On March 14, 1990, around 815 am, John Evers Robinson (24) a.k.a. Rokked, was found dead inside a small room in an office building at 178 Temple Street, New Haven, Connecticut.
That room on the second floor was the rehearsal space for the band ‘Sold on Murder.’ It featured John Evers Robinson on bass and vocals, Frank Linden on guitars and vocals, and John Nutcher on drums. On the website Resonate you can listen to their music and see the album cover design.
From Resonate: “Sold on Murder or SOM was a punk band out of New Haven, CT in the late 80’s and 90’s. SOM was founded by John “Rokked” Robinson who was murdered on March 12, 1990. The album was reissued by the family of John Evers Robinson.” You can find more information about the recording and the credits there too.
The state medical examiner determined that Robinson’s skull was crushed. He was killed by several blows to the head with a blunt instrument, e.g., blunt force trauma. I did not find any information in which position his body was found, whether he had been moved, if so, if there were any signs or traces on the floor.
In none of the online articles I found in the newspaper archives, I read anything about a murder weapon that was found or an educated guess what kind of object was used to kill Robinson. Anything wood might have left splinters. Anything painted could have left paint chips. Whatever was used may have been brought to and then taken away from the crime scene.
A drum set was missing from the crime scene. Were all the bags and cases to pack the drum set missing as well? Were any other instruments missing or out of place? Were there any traces on the floor that the set was moved? To me, it seems a curious instrument to remove unless you know you have plenty of time and that nobody will spot you. It seems so much easier to steal a guitar, microphones, etc. However, if part of the drum set was used as a murder weapon it makes sense to remove the full set. But it is risky unless that building was mostly empty and in a quiet area.
I checked online how much time it takes to assemble or pack a drum set. Of course, the more elaborate the set the longer it takes but the range seems to be 20-45min. The more spacious the room the easier it is too. But even 15min is a long time to remain on a crime scene unless you know that nobody will see you.
In this New Haven article, band drummer John Nutcher talks about Robinson. He discusses debt, not hearing from Robinson in the weeks before his death, the upcoming album, a gig, everything except the stolen drum set. If I were interviewing Nutcher that would be my first question. Was it yours? If not, any ideas? If not, continue the interview.
Robinson had been evicted from the building because he was behind paying the rent. However, he kept using the room as he still had the key.
His old school, Hamden Hall County Day School, said that Robinson graduated in 1983. “While at Hamden Hall, John played soccer, basketball, and was a member of the academic club called High School Bowl, the debate team, and on the staff of the school newspaper, The Advent. According to his classmates, he was friends with everyone!”
I am not sure who found Robinson or if he was ever reported missing. From Savage Watch comes this quote about the crime scene: “His body had been there for several days.” The state medical examiner’s report would be needed to confirm that but it is not mentioned in the papers.
Another issue, who found Robinson? Someone who just wanted to use the room? Where were they going to get the key? Or was someone searching for Robinson? Capt. Donald R. Beausejour said that “Robinson was last seen during the afternoon of March 12. Friends told investigators that Robinson was seen walking in the downtown area.” Was he alone? Did his stomach content confirm that he had been dead about two days?
And then this: “Robinson was probably killed that night in the room, Beausejour said. The exact time of death has not been determined.” So, killed on March 12, then found on March 14. In those two days, was there any suspicious activity around that old building? Did nobody else use the room to rehearse? Did nobody miss him when he did not get back home? And why did Beausejour say Robinson was killed in the room? Lividity? Pooling underneath his body?
Several articles and blog posts discuss the motive behind this murder. There are some inconsistencies or question marks though.
The New Haven Register has a 1990 article by Michael Foley. You can see the article here. In it, I found this: Robinson “rented the room out for a small fee to other local bands who needed practice space. There is access to the room from 178 Temple St. or 928 Chapel St.” This means many people had access to the room and thus to Robinson. Again, who owned the stolen drum set? Did it belong to SOM or another band? And was Robinson there every time to open the door or not? If the key went from hand to hand it could easily have been duplicated.
Whoever was responsible for Robinson’s murder “locked the door after killing” him. So how did the person who found Robinson get in? With another key? Or did they find the room locked, got the landlord, etc.? How many keys were there to open that room?
Police reopened the case in 2009 in hopes of finding more answers but nothing brought clarity. Persons of interest were identified but no charges were ever filed.
From the New Haven Independent we learn that “In the last months of his life, Robinson was working on the band’s first album; the Advocate reported that he had been selling substances in order to fund the album’s production. After Robinson’s death, friends, and family pooled money to produce the record posthumously.” This has led people to believe that his death is drug related.
In one article I read that a (baseball) club had been seized for testing at the state police forensic lab in Meriden. There was nothing in the papers about results or they are held it back. The article continues with more personal information about John Evers Robinson. You can find more articles about him here.
John’s mom still wonders what really happened to her son. The only way to resolve what happened is when people tell the truth. It has been a long time. Circumstances changed, alliances changed, so if you read this and can help advance this case, please do.
If you have any information, please call the New Haven Police Department at (203) 946-6304.
In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old unsolved cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis and of course, more information can be found online and in newspaper archives.
We need to get these cases back in the mainstream media, to get people talking again, and if anything, to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are unsolved does not mean that we can forget about them.
With the advances in modern forensic sciences, we have a chance to find clues that previously remained hidden. So, let us review all these old cases once more.
I encourage you to share this post on your own social media platforms. By sharing these posts online, the cases reach new networks, new connections, and the latest news feeds. One day these updates may pop up in the right person’s news feed. That may be someone who can help advance the case and that is my goal.
Rest in peace, John Evers Robinson.