"My life is greeted each day with anger, fear, and pain for my daughter as I imagine her fighting for her life. This magnitude of a tragedy has left many scars that will never heal and forever emptiness in my heart. The joy I once knew in life ended with the last breath of my daughter Tasha's breath only to be taken by God, not by this man."
- Kimberly Lucia
It was the 10th of February 2013. A Sunday. Jessica Nelson worked with twenty five year old Tasha Lucia and was concerned when she could not get in touch with her. She called her multiple times but there was no answer. They worked together at Locklear's Beach City Grill on Folly Beach and Tasha did not show up for her shift that day and Jessica tried to get in touch with her all day to no avail.
Jessica had a gut feeling that something was wrong and it was a feeling she couldn't shake so, along with another colleague, the two women went to Tasha's home at 5pm that afternoon. Tasha didn't live alone. She lived with her boyfriend Robert Tilghman Kronsberg in James Island, Charleston County, South Carolina, United States.
When Jessica and her colleague arrived at Tasha's home, they knocked on the door several times. There was no answer. They noticed that the front living room window was open so they climbed inside.
They immediately noticed that Robert was home as they heard loud snores coming from one of the bedrooms and when they looked inside, Robert was asleep on the bed. They woke him and asked where him Tasha was but they did not understand what he said, it was just unintelligible mumbling. The words he was saying didn't make sense so they searched the home looking for Tasha and found her lying on a bed in another bedroom. When they lifted up the sheet that was over her, they saw a large knife sticking out of her chest. Tasha was dead. The two women were so frightened that they ran outside screaming and called 911.
Some of Tasha's friends saw bruises on her before and some were aware that Robert would hurt her but they never believed he would kill her. They knew they had a volatile and toxic relationship and would fight, break up but then get back together again. Police arrested Robert. They announced that they weren't looking for anyone else based on evidence found and admissions made. They charged him with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
Robert pleaded not guilty.
It was the Prosecution case that Robert, who had a Facebook cover photo of the bloody chainsaw scene from American Psycho, had an on/off relationship with Tasha and they would often argue and that, on the 10th of February 2013, one of those arguments tragically resulted in Tasha's death.
It was their case that the day before Tasha's death, the 9th of February, Tasha met up with friends. The Court heard that Tasha spent time with friends on Folly Beach having fun and the Jury were shown pictures of a smiling Tasha that were taken just hours before her death. Robert was at work that day and went to a party afterwards. But the Prosecution told the Jury that that didn't stop him trying to create an argument with Tasha via text messages.
The Prosecution told the Court that Tasha's demeanor changed when she received a text from Robert. The Jury heard that the argument escalated when they both got home:
"See, the defendant was angry. When Tasha got home, he and Tasha argued about her ex-boyfriend and you will hear in his own words what he did to the person he supposedly cared about."
The Prosecution told the Jury that the fight turned physical:
"He hit her really hard, he hit her because she was yelling for help. So what was his solution to that problem? he started strangling her, because she wouldn't be quiet?"
The Prosecution believed that Tasha was killed sometime between midnight and 2am on the 10th of February.
The Jury heard testimony from Charleston Police Department Detective Richard Holmes who told the Court that Robert and Tasha argued about her ex boyfriend and sex. That resulted in him strangling her. But he didn't stop there:
“After he strangled her, he was in the room and heard her gasping for air. He went in the kitchen and got a butcher knife and came back and stabbed her multiple times.”
The Court heard that Tasha was choked, hit in the head with a hammer because she was screaming and then strangled again. At that point, she wasn't dead, so Robert went into the kitchen, got a butcher knife and stabbed her fifteen times with it . The knife was still in her chest when her colleagues found her.
The Court heard that when police arrived, Robert was in bed and when they woke him, he sat upright with wild eyes. They could not make out what he was saying as it just sounded like he was mumbling. Police found a bottle of vodka, marijuana, ibuprofen and a knife on the bedside table next to the bed that he was sleeping on.
Robert was covered in blood when police found him and he had what appeared to be self inflicted cuts on his wrists. There was a 3 inch vertical laceration to his left wrist. Robert claimed that he had tried to take his own life twice but it didn't work.
The Court heard that when Robert was taken to the hospital for treatment, he made certain admissions including that he had taken cocaine. Detectives testified that he told them that he took sleeping pills, aspirin, drank alcohol and tried to slit his own wrists. The Prosecution played an audio tape for the Jury which they told the Jury was a confession that Robert made. It was recorded when Robert was in hospital. In the recording, Robert can be heard saying that he grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed Tasha and tried to kill himself.
The Court heard testimony from one of Robert's friends, a man named Paul Polensky. Paul agreed to testify on behalf of the Prosecution. The Court heard that they were good friends and both worked together at a James Island pizza restaurant. He testified that in the early hours of that 10th of February morning, just after Tasha was murdered, he received a text from Robert's phone that had 911 written four times. Paul called him and testified that Robert asked him not to talk to him on the cell phone and to call him back from the landline at work instead. Paul did and Robert said:
"Don't freak out, but I just killed my girlfriend."
Paul testified that he had been friends with Robert for a long time and he even helped Robert get a job so when he heard that, he thought that Robert was just joking. He had worked with him the evening before and he was aware that Robert went to a party after work so he didn't take it seriously at first as he presumed Robert was drunk. But he soon realized that it wasn't a joke. Paul had been aware that Robert was arguing with Tasha that night but did not realize the extent of it until Robert outlined what he did. Paul testified that Robert told him that he hit Tasha and she began screaming and he tried to choke her to make her stop. Robert told Tasha he would let her up if she stopped screaming. Paul testified that Robert did that three times but she wouldn't stop screaming so he grabbed the closest object that was next to him. That object happened to be a hammer and he used it to hit her in the head with it.
When asked if he called the police, Paul confirmed that he did not as Robert assured him he would turn himself in the next day.
The Court heard testimony from the forensic pathologist, Dr Susan Presnell, and she testified that the manner of Tasha's death was homicide and the Jury were shown pictures that were taken during the Autopsy. The pictures showed Tasha with a black eye, a smashed nose and multiple cuts and bruises to her face, lip and neck. Some of the blows were consistent with being caused by a hammer. Tasha was also stabbed multiple times in the chest. The Court heard that Tasha's blood was found on the hammer found in the house.
The Prosecutor, Chad Simpson, told the Jury that there should be no doubt that Robert was guilty and finding him guilty was an easy decision for them to make. The Prosecutor asked the Jury to consider that if it wasn't murder, then what was it?
The Defense told the Jury that Robert caused Tasha's death and that part wasn't in dispute. Robert's Attorney, Charles Cochran, argued:
"This case is going to be about what was going on in his heart that night, and that's what you're going to have to decide throughout the course of this week."
It was the Defense case that Robert killed Tasha but it was in the heat of passion during an argument. The Defense admitted Robert and Tasha argued about Tasha's ex boyfriend but that her death wasn't murder. It was a spontaneous crime of passion.
The Defense urged the Jury to focus on fact and fact alone and not to let emotion get in the way. Charles told the Jury that this wasn't a case where somebody, namely his client, gets away with something but rather, they are charged for the correct crime. He said that in this case, Robert was out of control and it was not an act of malice:
"This was all done in a frenzy, an uncontrolled frenzy with alcohol. A frenzy without the benefit of collecting one's thought."
If Robert wasn't intoxicated, he would not have killed Tasha. He had no control over his own actions that night.
The Judge told the Jury that while Robert was charged with murder and they could find him guilty of that charge, they could also consider the charge of voluntary manslaughter and find him guilty of that lesser charge if they saw fit based on the evidence they heard.
The Jury deliberated for just over an hour and found Robert guilty of murder and guilty of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. Robert began cursing at that point in the Courtroom and had to be removed so that he could calm down. When he returned, he addressed Tasha's mother Kimberly and said:
"I'm so sorry that I took her away from you."
Robert's Attorney asked the Judge to sentence him to thirty five years plus five years parole as it was his first felony. Before Judge Roger Young handed down his sentence, the Court heard from Robert's family. They told the Judge that Robert was a troubled man and had struggled with substance abuse for many years. His addiction had "robbed him of his childhood, his opportunity, his daughter, his loved ones and now his freedom."
The Judge rejected the Defense plea for thirty five years. He did not believe it was a crime of passion and spoke directly to Robert and said that one thing made it clear that it was not some spontaneous act:
"You thought she was dead, and walked away from her. Heard that she was still alive and went back to finish her off. He went back and stabbed her and he didn't just stab her once, he stabbed her 15 times."
Robert was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On the 6th of December 2017, Robert Kronsberg was found dead in his cell at the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia. He took his own life.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
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- Sandra Pupatello
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