Transgender woman takes stand in trial of accused cop killer
By Adam Brandolph
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 12:08 p.m.
A man charged with killing a police officer and another victim sent text messages to his longtime girlfriend demanding she tell police he was with her the day of the fatal shootings, a former county detective testified Tuesday.
“I can't talk right now I was with u all day 4real,” Ronald Robinson wrote to Kashawna Jackson, 35, at 9:16 p.m. on Dec. 6, 2009, less than an hour after police say Robinson killed Officer Michael Crawshaw, 32, and Danyal Morton, 40, of Penn Hills.
Robinson went to Morton's home on Johnston Road and killed him over a $500 drug debt before fatally shooting Crawshaw, the first officer to respond to the scene, police say. Deputy District Attorney Mark V. Tranquilli is seeking the death penalty during a trial that began Thursday.
Jurors on Tuesday also heard testimony from a transgender woman Robinson met through a phone sex hotline hours after the shooting. Robinson was in bed with Thomas Jones, who goes by the name “Taliyah,” when detectives arrested him at Robinson's Homewood house on Dec. 7, 2009. Jones refused to answer questions from Tranquilli, who referred to a statement Jones gave police after Robinson's arrest.
Robinson's cousin, Ramond Nelson, testified and told the jury of seven women and five men that Robinson confessed to killing Morton over a drug debt.
“He said him and a guy got into it over $500. He said he was going in the house to try to get his money and he shot the guy,” Nelson said. “He said he went outside and he shot the cop.”
Nelson said Robinson made the confession when he saw reports of Crawshaw's death while watching television at Robinson's mother's house in Homewood.
“I said ‘Why would you do something like that? Do you want to spend the rest of your life in jail?'” Nelson said.
The text messages sent to Robinson's girlfriend were among evidence collected by county detectives and extracted from Robinson's cell phone by former Allegheny County Police Detective Timothy Haney, who works as an agent for the state Attorney General's Office specializing in computer forensics.
When Robinson sent the text asking Jackson to provide his alibi, she responded: “Lol u wasn't with me all day guess that was meant for someone else.”
Robinson replied: “I did something watch the news 4 me ... And delete the texts.”
Defense attorney Veronica Brestensky has not disputed most of the facts in the case, and Robinson does not deny his role in the shootings. Brestensky, however, believes her client should be convicted of second-degree murder rather than first-degree because Robinson killed Crawshaw while attempting to flee the scene of a felony.
The trial will resume Wednesday with Jackson expected to take the stand.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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