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Published: Monday, 7/28/2014 - Updated: 1 month ago

Crime scene peddler sells Robinson mementos

Toledo man collects Father Gerald Robinson funeral memorabilia to sell

BY TK BARGER
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

A Toledo man who organizes tours of local crime scenes and gravesites has collected memorabilia of Gerald Robinson -- including dirt from the priest‘‍s grave and photo of him in his coffin -- to sell online.

Today, the Web site serialkillersink.net offered items related to Robinson’‍s burial as a one-time lot. Robinson was the Roman Catholic priest who was convicted in 2006 of the murder of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in 1980 and who died in prison on July 4.

Dan Clay, of East Toledo, had taken a photo of Robinson in his casket, dressed in priestly vestments, at the funeral home and collected dirt from Robinson's grave, where he was buried next to his parents in Calvary Cemetery. Along with those items, Mr. Clay is offering a memorial card from Robinson's funeral and The Blade's July 12 front page that includes an article on the funeral. He does not have Blade permission to reprint or resell the newspaper.

The selling price is $350. Mr. Clay said he contacted Eric Holler of serialkillersink.net after he obtained the photograph of Robinson in his casket. Serialkillersink.net offered to broker a sale for a percentage of the price, Mr. Clay said, and “I did the whole setup” for gathering the different materials.

“Since Robinson was indeed convicted of murder,” Mr. Holler wrote, “we felt these items would be a good fit amongst other true crime collectibles that we offer for sale.”

Mr. Clay operates an unusual, crime-related business which he runs, he says, “to keep the memories of the victims alive.” He offers daily one- to two-hour tours of “high-profile crime scenes and gravesites,” making 15-20 stops, according to his “Grave Fixations” Facebook page.

The tours are conducted with “sincere dignity and respect,” he said. But the page says they are not for the squeamish. People call a number listed on the page, and he will arrange to meet in a parking lot “by appointment only” and chauffeur them on a 50-mile roundtrip for $18 a person, $30 a couple.

“Shame on him. Shame on anyone who bids on or buys this material,” said Claudia Vercellotti, a Toledo representative of the organization Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, in a prepared statement.

“Our hearts ache for anyone who was hurt by Father Gerald Robinson, especially the family of Sister Margaret Ann Pahl, who was stabbed repeatedly and killed by Father Robinson. There seems to be no end to the suffering that callous individuals are willing to heap on this wounded family,” Ms. Vercellotti said. “And now, an entrepreneur seeks to make money off of this grisly crime. Shame on everyone involved.”

When asked about the potential offensiveness of offering funeral and grave items, Mr. Clay said, “It's a business, and people do collect all kinds of stuff, and it's not to glorify this. … As far as it being put out there, people buy this stuff. In this day and time, people collect all kinds of things.”

Taking items from a grave, such as toys or urns, is theft, and people have been convicted of those crimes, while dirt can be harder to trace. Taking a picture at a public visitation might be considered an invasion of privacy, but it is not always prohibited.

Mr. Clay said he did not take his photograph of Robinson in the open. “I do it with hidden cameras, actually,” he said. “Some people do take photographs in funeral homes. I didn't walk in there and take a picture” in the open. Instead, he used “my own style, just keeping it low.”

“Such activity does not deserve a response,” said Sally Oberski, the Toledo Catholic Diocese’s director of communications.

Contact TK Barger @ tkbarger@theblade.com, 419-724-6278 or on Twitter @TK_Barger.



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