BANGOR, Maine — A missing Lewiston woman who advertised escort services on Backpage.com was killed on July 1 by the brother of her madam, according to the police affidavit filed in the arrest of Buddy Robinson.
Police arrested and charged Robinson, 30, of Lewiston late last week with murder in the death of Christiana Melusine Fesmire, 22, after conducting a lengthy investigation that included an undercover prostitution probe involving Fesmire, Brandi Robinson and a woman from Canada who admitted to engaging in prostitution using Backpage.
Brandi Robinson, the accused killer’s sister, told police “that she ran the escorting business” as a madam and “said Fesmire was one of her prostitutes,” according to the affidavit filed Friday in Androscoggin County Superior Court and written by Detective Herbert Leighton of the Maine State Police.
Police in Lewiston used Backpage to connect those involved in the July killing and traced Backpage advertisements “utilized by Brandi Robinson and Christiana Fesmire to solicit prostitution” as part of their investigation, the court document states.
What Fesmire reportedly did to make money had little to do with why she was killed, the 18-page affidavit states. According to statements made by Buddy Robinson’s sister and other people involved, Fesmire stopped by to borrow a car and got into a fight with Buddy Robinson that turned deadly.
Backpage features an array of services and items for sale and has an adult escort section that Maine Attorney General William Schneider and his counterparts from across the country say is being used to advertise prostitution services.
“That’s pretty obvious,” Lewiston Detective Roland Godbout said Monday.
Godbout said he could not talk specifics about the Fesmire case, which he worked on for months, but said his department has been involved in several investigations involving Backpage and prostitution.
“Backpage has become what Craigslist used to be,” Brewer police Lt. Chris Martin said recently.
Maine prostitution and Backpage were linked in August when a partnership of four Cumberland County law enforcement agencies — Bridgton Police Department, Brunswick Police Department, Yarmouth Police Department and Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office — arrested 11 people in and around Brunswick who allegedly were involved in a prostitution ring.
A convicted Bangor prostitute who went by the name “Cinnamon” when posting on Craigslist years ago now is using Backpage and is calling herself “Delight” in her escort advertisements.
Delight, the owner of a Bangor escort service that has been around for more than a dozen years, was caught in a 2009 Brewer police prostitution sting that resulted in charges against her and six other local women.
All seven women were charged with promotion of prostitution, a Class D misdemeanor. Delight was convicted on four counts and was fined $2,000.
Craigslist removed its erotic services section in May 2009 and shut down its adult services section in September 2010. That same month, several attorneys general, including Maine’s Janet Mills, tried unsuccessfully to get Backpage to follow suit.
Backpage officials have balked at the idea, saying it’s an infringement of their First Amendment rights. The website connects clients to escorts, body rubs, strippers, strip clubs, domination and fetish providers, transsexuals, male escorts, adult jobs and pornographic websites under its adult services section.
Another push for Backpage to self-regulate was issued earlier this year when Schneider and 45 other attorneys general sent a letter to the lawyer for Backpage that says the website’s latest efforts to limit prostitution ads has proven ineffective.
“Nearly naked persons in provocative positions are pictured in nearly every adult services advertisement on Backpage.com and the site [allows] advertisements for escorts, and other similar ‘services,’ to include hourly rates,” the Aug. 31 letter from the National Association of Attorneys General states. “It does not take forensic training to understand that these advertisements are for prostitution.”
The attorneys generals’ letter also asks Backpage to address human trafficking and ads soliciting sex with children.
Backpage is owned by Village Voice Media, which owns 13 alternative weekly newspapers in the United States. The business’s lawyer issued an 11-page response saying it already is regulating postings regarding human trafficking and child prostitution and would not add restrictions regarding its adult services section.
“Backpage.com understands and shares the concerns expressed by the Attorneys General,” company attorney Samuel Fifer of Chicago said in his response.
Later the letter states, “Backpage.com continues to take effective measures to track and eliminate illegal activity by third parties using the adult services section of its website.”
Schneider said that if Backpage truly were committed to combating child sex and human trafficking, it would make real changes by eliminating adult escort and similar listings.
“The best way for Backpage.com to protect minors and others is to end adult services advertising,” he said Friday.
Police say part of the reason for pursuing prostitution cases is to eradicate crimes that accompany prostitution — robbery, assault, drug offenses and theft.
“There is a contentious relationship that correlates prostitution with theft and drugs,” Martin said. “It’s the same people we’re dealing with on a daily basis for theft and drugs.”
The Brewer police lieutenant said he also believes there is more crime associated with local prostitution than is being reported.
“There is a lot of ripoffs that occur, but who is going to call police?” Martin said. “It’s alive and well. People didn’t believe it was in the area.”
Godbout said Lewiston detectives often investigate prostitution cases as part of other investigations.
“The people are kind of embarrassed and they don’t want it to get out to the general public and are cooperative,” he said.
According to Godbout, Backpage is just a tool.
For police in Lewiston and Maine State Police detectives, who put together the last moments of Fesmire’s life thanks to connections made through the website, the tool has worked.
Police spoke with Brandi Robinson at least nine times, the affidavit states, but it wasn’t until mid-October, when she had “growing concerns about her brother” who “has been showing signs of stress and has shown an increase in fits of anger and rage,” that she decided to tell detectives what she knew.
The police affidavit states Fesmire arrived at the Highland Avenue apartment building where she had some personal items in a first-floor apartment around 7:30 a.m. July 1.
Buddy Robinson, who lived upstairs with his sister, was home at the time and his sister was just leaving with the admitted Canadian prostitute, the court document states.
The Canadian woman told police Brandi Robinson and Fesmire were arguing over use of a car on the morning of July 1 and about an hour after leaving Highland Avenue, Robinson got a call from her brother, who was using Fesmire’s phone.
“Buddy Robinson was upset and advised Brandi that Fesmire and he got into an argument and Fesmire hit her head,” The police affidavit states.
After Robinson visited her boyfriend at his work, the two women returned to Highland Avenue and the Canadian woman was told to go directly upstairs. She took a shower and was interrupted by Brandi Robinson, who “came in and vomited in the toilet,” and her boyfriend, the affidavit states.
The couple told her she had to leave and when she walked by the downstairs apartment, “It appeared to her that there had been a clean-up.”
Brandi Robinson told police that she became sick after seeing a mop bucket filled with bloody water and realizing that her brother had killed Fesmire.
Brandi Robinson later told the Canadian woman that her brother killed Fesmire and that her body was wrapped in a blanket and put in the trunk of a Lexus owned by her boyfriend.
The police affidavit explains that Buddy Robinson beat Fesmire, then filled a bathtub with water and sat on her to kill her. He disposed of the body and then burned the evidence in a campfire, a conclusion based on statements made by his sister, her boyfriend and the Canadian woman.
Buddy Robinston told police, “I can’t remember where I put her,” the court document states.
The car, with blood evidence still inside, was sold to a Lewiston couple but was recovered by detectives.
The accused killer was taken to Androscoggin County Jail after his arrest and is being held without bail until his arraignment, scheduled for Nov. 10.
The body of Fesmire, who called herself Chole in her now removed Backpage advertisement, has not been found.