Working with Detective Inspector Chris Enright in Melbourne, Hendren and Agnew tried to uncover new information to flesh out their suspicions that Robertson was involved in the murder, or at the very least in the cover-up. However, Robertson refused to meet with them on his attorney’s advice, and he put out the word to friends and colleagues to stay silent as well. Hendren and Agnew returned to the U.S., frustrated.
It is possible that the sealed warrant affidavit includes new details about the investigation, but Thompson agreed with the prosecution that “there exists an overriding interest that outweighs the right of public access to the record” and “a probability that the overriding interest will be prejudiced if the record is not sealed.”
The overt acts, listed in chronological order, describe dozens of examples of how Robertson interfered with and tried to influence the investigation into the murder; worked with Rossum to minimize their romantic relationship to investigators as simply “emotional,” and continued to strategize with her how to cover up the murder.
The complaint cites the exchange of 259 phone calls between Robertson and Rossum — as many as 11 in a day — from November 25, 2000, the day after Robertson was interviewed by police, through January 4, 2001, when police executed their search warrants.
After Robertson told investigators on January 10, 2001, that he was no longer in contact with Rossum, he exchanged 59 more phone calls with her. And soon after he returned to Australia in May, he sent Rossum a supportive note, saying, “I love you and take you with me in everything I do and wherever I go… My love is deeper, stronger and more wonderful than I have ever known before.”
Other acts authorities allege Robertson committed:
• Robertson lied to his superior, Lloyd Amborn, saying that Robertson and Rossum were in a coffee shop on the afternoon of November 6, 2000, the day de Villers was murdered, when in fact he met Rossum “very close to the crime scene.”
• The day after the murder, while Rossum was at her parents’ house in Claremont, east of Los Angeles, Robertson presented the case of de Villers’s death during the morning meeting at the Medical Examiner’s Office. He also logged on to Rossum’s password-protected computer that afternoon.
• Robertson interfered in the investigation by opening the container of autopsy specimens, which was stored for 36 hours in an unlocked refrigerator. He also falsely advised the medical examiner’s staff that based on his view of the specimens’ red coloring, “it appear[ed] that cough syrup played a role in the death of Gregory de Villers.”
• The final overt act alleged in the complaint occurred on November 4, 2002, when, “again in conformance with her agreement with Robertson,” Rossum, testifying under oath at trial, falsely denied stealing any drugs from the lab and also contended that de Villers died as a result of suicide after ingesting aspirin, cough medicine, and some of her old medications.
During Rossum’s trial, the prosecutors and defense attorneys both used Robertson as a key component of their cases, conveniently pointing to an empty chair in the courtroom where they said he would have been sitting if he hadn’t fled home to Australia.
Why weren’t these charges against Robertson ever announced? And why, when asked specifically about the Robertson investigation over the years, have officials at the District Attorney’s Office refused to comment or point me or the media to this public court file?
A few weeks ago, I talked with deputy district attorney Gary Schons, a new prosecutor on the case who has been responding to Rossum’s recent attempts to get a new trial. When I asked him to confirm a tip I’d gotten that Robertson had been charged, he told me he didn’t know anything about it, so I asked him to check “the file” for any documentation to make sure. He said he saw nothing in the file — the Rossum paper court file. New to the District Attorney’s Office since this complaint was filed, Schons was among those who learned of its existence after my call last week, saying his previous statement had been an “honest mistake.” Michael Robertson has his own file now, with a separate case number.
District attorney spokesman Steve Walker, asked in 2011 for any update on the case and the status of the investigation into Robertson’s involvement, would say only that, “We can’t comment on a pending investigation.” Last week, when I asked him why the district attorney never announced these charges or pointed anyone to the public file, he said that question fell under the same parameters.
In 2011, Agnew, with whom I’ve stayed in touch, said she tried to check with the District Attorney’s Office about granting me an interview for an updated edition of my book, which was released in December 2011. But after getting no response, she declined. When I emailed her this week about the charges, she said she still couldn’t comment without the district attorney’s permission.
San Diego police spokesman Gary Hassen also did not respond to a voice-mail message I left in May 2011, asking for an update on the case. I’ve been told by producers from several TV crime shows that they’ve gotten no cooperation from authorities on this case in recent years. And when authorities have been interviewed, it has only been on the condition that they not talk about the pending Robertson investigation.
The irony is that getting a copy of the complaint — with the exception of the sealed affidavit — was as simple as pulling a public court file. But that paperwork sat for years in the bowels of the downtown courthouse. Though technically a public document, its existence was known only to a small group from the prosecution team.
Over the past few years, Rossum’s appeals have made their way through the courts and her case has crept back into the news as recently as a couple of weeks ago.
Rossum’s new attorney, Elizabeth Missakian, is trying to find evidence to show that she can obtain meaningful results from testing de Villers’s autopsy specimens for fentanyl metabolites, with the goal of proving that they were contaminated — purposely or inadvertently — after he was already dead. Missakian is also hoping to get her client a new trial by proving that Rossum had inadequate trial counsel because her attorneys didn’t ask for this testing to be done at the time. Judge Thompson recently denied — without prejudice — Rossom’s motion to obtain documents related to the specimens as well as to access the specimens for metabolite testing.