Three-judge panel selected in Butler County capital murder case

Robbi Robinson faces death penalty if convicted in case of woman allegedly assaulted and set on fire before she died.

A three-judge panel was randomly selected Wednesday for one of two capital murder cases in Butler County that will go to trial in the first half to 2024.

Robbi Robinson is scheduled to be tried beginning Feb. 5 in Butler County Common Pleas Court for the death of Brenda Scott, who police and prosecutors say he assaulted and set on fire May 11 in a Fairfield Twp. home.

Robinson is charged with aggravated murder, felonious assault and aggravated arson. He faces the death penalty of convicted.

Fairfield Twp. Police arrested Robinson at the house on Arroyo Ridge Court as he attempted to leave. Scott jumped out the window to flee the attack, but later died of her injuries.

By law, a defendant in a capital case has the right to a trial by jury or by a three-judge panel, which is randomly selected.

While jury trials are usually the choice of defendants and their attorneys, a panel is selected early in the litigation process so the judges who will hear the case are known to both sides and can clear their schedules.

Butler County Clerk of Courts Mary Swain, common pleas court administrator Wayne Gilkison and Judge Noah Powers II, county presiding judge, were on hand for the draw using balls with numbers corresponding to the judges that were rolled from a bottle.

Judge Keith Spaeth, who is the presiding judge on the case, will automatically sit on the panel. Also chosen with the shake of the bottle were judges Jennifer McElfresh and Greg Howard.

While no final decision has been made by the defense, attorney David Brewer told the Journal-News the chances of Robinson being tried by a three-judge panel is “slim to none.”

Also at Thursday’s hearing, Spaeth granted the defense motion to visit the house were the incident happened. Prosecutors say it is still under repair from the fire, so viewing the house will need to be coordinated with the construction company.

Robinson has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bond.

Prosecutors say Robinson filled a container with accelerant, took it to an upstairs bedroom, doused the 50-year-old woman with it and lit her on fire. He is also accused of hitting her in the face, knocking out teeth. Scott jumped out a window to escape.

Scott was found on fire in her backyard by a neighbor, who called 911. The neighbor jumped a fence to help the woman.

“I see a little fire next to her and she is laying in the backyard,” the man told the dispatcher. “She is talking to me. She is hurt bad.”

The woman can be heard in the background saying, ”he set me on fire.”

At Robinson’s initial arraignment in June, Assistant Prosecutor Katie Pridemore requested the judge set a high bond, outlining the trauma Scott suffered that included her teeth being knocked out by the roots in addition to the burns and injuries from jumping out a second floor window.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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