Robin Lee Row Murders Family

Robin Lee Row is a woman from Idaho who was sentenced to death for the murders of her ex husband and two children

Robin Lee Row would take out large insurance policies on her husband and two children. She would go to their home and set the house on fire killing all three. The coroner report would state that the three would die from carbon monoxide poisoning

Robin Lee Row would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death

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Robin Lee Row

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Where is Robin Lee Row now

Robin Lee Row is currently incarcerated at the Pocatello Woman’s Correctional Center

Robin Lee Row Court Case

During the early morning hours of February 10, 1992, a fire broke out at Robin Lee Row’s two-story apartment in a duplex at 10489 Seneca, in Boise, Idaho, and local fire trucks were dispatched to the scene.   Due to recent problems in her relationship with her husband, Row was not living at the residence at that time.   Instead, she was staying with a friend, Joan McHugh.   After the fire was sufficiently under control, fire crews entered the apartment and found the bodies of Row’s husband, Randy Row, and her two children, Joshua (age 10) and Tabitha (age 8).   All three had died from carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of the fire.

Fire investigators found that the fire primarily started where the apartment joined the garage and that a second fire was started in some clothes piled in the living room.   The investigators determined that a flammable, liquid accelerant was used to ignite the fire, and found that the smoke detector in the residence had been disabled before the fire when the power to the upstairs was cut off at the circuit breaker.   As a result of the disconnected smoke alarm, the victims were not alerted to the fire which caused their deaths. An investigation by the police ensued.  

The police discovered Robin Lee Row had lost a daughter to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1977, and that her son, Keith, had died in a house fire in California in 1980.   A warrant was obtained to search Row’s burned apartment, Joan McHugh’s residence where Robin Lee Row was staying on the night of the fire, Row’s automobile, and Row’s storage unit located in Meridian, Idaho. During the search, the police discovered six insurance policies carried by Row on the lives of the deceased members of the Row family.   These policies named Robin Lee Row as the beneficiary and provided a total of $276,500 in death benefits.   The most recent policy had been obtained by Row on January 24, 1992, just seventeen days before the fatal fire.

In addition, at the storage unit in Meridian, police discovered evidence tending to prove that Robin Lee Row had been stealing from the bingo operation run by the YWCA where Row worked.   This discovery resulted in Row’s arrest on February 13, 1992, for grand theft by unauthorized control of funds belonging to the YWCA.   She was placed in the Ada County Jail, and bail was set at $100,000. While the arson and multiple-death investigation continued, Detective Raney prevailed upon Joan McHugh to put a tape recorder on her telephone to record conversations between herself and Row, if Row happened to call.  

Around 1:00 on the afternoon of March 20, 1992, Row telephoned McHugh from the jail.   As suggested by Detective Raney, McHugh told Robin Lee Row that she had awakened during the night of the fire and had gone downstairs, but could not find Row in the residence.   In response, Robin Lee Row told McHugh that she had left the residence that night, but stated that she was outside the house talking to her psychiatrist. At about the same time on March 20, police and the prosecutor were holding a press conference to announce that a criminal complaint for three counts of murder had been filed against Row.   The following Monday, March 23, Robin Lee Row was arrested while still in the Ada County Jail.   She made her initial appearance before the magistrate that same day.   The complaint was subsequently amended to include the charge of aggravated arson.

Robin Lee Row’s counsel filed a series of pretrial motions seeking to suppress statements Row had made to McHugh while she was incarcerated on the theft charge.   The district court denied these motions.   On March 5, 1993, following a jury trial, the jury returned verdicts of guilty on the murder and arson charges.   A sentencing hearing was held, and on December 16, 1993, the district court imposed the death sentence.   Row filed a notice of appeal on January 26, 1994.

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