After he and friends ran out of drugs and money, Roberts retreived a
hammer at his home, then went to the home of a neighbor, Mary
They watched television for awhile, then Taylor asked Roberts to
leave so she could go to sleep.
Walking to the door, Roberts
attacked her, striking her 19 times with the hammer, kicked her in
the head and side, tightened a telephone cord around her neck,
stabbed her with steak and butcher knives and immersed her face in a
pot of water. Roberts took an answering machine and $200 and left.
Roberts returned to the scene on two different occasions following
the murder. The first time was to steal more valuables and the
second time was to report the crime to the police.
Roberts provided the police with a videotaped confession. Physical
evidence and eyewitness testimony also linked Roberts to the crime.
On February 16, 1994 Michael Roberts and his
friends ran out of money to purchase crack cocaine. Roberts promised
his friends that he would get some money. He went to his house and
retrieved a ball peen hammer. He then went to the home of a neighbor,
Ms. Mary Taylor, whom he considered a friend.
Roberts went to Ms. Taylor’s home around 10:30
p.m. where he and Ms. Taylor watched television for awhile. Around
11:00 p.m. after receiving a telephone call from her nephew, Ms.
Taylor told Roberts she wanted to go to sleep and asked him to leave.
As the two walked towards the door, Roberts
suddenly turned, pushed Ms. Taylor over a table and began hitting
her in the head with the hammer as she lay on the floor. After
hitting her in the head with the hammer more than fifteen times,
Roberts went into the kitchen to find Ms. Taylor’s purse.
the purse, Roberts began rummaging through it until he heard Ms.
Taylor move in the front room.
Roberts returned to the living room where he
kicked Ms. Taylor in the head and the side, telling her to be quiet.
He then took the telephone cord from the wall and strangled Ms.
Taylor, but she continued to breathe.
Roberts then went back to the
kitchen where he grabbed a steak knife and stabbed Ms. Taylor
repeatedly. He tossed the steak knife aside and got a butcher knife
at which time he again began stabbing Ms. Taylor.
Roberts, then went back to the kitchen again and
filled a large soup pan with water. He then held Ms. Taylor‘s face
under water. When her body started to twitch he released her head,
took an answering machine and $200 and left. Roberts left the hammer
and his baseball cap at the scene.
Roberts returned to the scene on two different
occasions following the murder The first time was to steal more
valuables and the second time was to report the crime to the police.
Roberts provided the police with a videotaped confession. Physical
evidence and eyewitness testimony also linked Roberts to the crime.
02/17 - Michael Roberts murdered Mary Taylor in St. Louis County.
03/24 - Roberts indicted on one county of Murder First Degree,
Burglary Second Degree, Stealing a Motor Vehicle and two counts of
Armed Criminal Action.
03/20 - Roberts trial begins in the St. Louis County Circuit Court.
03/28 - Roberts convicted of Murder First Degree.
03/29 - The jury returns sentence of death.
05/06 - Roberts sentenced to death on the murder conviction.
06/01 - Roberts appealed to Missouri Supreme Court.
09/29 - Roberts filed a motion for post-conviction relief.
05/15 - The St. Louis Circuit Court denied Roberts motion for post-conviction
06/17 - The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed Roberts' judgement and
sentence and affirmed the denial of Roberts' motion for post-conviction
01/12 - The United States Supreme Court declined to review Roberts'
01/11 - Roberts filed petition for writ of habeas.
04/12 - The United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit Court
denied Roberts' application for certificate of appealability.
05/23 - The U. S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit Court issued
12/04 - The U. S. Supreme Court declined to review Roberts' habeas
07/31 - The Missouri Supreme Court sets October 3, 2001 as the
execution date for Michael Roberts.
National Coalition to Abolish
the Death Penalty
Michael Roberts - Scheduled Execution:10/03/01
Michael Roberts fits the blueprint for many death
row inmates: abused, problems in school life, heavy drug use, and
finally murder. At the request of his school, Michael visited a
psychiatric hospital at the age of seven.
The evaluation showed he
was “unable to control his behavior, and was frightened and
overwhelmed by aggressive, totally uncontrollable impulses. Because
of their responsibility in this tragedy, Michael’s parents moved to
suppress the information in this report.
At the age of nine he was committed to a
psychiatric clinic for half a year. Michael’s father practiced
regular and violent sexual abuse with his children. He often
assigned Michael to “stand guard” while he abused his daughter.
abuse continued well into Michael’s teenage years, contributing to
his lack of interpersonal and communication skills. While counseling
was available, the Roberts family was so engaged in a complete
denial of their problems that no member was allowed to seek
counseling. Michael underwent evalutaions and interviews throughout
his life that indicated he needed help, which he never received.
Michael made the predictable leap to drug abuse
and violent crime, which is representative of so many death row
inmates. His life eventually revolved around crack cocaine and the
need to produce money to fund his habit.
On February 14, 1994 this culminated in the
robbery and murder of Mary Taylor. Michael confessed to the crime on
the following day. Presumably the State of Missouri seeks to protect
children from abuse.
Michael Roberts’ execution represents a failure
of the State to protect its children from habitually abusive parents.
Please contact Missouri and ask them to give Michael the help he was
denied for so long.
From Michael Roberts’ videotaped confession the
jury learned that on February 16, 1994, Roberts and his friends ran
out of crack cocaine and money at the same time.
He promised his
friends that he would remedy the situation, went to his house,
obtained a hammer and walked to the home of fifty-six-year old Mary
Taylor, eight doors away.
Roberts claimed Mary as a friend and believed
that her "stuff" had value as a result of his familiarity with it.
Roberts rang Mary’s doorbell between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m. She let
They watched television together. Mary took a phone call
from her nephew. When the call ended, she and Roberts talked until
Mary said she wanted to go to sleep and asked Roberts to leave.
The two walked toward the front door. Roberts
suddenly turned and pushed Mary over a table and began hitting her
in the head with the hammer as she lay defenseless on the floor.
Mary pleaded with Roberts to stop.
After hitting her in the head
with the hammer more than fifteen times, he stopped the beating and
went into the kitchen where he knew she kept her purse.
Finding the purse, Roberts began rummaging
through it until he heard Mary move in the front room. Roberts
returned to the living room and kicked Mary in the head and side,
telling her to stay still.
Apparently not convinced that she would
obey, he ripped the telephone cord from the wall, wrapped it around
her neck, and pulled it as tight as he could. She continued to
breathe. He ran to the kitchen, grabbed a steak knife and stabbed
her repeatedly until the knife blade bent in the process. He tossed
the knife aside, retrieved a butcher knife from the kitchen and
began stabbing Mary again.
When that weapon did not seem "like it
was penetrating her clothes," he went to the kitchen again, filled a
large soup pan with water, took it to Mary and held her face under
the water. Noticing that brain matter has oozed on to his hands,
Roberts felt queasy, but decided to continue. He repositioned his
hand and forced her head in the water.
When her body started to twitch, he "freaked
out," released her head, took an answering machine and $200 and left,
leaving the hammer and his Cleveland Indians baseball cap behind.
He returned to Mary’s house twice -- the first
time to steal more valuables and her car and the second time to
pretend to find her body and report the crime to the police.
Convicted Killer Executed in Missouri
By Jim Suhr
New Hampshire Coalition Against
the Death Penalty
POTOSI, Mo. (AP) - A man convicted of beating a
grandmother to death with a hammer before stealing her money to buy
crack cocaine was executed early Wednesday. Michael Roberts, 27,
died at 12:05 a.m. at the Potosi Correctional Center, four minutes
after the first of three lethal doses was administered.
The execution came a day after he told The
Associated Press he loathed any prospect of spending life behind
bars, saying ``I want to be executed. I'm ready to go.'' His fate
was sealed late Tuesday when the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web
sites) and Gov. Bob Holden refused to halt the execution, Missouri's
sixth this year.
In interviews this week, Roberts refused to
discuss the 1994 killing of Mary Taylor, aside from calling it a "spontaneous''
byproduct of a two-week bender on everything from cocaine to PCP and
According to his confession and court records,
Roberts went to Taylor's home the night of Feb. 16, 1994, after he
and friends ran out of drugs and money. When Taylor asked Roberts to
leave so she could sleep,
Roberts hit her 19 times with a hammer,
kicked her in the head and side, tightened a telephone cord around
her neck, stabbed her with steak and butcher knives and immersed her
face in a pot of water.
Roberts stole more than $200 he and his friends
spent on more crack cocaine. He returned to Taylor's house to steal
more valuables and her car, then later to report finding the body.
At trial, Roberts' lawyers asked for his life to
be spared, citing his troubled, poor upbringing they said included
mental, physical and sexual abuse by his father and years of
untreated mental illness.
Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977,
Missouri has executed the third-most inmates at 52, trailing only
Texas with 252 and Virginia with 82.
Mid-Missouri Fellowship of
Missouri Plans to Execute Michael Roberts Oct. 2:
Join Protest Efforts, Affirming Life!
Michael Roberts, sentenced to death for a
thoroughly contemptible crime—the brutal 1994 murder of his neighbor
and friend, Mary Taylor, is set for execution by Missouri officials,
an equally reprehensible violent act of much greater premeditation.
He is scheduled to be lethally poisoned late Tuesday night,
officially in the opening moments of October 3rd.
He would be the
52nd human being executed by Missouri officials since the state
resumed the barbaric practice in 1989. One would like to hope no
officials revel in such macabre standings, but Roberts’ killing
would place Missouri in sole possession of the shameful rank of
third-most-killing U.S. state, passing up Florida.
The initial crime. Roberts told authorities in a
videotaped confession that after he and friends ran out of crack
cocaine and money, he went to Taylor’s house, sat and watched TV
After she asked him to leave to allow her to rest, he said
he began to leave then struck her head several times with a hammer,
strangled, stabbed her, then finally held her head under water in a
large pot until she drowned.
The Mid-Missouri FOR condemns the
horrific murder committed by Roberts and extends condolences to the
family of Mary Taylor.
Horrific and abusive childhood resulting in
untreated mental illness. While it certainly doesn’t pardon Roberts’
actions, his bizarre and impulsive behavior has root causes worth
noting. He experienced an extremely traumatic childhood.
he was sexually and physically abused by his father, beginning at
seven years of age. The father also forced him to frequently "stand
guard," preventing detection by his wife, while he raped Roberts’
older half sister.
Later, he did the same to his granddaughter—the
off-spring of his incestuous abuse of his daughter. Not surprisingly,
Michael later replicated the deviant cycle. He had sexual contact
with his younger brother, his older half-sister, and his father’s
grandchild when she was just five years old.
When their father
discovered his son’s sexual abuse of his grandchild, he severely
beat both she and Michael, apparently out of a warped sense of
ethics and jealousy.
Mental health professionals conducted the first
psychological testing of Roberts when he was seven years old (and
several other times over the years, as ordered by various schools).
They found he was unable to control his behavior, became frightened
and overwhelmed by aggressive, totally uncontrollable impulses. At
least one later psychiatric hospital stay resulted in a
recommendation of medication to help control his behavior.
However, he did not receive this medication or
other needed mental-health care until after the offense for which he
was ultimately sentenced to death. He grew up in such a radically
dysfunctional home that his father—in an effort to hide his vile
behavior--- prevented mental-health professionals from intervening
to protect and treat his son.
Neurological testing performed on him just prior
to the murder trial showed Roberts suffered from a mental disease or
defect (left untreated for years) which, his attorneys contend,
negated his ability to deliberate, something required for a first-degree
A neurologist/psychiatrist, performed an
electroencephalogram (EEG) on Roberts and found "brain abnormalities"
in the frontal lobe similar to those present in a patient with
The doctor testified these abnormalities occurred
in the area of the brain "having to do with emotional control,"
including the part "associated with impulsive behavior, (inhibition),
mood swings, loss of judgment, reasoning, insight." He also noted
that it is impossible for a patient to fake an EEG test result.
Prosecutors however, sufficiently cast doubt on
the test’s accuracy by erroneously suggesting the machine was
defective because a freak car accident --while the workers
transported it across state to St. Louis-- had damaged an unrelated
component of the machine. Unfortunately, health professionals
neglected to utilize another available EEG machine in the St. Louis
hospital, thus failing to eliminate the later room for doubt to be
Roberts’ current attorneys note his case is one
of "’institutional failure’ where the tools society has established
for identifying and treating an at-risk child or youth, to help
adjust to the demands of social life, or to separate (him) from
general society in order to protect the person or society or both --
have not worked."
In a summary of his case, they suggest if he "had
received the help society holds itself out to provide, the act of
violence for which a prosecutor (sought) the death penalty would not
He has a 20-year history of hospital commitments
beginning in the early elementary-school years, yet full assistance
was stunted (especially during those earlier, more formative years,
when it could have been most helpful) due to his father’s perverted
In common with thousands of other underserved
mentally-ill Americans who engage in self-medication, Roberts as an
adult later turned to crack cocaine, a drug only further compounding
his impulsive behavior.