Profile of Harvey M. Robinson

A Lifelong Criminal Turned Serial Rapist and Killer

Harvey Robinson
Harvey Robinson. Mugshot

The east side of Allentown, Pennsylvania had the reputation of being a nice, safe area for families to raise children. The residents in the area felt secure to walk their dogs, jog, and let their kids play out in the yards. All of that changed in the summer of 1992. The residents and police force of Allentown had a problem. For the first time, its east side residents were being stalked by a serial killer.

A Killer Is Born

Harvey M. Robinson was born on December 6, 1974. He grew up in a troubled family. His father, Harvey Rodriguez Robinson, was an alcoholic and physically and emotionally abusive towards his mother. By the time he was three, his parents were divorced.

Harvey Rodriguez Robinson ended up going to prison for manslaughter after beating his mistress to death. The younger Harvey idolized his father, regardless of his abusive and criminal behavior.

School Years

At a very early age, young Harvey Robinson showed great athletic and academic potential. He won awards for his essays and was a fierce competitor in wrestling, soccer, football and various cross-country sports. However, as early as nine years old he demonstrated a dark side that diminished all of his positive accomplishments.

School counselors determined that Robinson suffered from severe conduct disorder. As a child, he was known to throw tantrums. As he got older, he developed a quick temper and was unable to define between right and wrong. From the age of nine to 17, he filled up a rap sheet with numerous arrests including burglary and resisting arrest. He was also a known substance abuser, which added to his propensity towards impulsive aggressive behavior.

He detested authority and lashed out at those who tried to control him including the police and his teachers. As he grew older, his threats intensified. Teachers and students were afraid of Robinson, and he liked it.

Why Robinson began raping and murdering children and women is unknown, but as far as what is known for sure, it all started on August 9, 1992, when he was 17-years-old.

First Victim

At about 12:35 a.m. on August 5, 1992, Robinson burglarized the home of Joan Burghardt, 29, who lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment on the first floor of a residential apartment complex on the east side of Allentown.

He broke through the screen on the patio door, which was locked, and ripped just enough to slip his hand through the doorknob and open it. Burghardt reported the burglary and the missing $50 from a drawer in her bedroom dresser. Everything else seemed undisturbed.

Four days later at around 11:30 a.m. on August 9, 1992, Burghardt's neighbor telephoned the police to complain that Burghardt's stereo had been on for three days and nights and that no one answered the doorbell. She also reported that the screen had been out of the window for three nights and during one of those nights she heard Burghardt screaming and banging the wall and sounds as if she was being beaten up.

When the police arrived, they found Burghardt dead, lying on the living room floor. She had been severely beaten about the head.

The autopsy revealed that Burghardt had been sexually assaulted and hit over the head at least 37 times, fracturing her skull and damaging her brain. She also had defensive injuries on both hands, indicating that she was alive during at least some of the attack. Seminal stains were found on a pair of shorts found at the scene, suggesting that a male had masturbated on them.

Second Victim

Charlotte Schmoyer, 15, was always diligent about delivering the Morning Call newspaper on her assigned route on the east side of Allentown. When she failed to deliver the paper on the morning of June 9, 1983, one of her customers scanned the street for the young carrier. She did not spot Schmoyer, but what she did see alarmed her enough to phone the police. Schmoyer's newspaper cart was left unattended, for more than 30 minutes, in front of a neighbor's house.

When the police arrived, they found that the newspaper cart was half-filled with newspapers, and Schmoyer's radio and the headset had been strewn on the ground between two houses. There were also finger streaks on the windowpane of the door to the nearby garage of one of the houses. Based on the scene the police concluded that Schmoyer had likely been abducted.

The police began their search and found her bicycle abandoned along with some of her personal property.

Within hours a tip came in, and investigators began searching a wooded area where they found blood, a shoe, and the body of Charlotte Schmoyer buried under a stack of logs.

According to the autopsy report, Schmoyer was stabbed 22 times, and her throat was slashed. Also, there were cutting and scraping wounds in her neck area, indicating they were inflicted while the Schmoyer was conscious and her neck bent down. She had also been raped.

Investigators were able to collect blood samples, a pubic hair and a head hair on Schmoyer that did not match her blood and hair. The evidence was later matched to Robinson through DNA.


John and Denise Sam-Cali lived on the east side of Allentown, not far from where Schmoyer had been abducted. On June 17, 1993, Robinson burglarized their home while the couple was away for a few days. He had taken John's gun collection, which was kept in a bag in the closet.

Within days John bought three new guns, one of which he purchased for Denise for protection. The couple grew even more concerned about their safety after learning that someone had broken into their neighbor's home and attacked their child.

Third Victim

On June 20, 1993, Robinson entered a woman's home and choked and raped her five-year-old daughter. The child managed to live but based on her injuries it appeared that he had intended for her to die. Some theorized that he was actually after the child's mother, but when he found her sleeping with her partner, he attacked the child instead.

Fourth Victim

On June 28, 1993, John Sam-Cali was out of town, and Denise was alone. She awoke to the sounds Robinson was making from inside the walk-in closet near her bedroom. Frightened, she decided to try to run out of the house, but he grabbed her, and they struggled. She managed to get out of the house, but Robinson grabbed at her again and pinned her down onto the ground in the front yard.

As the two fought, she was able to bite him on the inside of his arm. He repeatedly punched her, sliced her lip open and then raped her, however, her screams alerted a neighbor who turned on her porch light, and Robinson ran away.

When the police arrived, they found Denise alive, but severely beaten, with strangulation marks around her neck, and her lip deeply slashed. They also found a butcher knife wrapped in a napkin lying outside the bathroom door.

After recovering in the hospital, the Sam-Cali's went out of town for a few days.

Fifth Victim

On July 14, 1993, Robinson raped and murdered Jessica Jean Fortney, 47, in the living room of her daughter and son-in-law's home. She was found dead, half-naked and her face was swollen and black. There was blood spatter on the wall indicating she had died a violent death.

The autopsy revealed that Fortney died in the early morning hours after being strangled and severely beaten. It was also determined that she had been raped.

What Robinson did not know was that Fortney's granddaughter had witnessed the killing and was able to give the police his description.

Back to Finish the Job

On July 18, 1993, the Sam-Calis returned home. Before going out of town, they had the house equipped with a burglar alarm. At about 4:00 a.m. Denise heard a noise in the house and then the back door opened, setting off the alarm and the intruder, Robinson, took off.

After that, the Allentown police set up a sting operation and arranged for a police officer to stay in the Sam-Cali home every night. They thought the man who attacked her was coming back to kill her because she could identify him.

Their hunch was right. Officer Brian Lewis was staked out inside the Sam-Cali home when at around 1:25 a.m. on July 31, 1993, Robinson returned to the house and tried to open doors. Lewis heard the noises, then watched as Robinson broke into the house through a window. Once he was entirely inside, Lewis identified himself as a police officer and told Robinson to halt. Robinson began shooting at Lewis and gunfire was exchanged. Lewis went to the Sam-Cali's bedroom to warn the couple to stay inside the room. He then called for backup.

In the meantime, Robinson escaped by breaking through several glass panels on a wooden door in the kitchen. The police found a blood trail in the kitchen and out the door. It looked like the intruder had been shot, or severely cut during his escape. The local hospitals were alerted.


A few hours later the police were called to the local hospital after Robinson showed up there to be treated for a gunshot wound. A physical exam of Robinson found that he had fresh wounds to his arms and legs indicative of being cut with glass as well as a bite mark on the inner part of his arm. Officer Lewis also identified Robinson as the man he encountered inside the Sam-Calis' home. He was arrested on various charges including kidnapping, burglary, rape, attempted murder, and murder.

Investigators built a large case against Robinson with DNA evidence, eyewitness accounts and physical evidence found at his home and the victims' homes. It was a solid case. The jury found him guilty for raping and murdering Charlotte Schmoyer, Joan Burghardt, and Jessica Jean Fortney.

He was sentenced to a combined 97 years in prison and three death sentences.


Robinson and his lawyers were able to get two of the three death sentences resentenced to life in prison. One death sentence remains.

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Your Citation
Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Harvey M. Robinson." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Montaldo, Charles. (2020, August 26). Profile of Harvey M. Robinson. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Harvey M. Robinson." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 15, 2021).