A wifeís plea, painting, memories surface nine months after killing of Fallbrook musician
Friday, December 20th, 2013
Issue 51, Volume 17.
Nine months later, his wife and family continue to draw love and support from a web of friends and acquaintances that stretches from Fallbrook to Temecula and beyond. But the pain still surfaces. The hole is still there.
In Temecula, where Robinson was fatally attacked at the music store where he worked, the city has offered a $25,000 reward for evidence or information leading to an arrest or conviction. Detectives explore all trails in the robbery-turned-homicide.
"We continue to work all the leads that we have," said Ed Baeza, the primary detective assigned to the case. "Thereís always work being done."
Robinson was found badly beaten, tied up and unconscious inside an Old Town Front Street music store. He died the following morning at an area hospital from injuries he suffered during the attack and robbery.
The store, Peteís Music & Guitar Shop, soon became the site of a gathering that attracted an estimated 500 people. Other gatherings were held for the popular performer, teacher and musical instrument technician.
In early April, a group of fans, friends and Old Town merchants urged the Temecula City Council to create a $10,000 reward. The council didnít act on their request then, but two weeks later it unanimously voted to sponsor a $25,000 reward fund.
The reward would seek whoever committed "this horrific crime," according to the city staff recommendation. Future outside donations can be added to the fund, which could be split if key information surfaces from separate sources. The reward remains a line item in the cityís budget.
Robinsonís connections, Temeculaís low homicide rate and the odd circumstances and brutality of the crime have kept the case at the forefront of the community collective.
Jeffrey Kubel said he has been briefed on the case twice since he became Temeculaís police chief in August. Kubel and Baeza both work for the Riverside County Sheriffís Department, which provides contract law enforcement services to the fast-growing city of about 103,000 residents.
Baeza said the investigation has gathered "a substantial amount of evidence," and several investigative disciplines have been drawn into the case. The cityís reward offer generated some new leads, Baeza said.
"At this point, there is no suspect or suspects that are named," Baeza said in a Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 10 telephone interview. He said investigators cannot give credence to any particular motive. He said detectives are in frequent contact with Robinsonís widow, Pat.
Keeping the case and the cityís reward in the publicís eye could be beneficial, Baeza said. It might kick loose a helpful tidbit that could lead to an arrest, he said.
"No matter how small they feel their information might be to the investigation, call us and let us decipher that information," he said. "Sometimes itís just a little piece of information we need to get the ball rolling."
He urged anyone who may have information to call the departmentís homicide tip line at (951) 955-2777 or the Temecula Police Department at (951) 696-3000.
A wife reaches out
Pat Robertson has learned to reach out following the killing of her 64-year-old husband in March. She has reached out to her friends, family, neighbors, health care clients and a grief counselor for help, love, prayer and fellowship in faith.
She recently reached out to a newspaper. It had been suggested, she said, that a story about the crime and the subsequent reward might generate tips which could, in turn, lead to an arrest and conviction of the still-at-large killer or killers.
"We want to bring some awareness to this crime and not let it fall away," she said in a brief telephone conversation. "Obviously, Iíve never done anything like this (media contact) before. Itís very difficult. Itís mainly a plea to somebody out there who knows something. Itís a horrible loss for us, not only for us as a family, but as a community. We canít let this go. Weíre not going to let this go."
Pat offered to send an e-mail that detailed some of the familyís thoughts as they approach their first Christmas without her husband. It reads, in part:
"We grieve everyday as we miss his presence in our lives. We miss his smile and his laughter, his listening, warm heart, keen wit and great sense of humor. We miss his friendship, his music and his sweet voice and the way only he could play the guitar. I miss how he would open the gate and kiss me goodbye in the morning. Larry loved his life. It was meaningful and good."
The statement went on to say that Pat and Larry had been looking forward to travel and a slower pace. His death prevented him from attending his granddaughterís first birthday party. It prevented him from recording the last song he wrote.
"As Larryís family, we have hope that somebody will come forward with any piece of information that might possibly have a bearing on this case," the statement read.
Pat elaborated on the familyís grief and loss, as well as the outpouring of community support, during a subsequent interview in the cozy Fallbrook home where the couple lived since 1991.
A half dozen wind chimesplayed a mellow, muted symphony as two dogs nosed a visitor. Once seated, Pat told of the impact felt when the words "murder," "crime scene" and "homicide investigation" are suddenly thrust into oneís life.
"Because itís an unsolved crime, itís always pending," she said. "Itís unfinished."
She played her husbandís last song and shared some photos of him, including one that was taken six days before he was killed. She talked about some of their travels and how they met in 1989.
"I was a waitress and he was the singer," she recalled. They blended a family of four children when they married.
"Iím a woman of faith and thatís helped," she said. "That and knowing thereís been so many prayers for me and my family. Itís been a huge outpouring."
Pat said no one had ever realized, until after Larry was gone, how many lives her husband had touched.
"He wouldíve been the last person to admit he was so loved by so many people," Pat said. "He was a man of very few words – more thoughtful than outspoken."
A crime scene stigma
To the casual observer, Peteís Music hasnít changed much over the past nine months. The "open" sign still flashes when the counter is staffed and musicians tutor children in the back.
Guitars and dozens of other types of instruments and amplifiers hang from metal racks, overflow shelves or line the walls. Musical accessories of every kind are stored neatly in place.
The store is still located in the same spot at South Creek Mall in Temecula, a smattering of businesses that include a hair salon, a convenience store, a pottery and art shop, a storefront church, an alterations and sewing shop and separate driving and casino dealer schools.
Musical chords still fill the air of the shop when fingers dance over tightly-drawn strings.
Yet everything has changed since Larry Robinson was fatally beaten there on May 22.
Robinsonís death has left its mark at all layers of the mom-and-pop business that has stores in Temecula, Menifee and Anaheim.
"For us at Peteís Music, it totally and absolutely changed our lives," said JR Bray, who worked with Robinson for nine years. "There is not a day when Iím working here that somebody doesnít come in and mention Larry. Every single day. Even when Iím at the Menifee store."
Bray, who doubles as a worship leader and a teacher, pulls a wallet-size picture of Robinson from a nearby shelf. He then points out a larger photo tacked to a wall that shows Robinson playing the guitar and singing into a microphone.
Larry had worked in several music stores throughout the region, Bray recalled. He was a talented musician who played at many regional venues, an "amazing guitar tech" and a cherished coworker since 2004.
And then he was gone following a brutal robbery and assault in the store where they worked.
The business became a crime scene. Some alarmed parents pulled their children out of lessons there. The owner is haunted by regrets for overlooking the need for surveillance cameras in the shop prior to the daytime shift when the crime occurred.
Robinsonís presence is still felt deeply among the storeís customers, the music community and the companyís small, scattered cadre of workers, Bray said.
"They havenít gotten over it," he said.
Connections captured on canvas
Larry popped into a Fallbrook pub on Dec. 6. He peered out, acoustic guitar in hand, from the back of the stage, as about 100 people gathered at Mageeís Tavern.
The crowd had gathered for a sneak peak at "When Fallbrookís Eyes are Smiling," a large painting commissioned by the pub owner and done by Brett Stokes, a renowned artist and muralist. The painting – 12Ĺ feet by 6 feet done in acrylic on canvas – is a mťlange of prominent and little-known Irish and local characters.
With the aid of a tall onlooker, a cover was pulled away from the painting. Stokes talked about the piece and thanked the pub owner for allowing his artistic whimsy to run free. Stokes noted that many of the people depicted in the painting were or are "just very, very important to me."
Stokes then paused and waited for the onlookers to drink in the painting with their eyes.
Thereís JFK. Thatís a beloved Fallbrook veterinarian who died several years ago. Duke Snyder, Fallbrookís own baseball legend, is winding up for a pitch. And there, of course, is Rita Coolidge, the cherished songstress who has settled in Fallbrook. And thereís Larry, blending into the background as he strums a guitar.
Stokes and Robinson were close friends. Stokes did the art on Robinsonís album covers.
Robinson had performed in that building years ago. Back then, the restaurant and lounge were called the Packing House.
And now the two friends and that place are connected again through the painting.
Stokes wrapped up his brief remarks and then, almost as an afterthought, noted Larryís presence in the corner of the painting.
"Thatís a very close friend who passed away – a musician, a performer, an awesome songwriter," Stokes said. "And I want you to notice the sparkle on his ring finger. Thatís his wife, Pat."
Pat, accompanied by a pair of friends to the event, quietly took it all in. Afterward, she said she was pleased by her husbandís portrait and its position in the piece.
"He couldnít be depicted any better," she said. "It was perfect."
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