AUBURN, Maine — The family of Christiana Fesmire, 22, of Lewiston said a great weight was lifted Friday when Buddy Robinson was convicted of her murder. But the jury’s quick verdict doesn’t mark the end of their long journey of grief.
“We would like now, of course, to be able to find Christiana,” said Chester Fesmire, the victim’s father. “That’s our next goal, our next hurdle.”
A jury of nine men and three women found Robinson, 31, of Lewiston guilty of murder after deliberating for one hour and 15 minutes following six days of testimony at Androscoggin County Superior Court.
Robinson showed no emotion when the jury foreman said, “Guilty.”
He bowed his head slightly, his fingers interlocked at his waist. A few minutes later, he was handcuffed and led from the courtroom back to jail, where he will continue to be held without bail. No date was set for his sentencing.
The prosecutor said it was “very unusual” to get a guilty verdict in a murder case without a body.
Fesmire’s family, including her father, Chester, her mother, Deborah, her sister, Katrin, and her brothers, Andrew and Nick, leaned forward on the courtroom’s front bench, shaking with emotion and wiping at tears with tissues. They stood and hugged each other, then huddled as a group.
Outside the courthouse afterward, Chester Fesmire thanked police and the prosecutor. He said the family feels “like we’ve had a huge burden lifted off of us right now. It’s just a big relief to have this part of it all over with.”
He said he hopes Robinson shares in the family’s grief because of what he did. “We hope that he spends the rest of his life in the same kind of sorrow that we feel in what he did,” Fesmire said.
Deborah Fesmire said: “I’d like to see that, if he doesn’t get life, that he’s gonna come out as a very old man.”
Fesmire disappeared on July 1, 2011; Robinson was arrested and charged with her murder more than three months later.
Prosecutors presented nearly six days of circumstantial evidence that painted a picture of a man who “snapped” on the morning of July 1, 2011, and killed Christiana Fesmire. He fought with her in the first-floor apartment at 36 Highland Ave. from which she was moving that morning. Her head smashed against the side of the bathtub, then he drowned her in the tub by sitting on her.
“She died hard,” Robinson had said, according to witnesses.
He wrapped her body in a comforter and stuffed her in the trunk of a black Lexus sedan. He parked the Lexus in the garage.
Robinson called his sister, Brandi, using Fesmire’s cellphone at about 8:30 a.m. to tell his sister he had a fight with Fesmire, prosecutors showed.
He mopped up the bloody evidence of his crime and waited for his sister to return to their upstairs apartment at the Highland Avenue building.
At about 2:30 a.m. the following morning, Buddy Robinson drove a little more than 3 miles from his room at the Super 8 motel in Augusta where he was staying and dumped Fesmire’s body in a swampy area in the woods.
Despite several police searches, Fesmire’s body has not been found.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson said Friday, after the verdict, that he had worried about his witnesses, many of whom had been granted immunity from prosecution for crimes including prostitution, drugs and perjury.
But Robinson had also incriminated himself to a Lewiston police detective and to a Maine Army National Guard soldier with whom he served last year.
He told Detective Roland Godbout that he couldn’t remember where he put Fesmire’s body. To Rebecca Cornell du Houx, who is a mental health case worker, he sent text messages saying he hurt a woman “badly” and, “She’s dead.”
Their testimony corroborated the statements made by less credible witnesses, including a man who occupied the same cell pod as Robinson. That man, awaiting trial on a drug charge, said Robinson had confessed to killing a woman.
Benson said he was “very pleased with the jury’s verdict. They clearly considered the evidence very, very carefully and made the appropriate conclusion.”
He said “it’s very unusual” to prosecute a murder case when no body has been recovered to link the defendant to the victim.
But because Fesmire’s blood was found in her apartment where she was killed as well as in the back of the car in which her body was transported, the court was satisfied the state had proved a crime had been committed, he said.
Defense attorney Edward “Ted” Dilworth sought to present at trial Robinson’s sister, Brandi, as an alternative suspect.
He told the jury Friday morning that she had more motive than her brother to kill Fesmire. Brandi Robinson had hired Fesmire to work for her as an escort and held some of her earnings from that business.
The two had argued and once had a physical altercation at a hotel outside Boston. Dilworth had hoped to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of jurors by diverting attention from Buddy’s actions to his sister’s.
In his closing arguments, Dilworth claimed his client was “wrongfully accused of a crime he did not commit.” He said the case was “full of doubt,” especially the testimony of Brandi Robinson who, Dilworth said, never made eye contact with any juror.
But Benson downplayed Brandi Robinson’s role in the crime. During his hour-long closing arguments Friday morning, he said Dilworth “would have you believe Mr. Robinson is the victim of some sort of vast conspiracy, a conspiracy that must be . . . instigated by his sister.” Benson said she must be the “arch criminal, an absolute criminal genius . . . who was so cunning that she wove a cunning web in order to ensnare her brother” and enlisted many others, including a Lewiston police detective.
“In the ultimate feat of cunning, she must have somehow arranged to have her brother . . . send a series of text messages on the evening of July 1 at the very time that Buddy is almost certainly out driving around scouting out locations . . . to dispose of Christiana Fesmire’s body.”
That was the same car that Fesmire was supposed to have borrowed from Brandi Robinson the morning Fesmire was killed to drive to a family reunion in Rangeley.
Moreover, Benson said Brandi Robinson tried to cover for Buddy and didn’t tell police what she knew for months in an effort to keep him out of trouble. That doesn’t fit with Dilworth’s theory that she was the mastermind, Benson said.
The most convincing evidence came down to opportunity, Benson said. Brandi Robinson had alibis all day long on July 1, 2011. She never had time to kill Fesmire that day, unlike Buddy.
In instructing the jury before sending them off to deliberate, Justice MaryGay Kennedy said Robinson also could be found guilty if the jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted as an accomplice in Fesmire’s murder.