Trial begins for man accused of strangling a woman in Bolton Hill in 1989

The attorney for a man accused of raping a woman and strangling her to death in her Bolton Hill home more than 20 years ago told a Baltimore jury during his opening statements that his client had sex with the victim but that the incident went no further.

Kevin Gerald Robinson is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Lisa Barselou, a 26-year-old whose body was found beaten and submerged in the bathtub of her home in November 1989. Nicholas Panteleakis, Robinson's lawyer, told the jury that Robinson and Barselou had consensual sex, and that his client's DNA, found on her body, could have been there up to five days before she was killed.

But Assistant State's Attorney Sharon Holback said in her opening statements that the forensic evidence links only Robinson to the killing and clears about a half-dozen other potential suspects, including one man police attempted to build a case against for years.

Holback said Robinson lived less than a mile from the victim and that the two did not know each other.

"Lisa Barselou died a terrible, violent, brutal death," Holback said. "She never knew her killer until he took her life."

Barselou's hands were bound with strips of cloth torn from a shirt, according to a police report filed at the time of the incident. Clothes and other items were strewn across her bedroom.

For years, police focused on an acquaintance of Barselou but never made an arrest. Holback stressed to the jury that the man's DNA was not a match and that none of the other individuals police questioned matched the DNA found on the victim.

The case turned cold until it was reopened in 2004. Three years later, a homicide detective sent the well-preserved DNA samples to a national database, which resulted in a match.

Robinson was not in the original case file, but his name was familiar to police. In 1995, Robinson was convicted of assault and kidnapping after he held four people hostage on the 12th floor of a downtown law office on Calvert Street.

One of the hostages managed to snatch his gun and shoot him four times. Police say Robinson had tied up two lawyers, a receptionist and a security guard, telling one of the victims that he would blow his head off if he didn't cooperate. Robinson is believed to have been looking for a law firm employee he thought owed him money.

The Baltimore man was serving a lengthy prison sentence in Hagerstown when he was questioned by city detectives about Barselou's death.

Robinson's DNA, though, might have been contaminated by a crime lab employee who left behind his own genetic material, according to a story about tainted evidence that previously ran in The Baltimore Sun. But Panteleakis stayed clear of the topic during his opening, focusing instead on blaming another man whom he said committed a similar violent act against a different woman three days after Barselou's death.

"The only evidence the government has linking [Robinson] to this case is the fact that he at some point had sex with her," Panteleakis said.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad