On May 11, 1991, an altercation at Henry Roberts’s home in Baltimore, Maryland, left Roberts wounded and his nephew dead. Roberts told police that an armed man broke into his home and attempted to steal his television. When confronted, the robber shot Roberts in the chest, then shot and killed his nephew, who was staying with him at the time. While in the hospital recovering from his wounds, Roberts gave the police several inconsistent statements. Police located the murder weapon in a nearby creek, and found that the gun was registered to Roberts. Roberts claimed that the gun had been stolen in an earlier robbery, but police believed that he had shot his nephew, and then purposely shot himself to cover up the murder. Though Roberts maintained his innocence, he sought to avoid jail time by agreeing to a plea bargain that would have resulted in a suspended sentence for manslaughter. The judge rejected the plea deal, however, and Roberts went to trial. In January 1992, a jury convicted him of second-degree murder and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Shortly after Roberts’s conviction, an anonymous caller told police that Robert Tomczewski had committed the crime. Police failed to follow up on the tip and Roberts died in prison of a heart attack in May 1997. In 2000, Richard Stone came forward and told police that he had witnessed Tomczewski break into Roberts’s home on the night of the crime and then heard gunshots. Stone claimed he came forward because he was racked with guilt. Tomczewski, who was in prison for unrelated charges, initially denied committing the crime, but his cellmate told police that Tomczewski had previously confessed to him. In April 2002, Tomczewski pled guilty to second-degree murder for killing Roberts’s nephew; he was sentenced to 25 years in prison, with all but 10 suspended.
- Stephanie Denzel