Child murder suspect lured victim to his hotel room with snacks
(KY3.COM) BRANSON, Mo. – A detective believes the man accused of murdering a 6-year-old girl at a motel on Saturday used snacks to lure her into his motel room at the Windsor Inn. John P. Roberts, 55, is charged with first-degree murder for the strangulation death of Jasmine Miller.
The probable cause statement used as the basis of the charge says the child’s body was found Saturday night under the bed in the motel room rented by Roberts. The victim and her family were also living at the motel. The statement doesn’t say why police believe Roberts used snacks to get the girl into his room.
Roberts made his first appearance in Taney County associate circuit court on the murder charge on Monday afternoon. He met with his public defender and the judge set his next court appearance for March 10.
Jasmine disappeared at some point on Saturday night. People in the area tell KY3 News that about 100 people looked for her until her body was found in Roberts’ room.
Jasmine was a kindergarten student at Cedar Ridge Primary School for five days. A school administrator said the school instituted a crisis plan to help other students get through the tragedy.
Before she enrolled in Branson, Jasmine was a student at Horace Mann Elementary School in Springfield from Jan. 6 to Feb. 9, according to a Springfield School District spokeswoman.
A fund set up at Branson Bank is a place where people can donate money to help the Miller family with funeral expenses. School officials say they’ll talk to the family to see if they can do anything else to help.
Roberts was charged with another crime just a month ago. He’s charged with breaking into an apartment at Branson Manor Apartments, 218 S. Old County Road, on Jan. 23, and stealing $70.
The probable cause statement for that second-degree burglary charge says Roberts told police that he needed money for food, and “would arrange to pay the money back.” Police found $23 in Roberts’ wallet, and say he told them that’s what was left from what he stole.
At the time, Roberts lived in that apartment complex. He posted a $171 bond to get out of the Taney County jail in Forsyth.
Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Merrell said Monday that, when Roberts’ bond amount on the burglary charge was being decided in a court appearance on Feb. 10, an assistant prosecuting attorney was negotiating for a lower bond so the victim of the burglary could be reimbursed. What the APA did not know was that the victim had faxed a request that Roberts not be released on bond; the fax had not made it to the APA.
The prosecutor says it’s impossible to know if that fax would have changed the outcome and resulted in Roberts still being held on his original $15,000 bond amount, but he says it certainly would have changed what they requested from the judge.
“The benefit of hindsight is certainly we wish that he had not been let out of custody at that time. Of course, you can’t anticipate that somebody’s going to go out and commit a heinous crime,” said Merrrell.
Roberts’ court-appointed defense attorney says the first thing he will do is try to determine whether Roberts is mentally competent to stand trial.