It was April 24, 1980, twenty-year-old Robin Gisela Brooks finished her shift at Donut Time donut shop on Keifer Boulevard and Tallyho Drive in Sacramento County, Rosemont at around midnight and said goodbye to her co-workers before heading off. She had plans to go to a party that night, but the last official sighting of the young woman was on her walk home, not long after she left work.
Robin, a New Yorker and all-American girl, had moved to Rosemont in pursuit of adventure, her older sister Maria also lived in the area.
The following morning, she had a swim date planned with one of her friends in the area. When she failed to show up to the pre-arranged meeting her friend went up to her apartment and knocked on the door but there was no answer. When Robin neglected to show up to her 4pm shift at the donut store her friends and co-workers began to get worried. They went to her apartment and forced open the door so they could perform a welfare check but were completely unprepared for what they discovered.
Robin Brooks was found bound, face down on her waterbed, blood saturating her surroundings, her body displaying clear stab wounds.
Autopsy would later reveal that she had been raped and stabbed to death and had died at around 2:30AM. She had only lived in her new apartment for a month before she was brutally murdered.
The doors were locked from the inside and there was no evidence of breaking and entering. Investigators determined that the perpetrator had exited the residence through the bedroom window. Despite canvassing and appealing for information that could lead to an arrest they received no such tips. They were unable to determine if the victim had left with the suspect that night after the party or if she had been followed home after leaving. Without any leads, the case went cold.
Robin’s killer had accidentally injured himself at the crime scene and left DNA that was carefully collected and stored. It would be entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database in the early 2000’s but unfortunately there was no hits. CODIS is an FBI maintained database that includes the sharing of DNA profiles across states.
Later DNA testing would cross 50 suspects off the list, a costly endeavour that sadly failed to reveal the killer.
In 2017 the perpetrator’s DNA was used to create a computer-generated image of his likeness both at the time of the crime and present day. The image depicted a black male who appeared to be in his late twenties or early thirties. The phenotyping process has been used in several high-profile cold cases and the images generated serve to help investigators eliminate suspects as opposed to providing an exact likeness. The image was circulated in the hope that someone would recognise Brooks’ killer, but again, no new tips came in.
Sgt Micki Links of the Sacramento Sheriff’s department worked on the case for 16 years, continuing to do so even after she retired from the force. She dreamed of one day arresting Robin Brooks’ killer and bringing him to justice. Four decades later that day finally came, and she finally got to hear the words she had been longing to hear: “You found your guy”.
71-year-old Phillip Lee Wilson was arrested at his home on April 23, 2020. His mugshot, in which he was wearing a mask pulled down over his chin amidst the Corona virus pandemic, was quickly published across various media outlets.
Genetic genealogy was the key to solving the 4-decade-old case. Investigators were able to cross-reference the killer’s DNA against profiles on public ancestry databases and work their way through family trees to track down Wilson and arrest him.
The felony complaint, which can be read in full here, states:
On or about April 24, 1980, at and in the County of Sacramento, State of California, the defendant, PHILLIP LEE WILSON, did commit a felony, namely: a violation of Section 187(a) of the Penal Code of the State of California, in that said defendant did unlawfully, and with malice aforethought murder ROBIN GISELA BROOKS, a human being.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCE 1.
It is further alleged that the murder of the ROBIN GISELA BROOKS was committed by the defendant, PHILLIP LEE WILSON, while the said defendant was engaged in the commission the crime of Rape, within the meaning of Penal Code Section 190.2(a)(17)”
It would later be revealed that the suspect had a criminal history including a 1985 assault-and-battery charge in Sacramento, indicating that he had stayed in the area after committing the rape and murder. He also had an arrest for possession of Marijuana in Texas, for which he served a year behind bars. He would have been in his early thirties at the time of the murder in 1980.
Robin Brooks’ older sister, Maria, who had always blamed herself for not being there, was shocked and relieved to hear the news that her sister’s killer had finally been arrested.
“I know Robin is smiling and saying job well done” she commented.