According to court documents Sarah Cindy White was living in the home as a babysitter who according to her she was being abused. White decided the best thing to do was start a fire in the home and while everyone was distracted she would be able to make her escape. However the fire quickly spread and Charles and Carole Roberson and their four children would die in the home
Sarah Cindy White would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to life without parole
Sarah Cindy White Now
|Date of Birth
|Indiana Women’s Prison
|Earliest Possible Release Date*
* Incarcerated individuals scheduled for release on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday are released on Monday. Incarcerated individuals scheduled for release on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday are released on Thursday. Incarcerated individuals whose release date falls on a Holiday are released on the first working day prior to the Holiday.
Sarah Cindy White Case
Indiana’s longest-serving female prison inmate gets a mostly sympathetic look in a television profile that airs as her attorney works on a new push in a two-decade-long fight to win her freedom.
The segment of “Facing Evil with Candice DeLong” about Sarah “Cindy” White — convicted in 1976 on six counts of murder in connection with the fiery deaths of a Greenwood family that took her in as an orphaned teen — will air at 10:30 p.m. Friday on the Investigation Discovery channel.
Sarah Cindy White’s attorney, Charles Asher, who has worked unsuccessfully to win her release since the 1990s, said he thinks it is time to free the woman who has spent 39 years — her entire adult life — behind bars.
“You have to acknowledge the horror of six lives being lost, including those of four children,” Asher said. “But at the same time, I’ve never seen a person with such a sad life or sad treatment in the legal system.
“At some point, we have to ask: Are we really protecting society when we punish abused teenagers by putting them in prison and throwing away the key?”
Sarah Cindy White, 57, is serving six life sentences in the deaths of Charles and Carole Roberson and their four children. The family perished in a fire set by White, then 18, on New Year’s Eve 1975.
Sarah Cindy White — among Indiana’s most notorious and, based on convictions, prolific killers — is the only person interviewed on-screen in the 30-minute segment of “Facing Evil.” DeLong said the show is intended to “tell that person’s side of the story — to give them a voice.”
DeLong, who met with White in prison last July, agrees with Archer that it is time for White to be released from prison. The former FBI profiler and homicide expert called White the fifth innocent child victim in the horrific case.
“I think it was one of the greatest miscarriages of justice I’ve witnessed,” DeLong said in an interview with The Indianapolis Star. “She never denied she did it, but even her own attorney didn’t know the depths of this story.”
The segment contains no new revelations and leans heavily on allegations — first raised by Sarah Cindy White years after her 1976 convictions — that she had been abused as a child by her father and later by the Robersons.
Sarah Cindy White, who initially denied any role in the fatal blaze, admits in the interview that she set the fire and is responsible for the deaths of the Robersons and their children: Michael, 7; Dale, 6; Gary, 5; and Sissy, 4. But she insists she never intended for anyone to die; rather, she said she hoped the fire would provide her an opportunity to escape the couple she claims sexually abused her.
“I would give anything to bring them back,” said White, who first admitted to starting the fire at a 1987 clemency hearing. “No one was supposed to have died that night. No one. The fire got out of hand.”
When DeLong asks what she would say to the four children, White closes her eyes and grimaces.
“I am so sorry I did not protect you,” she said, “and I ask for your forgiveness.”
Jilted lover or abuse victim
At her trial in Johnson County, Sarah Cindy White was painted as a jilted lover out for revenge against Roberson, 45, and his 41-year-old wife.
Prosecutors used letters and nude photographs of Sarah Cindy White found in Roberson’s wallet to build their case against her. The allegations she had been sexually abused by her father and the Robersons did not come out at the trial. White said in the interview with DeLong that she was too embarrassed and ashamed to admit the abuse at that time.
White moved in with the Robersons to work as a live-in baby sitter after she was released from a 10-month stay at an Indianapolis mental hospital in the fall of 1975. She says in the interview that she was at first giddy when Charles Roberson showed an interest and began flirting with her.
But that interest, she claims, soon evolved into more disturbing behavior by her new father figure, including forcing her to watch pornographic movies and engage in sex acts in front of other men. White told DeLong that Carole Roberson was aware of the activity and an active participant in some of the sexual abuse.
When she tried to leave in the winter of 1975, Sarah Cindy White said, Charles Roberson locked her in a bedroom. She told DeLong that he soon returned with a kitten and ripped off its head, saying she would face the same fate if she did not obey him. Around that same time, White said, her grandmother’s house was damaged by a small fire. It gave her an idea.
“If I could start a fire … to make it unlivable,” she said, “I could go away and forget all about” the abuse.
Sarah Cindy White’s plan went awry almost immediately after she lit the fire near the family’s Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve.
“It went up so fast,” she said.
Sarah Cindy White claims she went to the Robersons’ bedroom to alert them to the fire, then tried to help Carole Roberson get the children out of a bedroom window before she lost consciousness. The next thing she remembered was waking up on the ground outside the burning home. White was hysterical, and neighbors had to restrain her from trying to get back into the inferno. She was treated at a hospital for severe burns to her arms.
Testimony at her trial, according to a Court of Appeals opinion upholding the convictions, revealed Sarah Cindy White “made a telephone call, on the night of the fire, to her sister-in-law. The defendant was inquiring about a fire, which had occurred two days earlier, at her grandmother’s home. … It was less than four hours after the defendant had inquired about the fire at her grandmother’s house that the Roberson home was in flames. The arson investigators stated unequivocally that the Roberson fire was not accidental.”
Nearly a dozen previous efforts to win White’s release have been unsuccessful, Asher said.
In a 1999 ruling, the Court of Appeals noted, “at the time of White’s conviction, inmates serving life sentences were not intended by the legislature to be included in those classes of inmates who could become eligible for parole.” That means a clemency proceeding is the only alternative.
Former Johnson County Prosecutor Dale “Charlie” Gantz did not respond to a request for comment about White’s television interview or the new effort to free her.
Isaac Randolph, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Correction, said White has been in prison longer than any other current female inmate in Indiana.
“She has clerked in property room, commissary and med management,” he said. “She is a good seamstress and is classified to our Community Outreach Program.”
DeLong said Sarah Cindy White has had two strokes and now spends much of her time in a wheelchair.
Asher, who has come to know White well over the past 20 years, said she “is the most peaceful person” and has experienced amazing personal growth in prison.
At the time of the fire, Asher said, White had been a victim of sexual abuse for a decade and had recently been released from LaRue D. Carter Memorial Hospital after a 10-month stay for a condition then called “involuntary paralysis,” which stemmed from her emotional trauma. He said that experience stunted her emotionally and affected her judgment and decision making.
“She survived by denial, by keeping her mouth shut,” he said. “She had learned what virtually all victims of extreme child abuse learn: Don’t talk. Don’t trust. Don’t feel.”
Asher said he does not think White received appropriate treatment at Carter, where sexual abuse was never addressed, or had adequate legal representation at her murder trial.
“There are a lot of things that we know today that we didn’t know then,” he said. “The psychological care would have been different, and her defense would have been significantly different.”
Asher said he thinks Indiana officials need to re-evaluate how the state deals with troubled youths who commit murders — “especially if the child has been abused, which often is the case.” Simply locking them away for life, he said, might not be the only or the best solution.
“We have to constantly ask,” Asher said, ” ‘How much is enough?’ “
Call Star reporter Tim Evans at (317) 444-6204. Follow him on Twitter: @starwatchtim.
Sarah “Cindy” White — convicted in 1976 on six counts of murder in connection with the fiery deaths of a Greenwood family that took her in as an orphaned teen — is the subject of a segment of “Facing Evil with Candice DeLong” on the Investigation Discovery (ID) channel.
The 30-minute profile will first air at 10:30 p.m. Friday.
Sarah Cindy White News
Neighbors alerted the fire department on December 31, 1975, that a home located at 24 Sayre Drive, Greenwood, Indiana, was in flames. The defendant was seen coming from the rear of the home; she was hysterical, screaming, and was restrained from reentering the burning home. The residence was the dwelling house of Charles and Carol Roberson and their four minor children, Michael, Dale, Gary and Rita. All six of the Robersons perished in the fire. The coroner testified that each of them died from carbon monoxide and smoke inhalation. The defendant had been living with the Roberson family.
After an extensive investigation into the cause of the fire, it was determined that the fire had been deliberately set. Burn patterns found in the home showed that an accelerant such as gasoline had been used. The accelerant caused the rapid burning of the home as well as the intense heat generated. Experts testified that the occupants of the home had probably perished within a few minutes of the initial conflagration.
Sarah Cindy White was burned only slightly. Her testimony was to the effect that she had awakened from her bed on the living room couch, seen the flames on the wall near the Christmas tree, alerted the family, and attempted to get the children out. The smoke was so thick, though, that she lost touch with the children; she exited through a small, rear bedroom window, thinking that the children and the family would be behind her.
Testimony elicited at trial revealed that Sarah Cindy White had made a telephone call, on the night of the fire, to her sister-in-law. The defendant was inquiring about a fire, which had occurred two days earlier, at her grandmother’s home. Sarah Cindy White was most interested in how the fire started and in whether her siblings (who were living with her grandmother) had received new clothes as a result of the fire. It was less than four hours after the defendant had inquired about the fire at her grandmother’s house that the Roberson home was in flames. The arson investigators stated unequivocally that the Roberson fire was not accidental. The Christmas tree was a flame-proof variety; tests within the courtroom demonstrated that the tree would melt before it would ignite. The wiring, the appliances, the gas lines, and the furnace of the Roberson home were all checked. The results demonstrated that the fire itself had damaged each system, rather than the system causing the fire.
Additional evidence was introduced. Nude and pornographic photographs of the nineteen-year-old Sarah Cindy White were found in Charles Roberson’s billfold. Love letters written by the defendant to Charles Roberson were also found. The pajamas worn by Sarah Cindy White were shown to be made of a highly flammable material; yet they were not burned at all. Inconsistencies in the defendant’s recollection of the fire were demonstrated through the testimony of those to whom the defendant had told her story. The defendant had a history of emotional disturbance, especially since the death of her father, and had spent the year prior to moving in with the Robersons as a patient in LaRue Carter Hospital.