Suspicions raised by the son’s making inconsistent statements and keeping a credit card in his late father’s name led police to charge John Bernon Roberson Jr. with his father’s 2004 homicide, a detective testified today in Columbus Recorder’s Court.
Police Sgt. Randy Long, the department’s cold-case investigator, said years after the father was found shot in the head shortly before 9 a.m. Nov. 9, 2004, the son still had a CapitalOne credit account under his father’s Social Security number. The account had about $8,000 in debt, he said.
Long testified Roberson previously had obtained credit cards in his father’s name, and the father had paid them off.
Long said he found it also suspicious that the younger Roberson told police his father likely committed suicide, though the father was found with more than one bullet hole in his skull, and no gun was near the body. Chief Deputy Coroner Freeman Worley, who was at the crime scene that morning, said the father had two gunshot wounds.
Long said the son told police he had spoken with his father twice the night before, once about 7:30 p.m. and again around 9:30 p.m., when the father remarked that it was an “awkward” time for him, as his wife had died about the same time five years earlier, Long said.
The son said he then told his father not to get depressed, Long testified, but telephone records later showed no call had been made about 9:30 the night before the homicide.
A female friend found the father, 79, on the floor by the rear, sliding glass door of his 3748 Caspian Drive home. She testified that the glass door was protected by metal bars the elder Roberson needed two keys to unlock, and he always kept it secure at night. She said the son typically came to the back door when visiting his father.
The father usually allowed her to enter through a bedroom off his garage, and he would leave that door unlocked when he knew she was coming over, she said. But that morning she arrived to find the bedroom door locked, so she walked around to the back, where she saw the body and called 911, she said, adding that a television was turned up so loud she had to cut it off to hear the 911 operator.
The woman, who lives in Harris County, said that when the son came to the Caspian Drive home that morning, he screamed at her to get out. Her relationship with the father previously had caused tension between the son and his father, who had given her jewelry and $13,000 in 2000 or 2001, she said. “I never asked him for it,” she added.
“We were good friends,” she said of their relationship. Long said the woman told police the son feared his father would choose her over him.
When Long offered no physical evidence tying the son to his father's homicide, Roberson’s defense attorney, Richard Hagler, told Judge Michael Joyner the case lacked sufficient evidence to proceed to Superior Court.
Joyner said he felt he had adequate probable cause to keep the suspect held without bond and send the case on.
Besides murder, Roberson, 67, is charged with theft by deception.
Court records show he had his name legally changed on March 24, 2000, from Johnny Lee Roberson to John Bernon Roberson Jr. In his court filing he stated “my father wants me to carry his name as his only son.”
Other court filings show banks soon came looking for him to collect debts:
On Feb. 11, 2003, Discover Bank filed a claim of $6,209 against "John L. Roberson," with interest accruing from Jan. 7, 2003. Sheriff’s deputies served notice of the claim at Pioneer Storage, 1444 Box Road, where Roberson worked. The manager told them Roberson was in Kuwait. “Unknown when subject will return,” a deputy noted.
On April 13, 2004, Supreme Investment, doing business as Global Recovery on behalf of Charge Off Partners #4, claimed John Roberson was indebted to MBNA American Bank N.A. for $14,941 plus interest and attorneys’ fees.
On April 14, 2004, sheriff’s deputies again served notice on "John Roberson" at Pioneer Storage, where the manager told them “subject is stationed overseas."
On June 4, 2009, State Court Judge Andy Prather dismissed the Supreme Investment claim for lack of action over the intervening years.
On March 17, 2010, State Court Judge Maureen Gottfried dismissed the Discover Bank claim for lack of subsequent action.
Long said he got a warrant for Roberson’s arrest in the summer of 2013. Authorities first jailed Roberson in the Philippines this year before returning him to Columbus on April 6.