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Published: Friday, 3/29/2013

Accused killer, 47, collapses in jail and dies

Trial in disabled woman’s 2009 death was to start April 8

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mary Sumner leaned over a wooden bannister on her small wooden deck and shouted to a passing neighbor.

“Hey, did you hear what happened?” Mary asked the woman. “Elhadi, the one that killed Cindy. He died last night.”

Elhadi Robbins, 47, who was accused of the 2009 death of Ms. Sumner’s only child, Cindy Sumner, died Thursday night in Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center after collapsing during a shower at the Lucas County jail, said sheriff’s Detective Patrick LaPlante.

Detective LaPlante said he does not suspect foul play, but an official ruling on the death cannot be made until test results from a toxicology report are available in six to eight weeks. Dr. Maneesha Pandey, a Lucas County deputy coroner, said an autopsy Friday did not uncover obvious trauma.

Elhadi Robbins, accused of killing Cindy Sumner, is taken back to jail last year. Elhadi Robbins, accused of killing Cindy Sumner, is taken back to jail last year.
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Robbins had a history of heart problems, the detective said.

Video surveillance and interviews with four inmates that Robbins shared a cell with indicate that at 6:46 p.m., Robbins went to the shower area. At 7:15 p.m., another inmate heard Robbins fall and went to check on him, the detective said.

Robbins was face down in the shower, the inmate reported. Corrections officers were notified and started chest compressions until the jail’s medical staff arrived and they attempted to revive Robbins using a defibrillator. Paramedics from the Toledo Fire Department arrived at 7:28 p.m. and transported Robbins to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“I understand it’s a bittersweet experience for the family, and I will say it’s a bittersweet experience for prosecutors because there will be a sense of justice for these heinous crimes he committed, taking such a beautiful person away from us. But we would have preferred that Cindy Sumner have her day in court,” said Ian English, who was to prosecute the case when it went to trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court on April 8.

Robbins’ court-appointed attorney, Ronnie Wingate, declined to comment.

Ms. Sumner was at home Friday morning when she found out Robbins died.

“It was just like when I found out about Cindy,” Ms. Sumner said. “I dropped the phone and I just dropped.”

Cindy Sumner was supposed to be home at 6 p.m. on Aug. 6, 2009. When the 20-year-old, who had cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and learning disabilities, didn’t show up, Ms. Sumner knew something was wrong, she said.

Her body was found more than a month later — Sept. 17, 2009 — in the basement of an abandoned warehouse in North Toledo.

The body was so decomposed from the toxic water she was found in, the remains were identified using dental records, Mr. English said.

At the time her body was found, officials said it was likely that Cindy Sumner died not long after she was reported missing.

Although she knew it would be difficult, Ms. Sumner was anticipating the trial.

Finally, answers. Why did he do it? How?

“I was just hoping to get answers,” Ms. Sumner said, sitting in a green plastic lawn chair outside her home. “But since he’s gone, we might never get those answers. ... In the sake of God, I want to know everything. I want to remember Cindy the way she was, not the way they found her in that warehouse. ... I don’t want to see no pictures. I want to know what happened.”

Mr. English said that once the death certificate is released, he will be able to provide some answers to Cindy Sumner’s family and go over the “mountain of evidence” gathered in the more than three years since the young woman died.

“We have traveled to prisons throughout the state of Ohio visiting numerous witnesses,” Mr. English said. “The detective, Detective Jay Gast, has traveled unknown distances because he has hunted down some transient witnesses, some homeless people, that were with Elhadi Robbins at the time of Cindy Sumner’s death. The work he has put in has been tremendous.”

The trial likely would have lasted more than two weeks, Mr. English said. He intended to call 25 to 30 witnesses to testify.

There will never be closure — not for Ms. Sumner, whose living room is filled with photos of her daughter and stuffed animals that were loved by her daughter or were left by strangers outside the warehouse that Ms. Sumner hopes will be torn down.

“I want them to tear it down,” she said. “Tear it down so I don’t have to look at that thing. I don’t want to look at it. Every time we go past it, I grab his [Carl Bateson, Ms. Sumner’s boyfriend] arm, and say, ‘Babe, I don’t want to see it.’ ”

Soon, though, Ms. Sumner will have a piece of her daughter back: an opal-and-diamond necklace the young woman was wearing when she died.

Ms. Sumner had bought it for her daughter’s 20th birthday.

“They say it’s finally over because he’s dead, but me, I take it different,” Ms. Sumner said. “He took my baby.”

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.



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