Evansville Courier & Press, June 17, 1999
Sister testifies about drowning, discipline at home
By David Hosick, Courier & Press staff writer
A round-faced little girl took center stage at a murder trial Wednesday to explain what she remembers about the night her 4-year-old sister drowned in the bathtub of the family home.
Kristina Wilson, 9, spoke calmly as she detailed the events of March 27, 1997, when Aimee Wilson drowned. Kristina explained she and her mother, Kristi Roberts, were lying down in a bedroom while her stepfather, Wesley Blake Roberts, sat in the living room — occasionally checking on Aimee while she took a bath.
“I heard Aimee splashing in the tub,” Kristina said. “She splashed a little bit and I heard her cough twice.”
After a few minutes, Kristina said the splashing ended and Kristi Roberts called out to her husband.
“My mom asked if everything was OK and my dad said, ‘No. I’m trying to get Aimee back to life,’” she said.
Prosecutors say Roberts, 39, forced the toddler under water when he became enraged because Aimee had been continually misbehaving.
He is on trial in Vanderburgh Superior Court on charges of murder, voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide and two counts of child neglect.
His 29-year-old wife will stand trial later on two counts of neglect and a single charge of battery on Aimee, whose body was badly bruised.
Kristina was also called to present testimony outside the jury’s presence.
She said her parents told her on the night of the death “they hadn’t done anything to Aimee, and I should just tell the truth.”
The testimony of Kristina, who has lived with her grandparents, Dr. Terry and Karen South, since Aimee’s death, centered around discipline in the Robertses’ home at 1658 Cass Court.
She said only her mother would spank her, but both parents disciplined Aimee.
Court testimony indicated Aimee had behavioral problems stemming from a disassociation with her mother. At the time of her death, she had spent less than a year with her mother, who had been released from prison in April 1996. She had spent time in prison for theft and receiving stolen property.
The Robertses allege Aimee was prone to inflict injuries on herself and would defecate in the home and contaminate clothing and furniture.
The parents would sometimes spank Aimee with a wooden paddle or make her stand in the corner for touching Kristina’s privates, Kristina testified.
Also Wednesday, jurors heard Aimee’s tape-recorded voice on an audio tape Kristi Roberts made while she interrogated her daughter about behavior problems.
Aimee lived with her paternal grandmother, Audrey Head, the first three years of her life before Kristi Roberts was granted permanent custody. The Robertses claim Head told the girl to act out while at their home so she could move back into the Head home.
Kristi Roberts aggressively questioned Aimee, who at first said Head did in fact tell her to misbehave. “She thinks you guys don’t love me,” Aimee is heard saying.
Just moments later and after continually answering the same questions, Aimee changed her story and said she had lied about the entire episode. Head later testified she never once told Aimee to lie, make obscene gestures or defecate in the home, as the Robertses claim.
Pictures from Aimee’s autopsy showed more than 50 bruises, some of which were less than 24 hours old, testified Dr. John Heidingsfelder. He said Aimee also suffered two internal bruises that had to have been caused by blunt force trauma.
Dr. Barbara Wolf, a nationally known forensic pathologist, testified Aimee died as a result of a homicidal drowning and was the victim of Battered Child Syndrome. Wolf, whose findings were instrumental in earning the indictment against the Robertses, agreed Aimee could not have inflicted all the injuries on herself.
Kristi Roberts also took the stand Wednesday, but she pleaded the Fifth Amendment, which protects defendants from self-incrimination. “If granted the use of immunity, I intend to tell everything I know,” she testified.
Prosecutors have not offered her immunity.