Insanity defense weighed for ‘shopping cart killer’ suspect

The lawyer for “shopping cart killer” suspect Anthony Eugene Robinson has asked a judge to have his client’s mental health evaluated to determine whether he was insane when he allegedly killed two women in the Harrisonburg, Virginia, area last year.

In a motion filed Monday, defense lawyer Louis Nagy wrote that the nature of the allegations against his client “are so egregious” that “there is reason to believe that the Defendant’s behavior was not rational at the time of the offense,” and asked the judge to appoint a mental health expert to do the evaluation.

The motion — obtained by WTOP — is the first indication that Nagy could argue his client was not guilty by reason of insanity in the deaths of 54-year-old Beth Redmon, of Harrisonburg, and 39-year-old Tonita Smith, of Charlottesville.

In his motion, Nagy said his client’s medical records “indicate that the Defendant has a long history of mental illness,” which leads him to believe “the Defendant may have been suffering from the effects of that mental illness at the time of one or more of the alleged offenses.”

In September, Robinson was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Redmon and Smith, and two counts of hiding their bodies. He was also indicted on a charge of aggravated murder of more than one person within three years — a Class 1 felony, the most serious under Virginia law,

Before Virginia abolished the death penalty in 2021, aggravated murder was considered a “death penalty-eligible” offense.

Conviction on a Class 1 felony could mean a life sentence that would preclude Robinson from ever being eligible for release.

Robinson is also suspected, but has not yet been charged, in the deaths of two women in Fairfax County, Virginia — Cheyenne Brown, of D.C., and Stephanie Harrison, of Redding, California. Their remains were both found in a large plastic container near a shopping cart near the Moon Inn motel, on U.S. Route 1 in the Huntington area of Alexandria.

Robinson is also suspected in the death of 40-year-old Sonya Champ, of D.C., whose body was found in a shopping cart in Northeast D.C. in September 2021.

Trials in August

Rockingham County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Christopher Bean did not seek to combine the Redmon and Smith cases into a single prosecution.

Circuit Court Judge Bruce Albertson set the trial related to Redmon’s death for Aug. 28. The trial for Smith’s death and the aggravated murder count is set for Sept. 25. Each trial is expected to last a week.

On Sept. 12, during a preliminary hearing in District Court, a judge watched video evidence showing Redmon and Smith each walking into Room 336 of the Howard Johnson motel in Harrisonburg with Robinson, then Robinson in each case later leaving the room before dawn and retrieving a shopping cart. Soon after, video also showed him dragging the cart out of the room, with body-sized items wrapped in sheets.

Robinson was living at the motel as part of his compensation for working in a nearby chicken processing plant.

The autopsies showed Redmon was found with a plastic bag over her head, and Smith’s arms were tied behind her back with “chunky black yarn.” Prosecutor Marsha Garsh showed the judge a photo and receipt of Robinson in the nearby Walmart, buying black yarn.

Last December, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis called Robinson a serial killer who met women at hotels, killed them and transported their bodies in a shopping cart before dumping their remains in vacant lots.

The judge will consider the motion to appoint a mental health expert during a hearing scheduled for Friday.

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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