Case File Overview
On March 12, 1978, 16-year-old Pauline “Robbin” Burgette was at home alone in her family’s duplex apartment located near 26th Street and McDowell Road in Phoenix, Arizona. Robbin’s mother and brother Chad had been away all weekend on a trip.
Robbin’s brother Chad pointing to the scene of her murder
Around 5PM, 11-year-old Chad returned home and walked into his sister Robbin’s bedroom and encountered a gruesome scene. Robbin had been murdered. An autopsy later determined she had been sexually assaulted and stabbed repeatedly.
The authorities discovered very few clues at the scene, and despite a lengthy and thorough investigation, Robbin’s murder case remains unsolved.
Case File Theories
Was Robbin killed by a stranger during a burglary? This theory is unlikely. There was neither any reported signs of forced entry nor any items known to be missing from Robbin’s home. It looks as though Robbin may have known her killer and let him in.
Could Robbin have been murdered by a random maniac who just happened to stumble upon her at home alone? Maybe, but it is doubtful. Phoenix police cold case detective Clark Schwartzkopf told the media Robbin’s murder was notably brutal. Det. Schwartzkopf stressed, “whoever committed the crime, this was a crime of anger, and rage and Robbin knew her perpetrator.”
Taking into consideration there was no sign of forced entry, as well as the personal and brutal nature of the crime, it is a safe bet Robbin was raped and stabbed to death by someone she knew.
Was Robbin murdered by her boyfriend? Of course, as we all know too well, in murder cases a woman’s partner is usually the prime suspect, and sadly often rightly so.
The police determined Robbin left her friend’s house the night before she was killed at approximately 8PM. She told her friend she was headed to meet her then-boyfriend, who thus far has remained unnamed by police. Some reports indicate Robbin was hoping to have her boyfriend over for dinner after she arrived home, but the police have never made clear if this get-together occurred.
Could Robbin’s boyfriend have murdered her in a fit of rage? This is a highly probable theory, I believe, until we learn about the DNA evidence.
Was Robbin killed by an ex-boyfriend, friend, or acquaintance? I think this is possible. In fact, Det. Schwartzkopf has informed the media Robbin was a high-school dropout with plenty of free time to date. He said, “Being out of school, she had a lot of boyfriends, a lot of ex-boyfriends, what we’re hoping is that somewhere along the line someone said something to someone and admitted to something.” Putting aside the judgy undercurrents in this statement, it does significantly widen the suspect pool. Did a jealous ex-boyfriend confront Robbin and murder her? Quite possibly, yes.
Robbin had also recently been babysitting at a housing complex for an extended period of time leading up to her death. Det. Schwartzkopf said, “She had been brought back home early. And we know there were problems at the other complex with a gentleman making advances on her while she was babysitting there for the three weeks before her murder.” Overall, I think this lead is promising. No doubt the police questioned the person of interest, but I would like to know more about what transpired between Robbin and the threatening man who cut her babysitting job short.
The best lead in Robbin’s case is the DNA profiles the police have generated from evidence at the murder scene. We need to applaud the authorities for their careful collection of evidence long before DNA was considered a factor. After examining the DNA evidence, investigators were able to determine at least two people were present when Robbin was murdered.
Det. Schwartzkopf explained although it is good to have DNA evidence it is not much use unless they can match it to a suspect(s). Given the recent advances in DNA technology and the use of familial DNA to finally nab serial killers like the Golden State Killer and the Grim Sleeper, hopefully Robbin’s killer(s) will be identified one day soon.
Keep in mind, the police definitely would have checked the DNA profiles against Robbin’s then-boyfriend, her known ex-boyfriends, and the creepy guy who harassed Robbin while she was babysitting. So if Robbin was indeed murdered by someone known to her, the odds are high that person was more of an acquaintance and has yet to be on the police’s radar.
Who do you think killed Robbin?
Chad, Robbin’s brother, fondly recalls how his outgoing sister “…loved life and loved being outdoors. She hated wearing shoes and loved the hot summers. She was a great sister and she was my friend.”
Although it is impossible for the Burgette family to ever really have closure after the tragic loss of Robbin, Chad feels “the person who did it has been free long enough.”
If you know anything about what happened to Robbin, please call the Phoenix Police Department at 602-262-6011 or Silent Witness at either 480-WITNESS (948-6377) or 1-800-343-TIPS (8477). There is a $1,000 reward in this case.
“Phoenix police hoping for leads in 1978 murder case” – KTAR News article
“38 years after finding sister murdered, man searches for answers in cold case” – Investigation Discovery article
“Brother of cold case murder victim wants answers” – 12 News article
“Murder victim’s brother still hoping for justice in cold case” – azfamily.com article
“Police look for clues in 1978 cold case murder” – Fox 10 News article