Unthinkable: The Robison Family Murders (Part 2: The Prime Suspect)
In part one of our special report, we took you back 45 years this summer to Good Hart where the Robison Family was found murdered.
Richard, his wife and their 4 kids were all found shot to death in their summer home. Investigators didn't find the bodies until almost a month after they were murdered.
News of the crime spread fast and thrust northern Michigan into the headlines. Was a murderer running loose? When would an arrest be made?
Enter Joe Scollaro, an employee of Robison's cultural magazine "Impresario." By most accounts, he was a smart man, a former military sharpshooter.
"He did have a motive," said Mardi Link, author of the book When Evil Came to Good Hart. "He was embezzling from Richard Robison while Richard was on vacation in Good Hart."
In a sea of potential suspects, Scollaro stood out. Investigators shifted their attention to him and the more they learned, the more convinced they became that they had their man.
Scollaro was given 3 lie detector tests and didn't pass any of them. His alibi for the night of the murder was unsubstantiated, and there were a few potential links back to the crime.
"The only piece of physical evidence besides the shell casings was a bloody footprint," Link said. "It was so important that police got a saw out and cut the part of the floor that the bloody footprint was on."
Police checked all of Scollaro's shoes and found a perfect match, but the shoes were brand new, never been worn.
"Now we learn that Joe Scollaro was known to buy two of everything....two suits, two shoes, two guns," Link said. "He probably had a pair of boots that he had two of but he got rid of the pair he wore the night of the murder."
The perfect match wasn't just for his shoes either. Scollaro owned an exact replica of the gun police believed killed the Robison's - an AR-7.
"They determined that his AR-7 doesn't match," Link said. "What they do find out is where he likes to target shoot. They visit the place downstate, comb the area with metal detectors and find shell casings."
Those shell casings did match.
Investigators put together a 200-page report asking the Emmet County prosecutor to charge Joe Scollaro with the murders, but the prosecutor does not.
"They decided it's not a slam dunk," Link said. "Emmet County is a small community, doesn't have a lot of money for a prosecution like this, and they never charge him."
While Emmet County's investigation was over, Oakland County prosecutors began their own search for answers in 1973. They began digging into the embezzlement accusations as a precursor to the murders. Word that an indictment may be handed down reached Joe Scollaro and this time, he decided to handle it on his own terms.
One morning police in Birmingham got a 911 call and showed up to an office to find Joe Scollaro had committed suicide with a 25 caliber Beretta, the second gun that was used to kill the Robison's.
Scollaro left a note where he apologized to his mother, to all those he had debts to, but at the end of the note he wrote "I did not kill the Robison's." He wrote at the beginning, "I am a liar, a cheat but not a killer."
So was Scollaro just a small time liar? Or was he the killer so many pegged him as? Link's book has raised debate online, and even in towns like Good Hart. But it's a case that probably won't ever end.
"The fact that he is dead makes it almost impossible to get a satisfying resolution," Link said.
To read part one, click here.