Elderly killer faces at least 10 years in prison

At the end of a long, emotional day in an Edmonton courtroom, Roberto Robles slowly rose to his feet in the prisoner’s box on Wednesday.

The tears streamed down the 75-year-old’s face as his lawyer read aloud the letter of apology he had written.

“I feel so much remorse,” his lawyer Mike Danyluik said on Robles’ behalf. “I wish I could go back in time. This is not me … I took Armando’s life and I prefer to be dead now than to see all the pain I have caused.”

In June 2016, Robles attacked his 38-year-old son-in-law, Armando Cosmea Aspillaga with a pellet gun and a knife, just as the younger man returned home from work after putting in a 10-hour day.  

At the time, Aspillaga and his wife, Flavia Robles, were going through a bitter divorce and custody dispute. Roberto Robles made no secret of the disdain he felt towards his son-in-law.

In a police interview the next day, he referred to Aspillaga as a “sewer rat” and “junk.”

He confessed to the killing but told police, “I call it justice. I am not a criminal.”

In June, a jury found Robles guilty of second-degree murder. The conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for between 10 to 25 years.

‘This was a vigilante murder’

Crown Aaron Pegg told Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Dawn Pentelechuk the prosecution team believes Robles should not be eligible to apply for parole until he serves more than ten years, but less than 15 years.

Pegg said the main factors in Robles’ favour were his advanced age and a complete lack of criminal record. He also noted the 75-year-old had expressed some remorse for the crime.

But the Crown had harsh words for the crime itself.

“This was a vigilante murder,” Pegg said. “He took the law into his own hands, having lost patience with the family law system.”

At the time of the murder, Aspillaga was fighting for 50 per cent custody of his young daughter, and 50 per cent of the family’s assets.

He refused to move out of the family home.

Armando Cosmea Aspillaga shown in a Facebook photo with his newborn daughter. (Facebook)

The other Crown who prosecuted the case, Mark Huyser-Wierenga, was blunt in his assessment.

“It’s clear that what was motivating him was his desire to rid his family of what he considered to be a pestilence,” Huyser-Wierenga said. “It was a complete slaughter with the weapon-wielding person completely unscathed.”

Even Robles’ defence lawyer agreed there was no love lost between the two men, although Danyluik rejected the Crown’s vigilante theory.

“This was just personal,” Danyluik said. “It had nothing to do with the law. We’re misconstruing hatred for vigilantism.”

The prosecution pointed out that in hindsight, Robles achieved “almost all of his stated goals”  by killing Aspillaga.

“Armando is out of their home and out of their life,” Pegg said. They didn’t have to share assets 50 per cent. They don’t have to share the daughter with him.”

Defence asks for minimum parole ineligibility

The defence submitted 14 letters supporting Robles, including one from his daughter Flavia, who was present every day of the trial as she listened to details about how her father killed her estranged husband.

The supporters described Roberto Robles as a loving husband, father and grandfather.

“People still think highly of him,” Danyluik said. “It’s just so bizarre. How can you have this one aberration in 75 years? He volunteered for Crime Stoppers.”

The judge agreed, calling it “completely incongruous” that Robles had committed the murder.

Danyluik recommended imposing the minimum period of parole ineligibility: 10 years. He said Robles suffers from a number of medical conditions, including a stroke five years ago, mobility issues and the onset of dementia.

The lawyer suggested it’s possible Robles may not even live long enough behind bars to apply for parole.

Robles has been married to Pilar Robles for 53 years. In her support letter she wrote, “It has broken my heart that this is how we are ending our lives. I do not know how he will do in prison… I may not live to see my husband out on parole, as I am 80-years-old.”

Victim impact statements

The judge heard 15 victim impact statements from Aspillaga’s friends and family.

Aspillaga’s mother, Georgina Aspillaga, wrote that she was paralysed by “the monstrous death of a son who was brutally murdered.”

“There is no life anymore. Only suffering,” she added.

Aspillaga said her grief was compounded because she had been cut off from all contact with her granddaughter “because her mother refuses to let me see her.”

Armando Cosmea Aspillaga’s sister, Adelaida Puente (left), and mother, Georgina Aspillaga (right) after Roberto Robles was found guilty of second-degree murder. (CBC)

There is ongoing bitterness between the two families.

In a written statement to the media, Georgina Aspillaga wrote, “The Robles family provided no financial assistance to the family for the funeral. Donations were solicited to help pay for a cremation to bring his ashes back to Cuba. A few of Armando’s personal belongings were returned in a garbage bag. Flavia kept everything else that was matrimonial property. The jury did not hear how Flavia profited from Armando’s murder.”

But at the end of the sentencing hearing, both the killer and Aspillaga’s mother were openly sobbing in the courtroom.

Robles removed his glasses to wipe away the tears, then stared directly at Georgina Aspillaga and said in a broken voice, “I’m sorry Georgina. Really sorry.”

Robles will be sentenced Aug. 10.

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