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Westminster man guilty in 1993 slaying of friend


A Carroll County jury has convicted a Westminster man of killing his best friend beside the Monocacy River in February 1993.

After deliberating for 5 1/2 hours Thursday and Friday, the Circuit Court jury found Roy Monroe Robertson guilty of first-degree murder and using a handgun to commit a violent crime in the death of William Charles Prodoehl. He will be sentenced Nov. 8.

"Needless to say, the family is very happy about the verdict," said Mary Vaught, the victim's mother, who sat in the front row for the entire 2 1/2 weeks of testimony.

"It's been a long 2 1/2 years," she said after tearfully hugging and thanking prosecutors Jerry F. Barnes and Martha Ann Sitterding. "I'm glad it's over."

Robertson's attorney said he will appeal.

Police said Gina Prodoehl, the victim's wife, and Mr. Robertson reported finding Mr. Prodoehl's body in the snow beside the Monocacy River on Feb. 18, 1993. He had been shot twice in the head.

The two told police that they went to look for Mr. Prodoehl when he failed to return from a fishing trip in Taneytown the night before.

Police have said that Robertson -- who had been having an affair with Gina Prodoehl for about three years before the slaying -- killed Mr. Prodoehl for half of a $100,000 insurance policy that named Mrs. Prodoehl as the primary beneficiary. Mrs. Prodoehl never has been charged, although a state trooper testified at Robertson's trial that she still is a suspect.

Prosecutors said Robertson had become jealous of Mr. Prodoehl and thought the Westminster roofer was not worthy to be married to his wife. The three had been living in the Prodoehls' Singer Drive townhouse for about a year before the victim's death, police said.

Robertson, who has been incarcerated since January 1994 on these and other charges, will be held in the Carroll County Detention Center until he is sentenced by Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr.

Prosecutors have said they will seek a sentence of life without parole.

"This has been a very painful period of time for the mother of the victim and the family," said Mr. Barnes, Carroll County state's attorney. "Hopefully, they will now feel some degree of finality. This was a very difficult case, and we feel fortunate that the state's attorney's office was able to prevail."

Assistant Public Defender Daniel Shemer, who represented Robertson, said he also believes the prosecution was fortunate in the decision reached by the jurors.

"I find their verdict incomprehensible," said Mr. Shemer, who argued that his client had been set up and that police wrongly had focused on Robertson to the exclusion of all other possible suspects.

"I don't know how they could reach that verdict beyond a reasonable doubt," he said. "But, it's hard being a juror. As lousy as it is being a lawyer in cases like this, it's worse being a juror."

Mr. Shemer cited several mistakes he believed the court and prosecutors had made as reasons for an appeal. For example, he said, Judge Burns should have included information about alibis in jury instructions.

"The prosecution said there was no alibi," Mr. Shemer said. "Then, in their closing argument they said [Robertson's] alibi wasn't good enough. That was one of a very large number of errors in this case."

His client, Mr. Shemer said, took the verdict "like a gentleman."

"It's hard to imagine hearing those words on the other end," Mr. Shemer said. "Roy took this with dignity and grace."

Robertson was indicted in November, while in prison.

In August 1994, he pleaded guilty to molesting a woman and showing a pornographic movie to a girl and was sentenced to Roxbury Correctional Institution in Hagerstown. While there, he became a chief suspect in the Prodoehl slaying after making statements to other inmates. One, former state health official John M. Staubitz Jr., testified last week that Robertson confessed to the killing.

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