez told the judge. “It was terrible what we had to go through. I live with the memory of my brother.”

Lopez was joined with other members of his family in the packed courtroom, and with supporters from the community who helped them deal with authorities. Likewise, there were several people in the courtroom supporting Robinson, including her mother and older sister.

Robinson was found guilty of second-degree murder, which is a murder committed in the commission of another felony, in this case robbery. She was also found guilty of firearms violations and of flight to avoid apprehension, after she disappeared in the days after Lopez-Maurico’s death. She eventually turned herself in after a nationwide manhunt by Phoenixville police and Chester County Detectives.


Monique Robinson convicted of second-degree murder in Phoenixville robbery, shooting

By Michael P. Rellahan -

April 5, 2013

WEST CHESTER — A Chester County Court jury hearing the case of Phoenixville teenager found her guilty Thursday of second-degree murder, declaring that she had been an accomplice in the shooting death of a restaurant worker during a robbery that yielded a backpack full of clothes, a paycheck, $300 in cash, and his fast-food dinner.

“There are no winners here,” said Chester County Deputy District Attorney Peter Hobart, the lead prosecutor in the case against teenager Monique Robinson, who broke down in tears as she sat next to her attorney and heard the verdict read by the jury foreman. The panel of nine men and three women had deliberated for just under six hours before returning with their decision.

“It’s a young girl facing a life sentence, but you cannot bring the victim back,” Hobart said after the verdict was announced in President Judge James P. MacElree II’s courtroom in the Chester County Justice Center.

In addition to second-degree murder, which carries with it the state’s mandatory life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole, Robinson was found guilty of robbery, aggravated assault, theft, conspiracy, firearms violations and flight to avoid apprehension for the September 2011 shooting death of Selvin Mamerto Lopez-Mauricio.

After the verdict, Robinson, a slight woman with long black hair pulled into a ponytail and wearing a white blouse and grey pants, was returned to Chester County Prison, where she has been held without bail since her apprehension in December 2011, to await sentencing. She had fled from authorities after leaning that she was a suspect in the case.

MacElree, who presided over the four-day-long trial, did not set a formal sentencing date. He may add more time to her mandatory murder sentence on the other charges at that time.

Robinson, 19, of Phoenixville had gambled that the jury would determine that she was either an innocent bystander in the fatal shooting of Lopez-Mauricio or at worst was guilty of third-degree murder, which does not carry a mandatory sentence. According to statements in MacElree’s court on Monday, she had been offered a plea agreement by the prosecution that would have resulted in a sentence of 30-to-60 years.

She lost.

Her attorney, Robert J. Donatoni of West Chester, offered no comment following the verdict, which came at approximately 7 p.m. Thursday.

Earlier in the day, Donatoni urged the jury not to pin a guilty verdict on his client based on the two co-defendants who testified against her.

The men were “corrupt and polluted sources” whose version of events should be viewed with skepticism, Donatoni said in his closing arguments.

Donatoni compared the pair’s testimony putting Robinson at the center of a planned robbery in September 2011 that led to the fatal shooting to biting into a candy bar and finding a worm inside. “You throw it away,” he said. “These guys are the worms crawling out of the candy bar.”

But the lead prosecutor in the case, in addition to defending the men’s testimony as ultimately truthful, said the jury could find Robinson guilty of the charges against her simply by accepting the version of events spelled out by the victim’s uncle, who was at the scene while the shooting unfolded.

Hobart reminded the nine men and three women hearing the case that Esuardo Lopez — whose nephew Selvin Mamerto Lopez-Mauricio was shot once in the abdomen and later died — saw a woman later identified as Robinson grab a backpack belonging to the victim while two men accosted them on a dark street.

“That makes her involved in the robbery and therefore guilty of felony murder,” Hobart told the jurors during his summation. “There is no way around that. And that alone is enough. By definition that makes her guilty of second-degree murder.

“There are many paths up a mountain, but once you get to the top the view is always the same,” Hobart said.

Robinson was a senior at Phoenixville Area High School at the time of the shooting.

Testimony from the co-defendants, Saleem Williams, 21, of Sharon Hill and Stephen Reidler, 25, of Linfield, indicated that Robinson had secured the gun used in the shooting the afternoon before from her father’s home, and that she had joined in their conversation about “going on a mission” to rob someone and get money that night.

Lopez-Mauricio, 23, who emigrated to the borough from his native Guatemala and joined a growing Latino community there, was on his way home after finishing his shift at a Wendy’s fast food restaurant in Royersford early in the morning of Sept. 14, 2011, when he was fatally shot. As he sat and spoke with his uncle near his home on Prospect Street, they were approached by two men and a woman on Prospect Street in Phoenixville. The men accosted Lopez-Mauricio and his uncle, with Williams’ allegedly pointing a .22 semi-automatic handgun at the uncle.

Testimony showed that Robinson grabbed Lopez-Maurico’s backpack, and Williams began punching him while Reidler kept the uncle from telephoning police. When Robinson ran from the scene Lopez-Maurico tried to chase her, she allegedly turned and told Williams, “Shoot him.”

Williams shot Lopez-Mauricio once in the abdomen. He survived for some time afterwards, but died on his way to Phoenixville Hospital.

After the shot was fired, the trio of Robinson, Reidler, and Williams then returned to an apartment on Bridge Street that Williams shared with his girlfriend. There, they divided up the contents of the backpack, including food that Lopez-Mauricio had brought home from Wendy’s for his late dinner. Hobart contended in his case that Robinson had kept $300 in cash she found in the backpack for herself.

The jury began its deliberations about 1:15 p.m. Thursday after listening to two hours of closing arguments by Donatoni and Hobart and about 90 minutes of legal instructions by MacElree. Part of the legal case that MacElree instructed the panel on was the concept of accomplice liability and how it would fit in with the charges Robinson faced.

To be guilty of a crime, one must be a principal, a conspirator, or an accomplice. In Hobart’s words, being an accomplice means being as much a part of a crime as a principal. “The get away driver is just as guilty as the bank robber,” he told the jury during his closing.

But Donatoni, on the other hand, counseled the panel that simply being a bystander to a crime does not make one guilty. “Yes, she was there, but she didn’t do this.” Mere presence at the scene of a crime is not proof of guilt, he said.

Donatoni, in his closing, argued two things – that the prosecution’s case was full of doubt because of the credibility of its key witnesses – Williams and Reidler — and that his client was facing far more serious charges than they pleaded guilty to, even though Williams had pulled the trigger.


Phoenixville murder trial: Monique Robinson won’t testify despite lawyer’s objection

By Michael P. Rellahan -

April 4, 2013

WEST CHESTER — The teenage defendant in the murder trial involving the death of a Wendy’s restaurant worker on Wednesday defied her attorney’s advice and declined to testify in her own defense.

“Do you wish to testify or not?” President Judge James P. MacElree II asked Monique Robinson after giving her time to think about the matter and discuss it with her attorneys, Robert Donatoni and Stuart Crichton of West Chester. “No,” Robinson answered after taking a moment to think.

Robinson, 19, of Phoenixville, is charged with first, second, and third-degree murder, robbery, conspiracy and various other counts stemming from the September 2011 shooting death of worker Selvin Mamerto Lopez-Maurico, who was robbed of a backpack as he came home from work.

Robinson faces a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole if she is found guilty of first- or second-degree murder by the Common Pleas Court jury hearing her case. MacElree had cautioned her before the trial began on Monday that a life sentence in Pennsylvania means just that. “You die in jail,” he said.

Donatoni, a veteran criminal defense attorney, told MacElree in court after Robinson announced her decision that she had gone against his advice. “This is over my strong objection,” he told the judge. “Against my strong recommendation. This is a monumentally bad decision.”

The trial is set to resume Thursday with closing arguments by the two sides, legal charges by MacElree, and beginning of deliberations by the jury of nine men and three women.

The choice not to take the stand may have been influenced by Robinson’s family members, who have attended every day of the proceeding, sometimes more than a dozen strong. While the jury was out of the courtroom and Robinson was considering her options, one family member could be heard telling her she did not have to testify.

“You don’t have to prove anything,” the woman said.

Criminal defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty and thus have no legal obligation to testify on the own behalf – or even put on any defense. The burden is on the prosecution to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

But courtroom observers say that in many cases, when a defendant is essentially saying that they are not guilty of the crime – as Donatoni has sought to establish for Robinson – jurors emotionally react negatively about not getting to hear their side of the story, their protestations of innocence.

MacElree, in allowing Robinson – who was dressed in a gray pants suit and orange blouse – time to consider her decision, noted that even though she may have spoken to family members, those people were not attorneys and did not understand all the ramifications of not testifying. Nevertheless, she said she did not want to take the stand.

Lopez-Maurico was shot once in the abdomen around 12:45 a.m. Sept. 14, 2011 in the 100 block of Prospect Street in Phoenixville. His murder was greeted with shock and horror by members of the Latino community in the borough, including relatives from Guatemala with whom he lived.

Authorities arrested two men, Saleem Williams and Stephan Reidler, a week after the murder. They alleged the men had robbed Lopez-Maurico of his backpack that contained some Wendy’s uniform clothing, personal items, and his paycheck. Later, they learned he had been given $300 in cash that night by a relative to send home to his family. That money was not on Lopez-Maurico when police found his body.

Williams and Reidler have testified that Robinson had supplied the gun that was used in the shooting, and took part in the robbery by grabbing Lopez-Maurico’s backpack. Both men have pleaded guilty to third degree murder and robbery charges and have been sentenced to state prison.

Robinson was also charged following the murder, but was declared a fugitive after police went looking for her at Phoenixville High School and her home on the north side of the borough on Sept. 21, 2011, only to find she had disappeared.

Prosecution testimony on Wednesday centered on the efforts that police made to find and apprehend her in the days, weeks, and months following the shooting. Evidence of her flight to avoid apprehension can be used by Deputy District Attorney Peter Hobart, the lead prosecutor in the case, to show her consciousness of guilt.

Detective Sgt. Joseph Nemic of the Phoenixville Police Department said police were able to identify Williams, Reidler, and Robinson as suspects from video taken with security cameras from nearby businesses. Nemic said he went to Phoenixville High School in the morning of Sept. 20, 2011 and confronted Robinson, who was a senior at the school at the time, with the news that she was a suspect. He later learned she went home sick.

The detective said he later spoke with one of Robinson’s sisters, and set up a meeting with her at 3 p.m. that day at the police station. Robinson, however, never arrived, he said. He checked her grandmother’s home that evening, and Robinson was not there.

“We scoured the town looking for her at that point,” Nemic told the jury, under questioning by Assistant District Attorney Sean Poll. Police looked for her at relatives’ homes, at locations she was known to frequent in town, and other places. “We were searching for a wanted person at that point.”

A warrant for her arrest was issued on Sept. 21, 2011, and efforts were made to alert other police jurisdictions of her fugitive status, Nemic said. There was a “wanted” poster circulated, and press releases given to Philadelphia area newspapers, radio stations, and television news broadcasts. A $2,500 reward for her whereabouts was offered by the Chester County District Attorney’s Office, he said.

Nemic and other officers traveled to Atlanta, Ga., Pottsville, Somerset County, and other locations tracking down tips they received, to no avail. “It was a continuous, exhaustive investigation,” he said.

It was not until Dec. 27, 2011, that police apprehended Robinson, after she turned herself in with Donatoni’s assistance.

The only witness that Donatoni called on Robinson’s behalf was a friend from high school who said she was with Robinson much of the day before Lopez-Maurico’s murder.

Raiana Smith, a 2012 graduate of Phoenixville High, said that she had known Robinson for several years, and had seen her on Sept. 13, 2011 at school. She remembered that day, she told the jury, because Robinson was not a regular school-goer and was frequently absent.

Smith said she, Robinson, and a group of other friends walked home that afternoon to the north side of the borough, and then she and Robinson spent several hours hanging out at various locations that afternoon and evening – watching basketball, eating at a popular pizza shop, and talking until after dark.

“There’s not much to do in Phoenixville except play and chill,” Smith said.

Her testimony contradicted a sequence of events that Williams, the man who ultimately shot Lopez-Maurico with the gun he said was given him by Robinson, laid out for the afternoon and evening before the robbery. He said he met Robinson at school, and she walked him to her home on Dayton Avenue, where she retrieved a .22 semi-automatic pistol they agreed could be used in a robbery.

Under cross-examination, Smith was challenged on whether she remembered being with Robinson specifically on Sept. 13, 2011. She said she did, although she also said she could not remember the other people she and Robinson walked home with that day.

Chester County Detective Joseph Walton, however, later took the stand to testify that he had interviewed Smith on Wednesday morning, and she told him three times that she could not recall whether her time with Robinson happened the day before the homicide or some other time.


Monique Robinson


Monique Robinson leaves District Court in Phoenixville following her
preliminary hearing for murder charges in this file photo.
(Kevin Hoffman/Journal Register News Service)


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