Unsolved: The Robison Family Murders

We’re bringing you a new series here on 9&10 News called ‘Unsolved.’

We’re taking a dive into an unsolved crime in northern Michigan, and bring you extended interviews on a new podcast.

We’re heading first, to the northern part of Emmet County for a case dating back more than 50 years.

Unsolved: A 9&10 News Podcast · Unsolved – The Robison Family MurdersThe village of Good Hart in Emmet County is about as peaceful and relaxing a place you’ll find in northern Michigan. But in the summer of 1968, it became the scene of one of the most gruesome and notorious crimes in northern Michigan history.

When you first get to Good Hart, it’s hard not to notice just how peaceful it is. It’s likely what drew the Robison family to this area to escape the hustle and bustle of life in southeast Michigan.

“Back in 1968, things were pretty simple, and a sleepy little town with a little general store and a gas station,” said Emmet County Sheriff Pete Wallin.Unsolved 2

But a horrifying discovery inside the Robison family cottage would rock this quiet Lake Michigan town.

“Unfortunately Richard, his wife Shirley, their sons, Richie, Gary Randy and daughter Susan had all been killed. It was terrible, I mean those bodies had been moved over the heat register so they were badly, badly decomposed and it was a mess,” said Wallin.

The entire family, shot and killed. What followed was a 15 month investigation according to Emmet County Sheriff Pete Wallin, one that eventually led investigators to one man.

Unsovled 4“The prime suspect in this was Mr. Robison’s business partner Joe Scolaro. Mr. Robison had gotten a phone call from his secretary about money is missing from the account, and so Mr. Robison, I think he had a conversation with Mr. Scolaro, and I guess it wasn’t very good, lots of yelling and screaming,” said Wallin.

There was some evidence found at the scene, linking Scolaro to the crime.

“They did get shell casings from the scene, they knew Mr. Scolaro had that .22 ArmaLite, and they went to the firing range where he used to shoot it. They found four shell casings that exactly matched the shell casings at the firing range where he used to fire,” explained Wallin.

Mardi Link is the author of the book, When Evil Came to Hood Hart. She says there were other factors that pointed to Scolaro.

“One, he didn’t have an alibi, not only did he not have an alibi, he lied about his alibi, he said he was one place and it turned out he was on a different day, he had money troubles, he was an excellent marksman,” said Link.Unsolved 1

But even with what seemed like mounting evidence, prosecutors in Emmet County were reluctant to issue charges.  Then, L. Brooks Paterson, who was the Oakland County Prosecutor at the time, took a look at the case.

Unsolved 3“He was going to issue charges on Scolaro, when Scolaro caught wind of this, he committed suicide. He left a note saying I’m a liar, I have taken money from people, but I never killed anybody,” said Wallin.

“I think initially Scolaro was completely over confident, and just thought, I’m this mover and shaker from the Detroit area, I can completely hoodwink these bumpkins from up north,” said Link.

The case remains open, and Sheriff Wallin says tips still come in, but none that have led to the breakthrough investigators hope for.

“I’m very confident that Scolero did it, the only thing and probably you’ve heard it, and other people have, did he do it by himself,” said Wallin.

“That really pulls on your emotions when you think that it was a family trying to escape the cares of their everyday life in northern Michigan. The tragedy is, that it was just money, all that grisliness and all that suffering, all that death, an entire family annihilated was just over money,” said Link.

If you have any information on the case, call the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office at (231) 347-2036.