Head of suspected ‘shopping cart killer’ investigation optimistic, seeks more evidence and witnesses

Police in Fairfax County, Virginia, are willing to be patient as they attempt to build cases against the suspect they’ve dubbed the “shopping cart killer.”

“Anthony Eugene Robinson is in custody. He’s not in the community, on the streets,” said Maj. Ed O’Carroll, head of the Fairfax County Police Major Crimes and Cyber and Forensic Bureau. He told WTOP: “That gives us time to work the case as thoroughly as possible.”

Robinson is currently charged with two counts of first-degree murder and disposing of the bodies of two female victims: Allene Elizabeth Redmon, 54, of Harrisonburg, and Tonita Lorice Smith, 39, of Charlottesville. Both victims were found in a vacant Harrisonburg lot in late November.

Thursday, WTOP reported police and prosecutors in Fairfax County have yet to uncover evidence that would allow them to charge Robinson with killing Stephanie Harrison, 48, of Redding, California.

“We can place the offender in the area of where Stephanie Harrison’s remains were found,” O’Carroll said. “Forensic evidence, including DNA, will be pivotal in linking our offender with Ms. Harrison’s killing.”

Sources say Fairfax County murder charges will soon be announced against Robinson in the death of Cheyenne Brown, 29, of Southeast D.C.

On Dec. 17, police identified Robinson as a suspected serial killer after detectives who were searching for Brown discovered two sets of human remains in an isolated wooded area near the 2400 block of Fairhaven Avenue in the Huntington area of Fairfax County. The remains were placed in a large plastic container by a shopping cart near a motel called the Moon Inn.

DNA testing confirmed the identities of the Fairfax County victims as Brown and Harrison.

O’Carroll said additional detectives have been brought on to the serial killer task force, and his investigators meet regularly with Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano. “We met with our county prosecutor as recently as several days ago.”

During the ongoing investigation, O’Carroll spoke in general terms about what evidence has been gathered, or is still being sought: “Digital evidence, scientific evidence is going to prevail in this case. We’ve got lots of things still out at the lab for scientific testing.”

On the day Robinson’s name was first made public, Fairfax County police said surveillance video showed Brown and Robinson together at a D.C. Metro stop on Sept. 30, and that they rode to the Huntington Metro station. She never returned.

O’Carroll says the task force includes the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit.

“This is a case that takes us out of Virginia. It’s taken us to New York and Pennsylvania. There’s no stopping what we will do to find out where Mr. Robinson went, and what he did, and who he came in contact with,” O’Carroll said.

When Fairfax County police initially dubbed Robinson the “shopping cart killer,” they said he often met victims online through dating apps. Later, police specified the apps included Plenty of Fish and Tagged.

“Now, as weeks have gone by, we got further clarity to his activity online — he was on several apps,” O’Carroll said. “We know he met people — we’ve talked to people that he has met.”

O’Carroll implored anyone who met Robinson online to speak with detectives. “We do strongly believe that there’s more” people out there “who have met Anthony Eugene Robinson and survived that encounter.”

Harrison’s family has said she was in the nation’s capital for sightseeing, and disagrees with the suggestion she may have interacted with Robinson online before apparently being at the Moon Inn at the same time.

Sources familiar with the investigation said detectives have not uncovered digital, forensic or witness evidence that proves why Harrison and Robinson were apparently both at the Moon Inn at the same time. In early January, police were searching through large plastic bags filled with paper receipts provided by the motel.

“We’re committed to getting as much evidence and details about who Anthony Robinson is, where he’s been, who he has come in contact with,” said O’Carroll. “We’re working hard, but we’re not on a tight timeline here.”

While prosecutors and police won’t commit to when the first Fairfax County charge against Robinson will be filed, O’Carroll said: “When we have an abundance of probable cause.”

O’Carroll said Robinson will always enjoy the presumption of innocence. “We’ll be presenting this case in the courts,” O’Carroll said, “to hold him responsible for what he’s done.”

WTOP is seeking comment from Robinson’s defense attorney in the Harrisonburg area case.

Louis Nagy was appointed by the court to represent Robinson. Unlike larger jurisdictions, which have public defenders, in Rockingham County, indigent defendants are appointed a local private attorney. The judge will likely appoint a Northern Virginia defense attorney to represent Robinson in connection with the Fairfax County deaths, Nagy said.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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