Robinson gets life in prison for step grandfather's murder

Michael Robinson

CONEJOS -- Michael Robinson, 35, will spend the rest of his life in prison for murdering his 77-year-old step grandfather, with time added for additional crimes to impress upon him that he committed other crimes for which he should be punished.

Victim impact statements included comments from Ann Ziel-Sprouse, the daughter of victim James Sprouse.

Traveling to Conejos County from California, she and her husband sat through every day of the trial, which began after jury selection last Wednesday and ended this Thursday with a verdict of guilty as charged of first-degree murder, along with other attendant crimes.

She said she was sorry Robinson acted as he did. She had hoped he would get his life together. Instead, “All we will ever have is a question, “Why, why, why?”

Speaking to Robinson via telephone, Sarah Ann Sprouse, the last remaining of James Sprouse’s two siblings, said, “Michael, I am really sorry you did what you did. I told him that I forgave him because God says I have to and I don’t want the death penalty.”

She asked the court to give Robinson life without parole.

“You destroyed not only Jim, you destroyed an entire family. My brother was good to you, gave you money and took care of you...”

Chief Trial Deputy District Attorney Ashley McCuaig requested consecutive sentencing on all convictions, even though Robinson would receive life without parole to send a message about the other crimes he committed. Credit will be given for time awaiting trial.

Beginning to levy sentencing, 12th Judicial District Judge Martin Gonzales told Robinson to rise. The convicted man wore an orange Archuleta County Jail suit and heavy chains as opposed to a suit and tie every other day of the trial.

“For the purpose of the record, even though we use different count numbers on the jury verdicts, we are talking about count one, murder in the first degree, being found guilty by the jury,” Gonzales began. 

“With regard to the first-degree murder charge, the sentence is mandatory and I will impose that.”

“Before I do that formally, I want to point out a couple of things. The death that was suffered by Mr. Sprouse did not need to happen. But it did happen. It happened some 987 days ago. Mr. Sprouse, by all indications was an honorable man. Given his described nature, he was probably a little rough around the edges.”

“ I’m from this county and know its people. People from this county are a little bit hardscrabbled. They have to be to survive,” the judge said.

“In this context, like others-- like many others-- he took you in as a family member.  One can suppose that he provided this for free and did so probably knowing what you were doing. And yet he kept you and feed you and provided you with a roof over your head. To put it simply, he was an honorable man who did honor to his family.”

“His death was needless. I do not know what the precipitating factor was to this death. Only two people in the world know what that was about. One of them stands before me. If you believe in a supreme being, there will come a time of accountability to that entity. Those kinds of eternal consequences are for that supreme being.” 

“We are mere humans. We can only try to do what is right to maintain civil order, to distinguish the right from the wrong, to uphold the right and to punish the wrong.  That is what our laws are about. I believe in that. I believe in the rule of law. I believe wrongdoers should face punishment. I truly believe that. 

“Mr. Robinson, you have brought upon yourself, you have brought upon your family and on this community, a point of dishonor. It caused a shame that will forever leave a hole with everybody that was touched by this senseless act.” 

“Mr. Sprouse has gone on and he will continue to live, probably in memory, and not forgotten by you every day that you live.”

“My hope is that, at least within yourself, you will recognize and in some small way every day you will find some way of recompense. Whether it is helping another inmate to get up because they are having a hard time getting up, showing some sort of active kindness to another inmate or corrections officer in an appropriate and kind gesture. If you do that, my hope is that in some small sense, at least, you will find some peace.”

“The state is engaged in an experiment of restorative justice, which allows for offenders an avenue of communication with potential victims who are willing to talk to the offender and reach some understanding of the nature and extent of the harm and try to repair the harm as best can be done. It is a benefit to the victims, although collaterally it is the benefit to the offenders. I urge you to consider that program.  There is not much else I can say.”

“On the count of first-degree murder, I impose life imprisonment without parole.  On count four, tampering with the evidence, I impose a maximum sentence of 18 months mandatory parole one year. It is consecutive. On count five, abuse of the corpse, a class II misdemeanor, I have a one-year sentence and make it concurrent as this would be a county jail sentence.” 

“On count six, aggravated motor vehicle theft, I impose the three years with mandatory parole two years and it is consecutive. On count seven, concealing death, class I misdemeanor, I impose a maximum of 18 months and that is concurrent.”

“I do find that the first-degree murder count is a crime of violence. That will be noted. We have noted the appropriate theories of the sentencing were clear.  This sentence is required by statute and is necessary as a deterrent to this defendant, as well as others. To do anything less would depreciate the seriousness of what is going on here.”

With that, he remanded Robinson to the Conejos County sheriff, to be transported to the Colorado Department of Corrections.