Edmonton

Jury finds Roberto Robles guilty of second-degree murder

An Edmonton jury has found Roberto Robles guilty of second-degree murder. Robles admitted he killed his son-in-law, Armando Cosmea Aspillaga in June 2016. His lawyer argued the killing was unintentional.

Faces an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.

Roberto Robles at Edmonton police headquarters the night of his arrest in June 2016. (Edmonton Police Service)

An Edmonton jury has found Roberto Robles guilty of second-degree murder for killing his son-in-law.

The jury deliberated for several hours Monday before returning with a verdict. Robles didn't react when the verdict was delivered.

Robles, 75, was on trial for the June 17, 2016, killing of Armando Cosmea Aspillaga, 38.

After the attack, Robles asked his wife to call police. When officers arrived at the Riverbend home, the jury was told the senior said, "I shot him in the head with an air gun. God save my soul. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

He faces an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.

Despite a guilty verdict, Robles will not be in custody immediately. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Dawn Pentelechuk gave Robles two weeks to get his affairs in order. He must turn himself in to Edmonton Remand Centre custody on July 9, two weeks before his Aug. 1 sentencing date.

Crown prosecutor Mark Huyser-Wierenga argued releasing Robles from custody could undermine public confidence in the administration of justice. Pentelechuk disagreed.

"There's no concern Mr. Robles will be a flight risk and no evidence he poses a threat to society in any way shape or form," Pentelechuk said.

'Overwhelming motive to kill'

The day after the attack, Robles admitted his guilt again during a videotaped interview with an Edmonton police homicide detective.

And in closing arguments at the trial last week, the defence and the Crown agreed that Robles killed Aspillaga.

Defence lawyer Mike Danyluik argued that Robles should be convicted of the lesser offence of manslaughter because Aspillaga's death was unintentional. The two men had an acrimonious relationship, Danyluik said, but he argued hatred is not a motive.

But the Crown told the jury Robles' hatred for his son-in-law gave him a "powerful and overwhelming motive to kill."

He pointed to the number of wounds Aspillaga suffered — 18 — caused by an air pistol and two knives, and noted the severity of the injuries.

Weapons handed over to police by Robles at the scene of the killing. (Edmonton Police Service )

Aspillaga's jugular vein was severed when a knife sliced through his neck. Another stab wound cut 20 centimetres into his torso, perforating his lung. The medical examiner testified either of those injuries would have been fatal.

Key issue was intent

Justice Pentelechuk provided instructions to the jury of seven women and five men on Monday morning.

In the charge, more than 90 minutes long, Pentelechuk told the jury that to find Robles guilty of second-degree murder, they must determine beyond a reasonable doubt that he meant to kill Aspillaga or that he knew his actions could cause Aspillaga's death.

If they cannot make that determination, or if they have a reasonable doubt, then the verdict would be manslaughter.

Armando Cosmea Aspillaga shown in a Facebook photo with his newborn daughter. (Facebook)

Aspillaga met Robles' daughter Flavia Robles at a 2009 wedding in Cuba. They married in 2010, though Aspillaga had to wait in Cuba another year before he could immigrate to Canada.

The couple had a daughter in 2013. By 2015, they were legally separated and slept in different bedrooms, though they continued to live in the same house.

Flavia Robles had started divorce proceedings and the two were locked in a nasty custody dispute.

The jury was also told Robles had offered to purchase a one-way plane ticket back to Cuba for Aspillaga. The Crown said when the offer was refused, and Robles realized there was no legal way to force Aspillaga out of the house, "He decided to take matters into his own hands."

Aspillaga died shortly after returning home from work, according to an agreed statement of facts.

In a police interview the day following Aspillaga's death, Robles told a homicide detective he was deeply disappointed in his son-in-law.

Robles used words such as rat, dog and pimp to describe Aspillaga, claiming he was taking advantage of his daughter by refusing to move out of their shared home.

'My brother was a good man'

Aspillaga's mother, Georgina Aspillaga, and sister, Adelaida Puente, live in Cuba, but have made trips to Canada during the trial.

"I feel so much pain, sometimes I can't even express myself," Georgina Aspillaga said outside of the courthouse, speaking through translator Tracy Brown. "They took my life. They took my soul."

Armando Cosmea Aspillaga's sister, Adelaida Puente, left, and mother, Georgina Aspillaga, right, expressed their grief after the verdict was delivered. Tracy Brown, centre, helped translate for the family. (CBC)

Puente said her brother was mischaracterized during the trial.

"My brother was a good man. And the only thing he ever did his whole life was love his family, his friends," Brown said on Puente's behalf. "And when his daughter was born, his daughter was the light of his life."

Puente and her mother were denied access to Aspillaga's daughter following a court battle. They've seen her only three times since Aspillaga's death.

Robles had been allowed to continue babysitting the little girl — even after being charged with her father's murder.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston

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