Breakfast From Hell

A rather unconventional way to poison your mate as the day begins.

This story and investigation begins with my work on a totally different fraud investigation.

Several senior citizens had complained to me about a woman in her late sixties who was ripping off other senior citizens. I found that the woman was an elderly con artist that had served time in prison for fraud. She was continuing to practice her trade of taking money from elderly people. After about two months I found her living at an apartment complex for senior citizens in Sherman Oaks, Ca.

According to the people at the complex she had taken about $30,000 from a group of seniors. She always assured them they would get their money back, but her M.O. showed that the seniors have very little chance to get their money returned. This was their retirement money. My photographer and I went to the con artist’s apartment and knocked on the door. This would be my first chance to get a picture of the woman con artist and to try and talk to her on camera. I knocked, she opened the door and I started talking to her, and then the story bluntly changed!

A screaming woman in her 30’s came running up to me for help. She was yelling; “my husband is trying to kill me, help me; he is going to kill me.” I did not want to lose my only opportunity to get my interview and picture of the con artist, I had spent two months looking for. However, it is difficult to ignore a screaming woman who is begging you to protect her because her husband was coming to kill her. I said, “quick hide behind this bush, and I will protect you.” Then I turned to the con artist and said now I want to talk to you about the seniors you have taken thousands of dollars from. When she heard that, she slammed the door in my face. But we did get her picture and a good “door slam in my face” on video.

Then I turned to the woman who was hiding in the bush beside me. I thought her husband was coming with a gun to kill her, because she kept saying, “he is come to kill me.” So my photographer and I were on the look out for a man coming up the walkway between the apartments with a gun. No one showed up.

I took the woman to the front of the apartments and questioned her about her husbands attack on her. She said he had hit her, but worst of all he had fixed her breakfast and poisoned it. She said, she ate some of the tainted breakfast.

Her name was Sandra and I took her to our van so she could call the police. As we walked up to the van an LA Police patrol unit came by and I waved it down. I explained the situation to the officers, and they asked Sandra if she wanted to file charges on her husband for trying to poison her. She said yes.

So we all went back to her apartment in search of the breakfast-making husband. The officers pulled their guns as they approached the apartment door. They called for her husband, “Robert,” to come out. He would not respond or come out.

The officers entered the almost empty apartment, with my photographer and I right behind them. The one-bedroom apartment had not furniture at all. There was no one in the front room or kitchen area, so the officers moved down the hall to a bedroom. The officer, with weapons at the ready, continued to call out for Robert to come out with his hands in the air. He did not. Now there was an extremely tense moment as the two officers entered the bedroom, if Robert was in the apartment he had to be in that bedroom. The officers burst in and Robert was in the corner in his underpants, which is all he had on. The officers quickly took him into custody. He was questioned about the attack on Sandra.

The bedroom was almost as empty as the rest of the apartment. But there was a small 9-inch TV on the floor, and a pile of woman’s clothes in the corner. The officer told Robert to get dressed. He said he did not have any clothes to wear. The lead officer said, “wear what you had on when you came to the apartment.” Robert said what he had on when he arrived was in that pile of towels and clothes in the corner. The officer looked through the pile and found a orange jump suit that had LA County Jail on the back of it. It was a jail uniform.

The officer said to Robert, “this what you were wearing when you arrived at this apartment?” He said yes, they let me keep it as a souvenir from the jail. The LA County Jail does not let the inmates go home with a jail jump suit. One officer had to go to their unit to check Robert out and the other was still searching for a weapon, so they asked me to hold on to him for a moment. The officers knew I had been a cop before I was a TV reporter. So Robert and I talked, he denied he had done anything wrong. He said he never hit Sandra. But he said he had found out that she had a lover. He then insisted that I was working for her lover to put him back in jail. The officers confirmed that Robert was an escapee from the mental section of the LA County Jail.

At this point Sandra came in and pointed out that her breakfast that Robert made for her was still on the counter. It was a plate of two scrambled eggs, toast and jelly. The plate of eggs and toast had a strong odor. And sitting right beside the plate was a red can of “Raid” roach and ante killer. Sandra said Robert sprayed her eggs and toast with “Raid”. One good whiff of the breakfast confirmed it had been sprayed with the roach killer.

The officers took both Robert and the plate of breakfast into custody. Robert was handcuffed and put in the back seat of a police unit, and the eggs and toast were put into a plastic bag and placed in the trunk of the police unit.

Two other officers came by to back up the arrest. The Sgt., looking at Robert in his orange jail jump suit, said, good work you have captured an escaped jail inmate. He said I didn’t even hear about the escape today. The other officer told him it was not today, but a week ago and the guy is still wearing the jail jump suit. The Sgt. said, “now, that’s real smart.” I asked the officers if I could talk to Robert, they said Ok.

On camera Robert confessed to putting the “Raid” on Sandra’s breakfast. He said she deserved it because she found another lover while he was in jail. Robert and Sandra were in a common law type marriage. This statement on videotape would come back to haunt Robert at his trial where he was charged for poisoning food, a Felony.

Sandra was now standing near the patrol unit sobbing because Robert was going back to jail. She asked me to give him a small picture of Jesus to take to jail with him and remind him that she still loved him. This was getting to be a soup opera script. I gave him the picture of Jesus; well I put it in his lap because he was handcuffed behind his back. Off the cops drove with Robert and Sandra was still sobbing.

Now comes the shocker for my photographer and me. On camera I asked Sandra if she was shocked that Robert would spray “Raid” on her breakfast trying to poison her. Sandra’s answer was: “No, I used “Raid” to poison my step-father’s breakfast when I was a teenager.” Robert and Sandra seem to belong together, or was it that they were both crazy.

The story ended here in the TV report. But in real life it continued. An LAPD Sgt. called me from the City Jail in Van Nuys and told me that Robert was threatening to kill me because of my actions in his case. He was sure that I was working for his wife’s lover.

There was a trial in superior court in Van Nuys in 1997. I was subpoenaed to testify in the trial. Also the jury was shown the TV news report that included Robert’s confession in the backseat of the police car. The jury of 12 men and women convicted Robert of poisoning the breakfast, a violation of penal code #347. He was sentenced to four years in a California Prison. The California Department of Corrections said he was released in 11 months due to good behavior and the fact that he went to school while in prison. The CDC said this was not the first time Robert had been a guest of the prison system, a spokesperson said he had been in the system four times. He was released on parole. He finished his parole time and was released from the system in March 2001.

Robert has had just enough time to save up for another can of “Raid”, and scrambled eggs and toast. To order this breakfast the correct instructions are: heavy on scrambling the two eggs; light on the jelly for the toast; and a heavy spray of “Raid”; the ante and roach type in the Red Can.