The following story was originally published on May 16, 1985. Robert Waterhouse
is expected to be executed in Florida at 6 p.m. today.
On the morning of Feb. 10, 1966, Robert Waterhouse drove from his home on
Wilmarth Avenue in Greenport to his job at the County Center in Riverhead.
After work, he stopped off at the Westview Road, Mattituck, home of his
girlfriend, Barbara Kelly. That’s when things started to turn sour. He says he
doesn’t remember just who or what caused it, but he and Barbara had a fight. It
ended with her throwing his ring in the water, his striking her in the face,
and her mother threatening to call the police. “F— the cops,” Waterhouse
recalls telling Mrs. Kelly. “Get the Marines. I’m ready.”
Later that night, Robert Waterhouse was ready to kill.
First he retreated to Helen’s Bar on Front Street in Greenport and began to
drink. By his own account, he drank “all kinds of stuff – beer, scotch, you
name it, I was drinking it.” He was 19 at the time, but already he was a
veteran of Helen’s and other North Fork taverns. He says he began drinking in
bars at age 15; he was big for his age, and most of his buddies were older.
Some of his drinking buddies probably were in Helen’s that night, but
Waterhouse says he doesn’t remember much besides losing all his money on the
pool table. At some point, much later in the evening, he lost track of time and
place, he says. “I guess at some point I decided to leave there. The rest is
The Suffolk County medical examiner said 77-year-old widow Ella Mae Carter of
39 Washington Ave., Greenport, died of strangulation. She had been brutally
beaten; 14 of her ribs were fractured. Teeth marks were found under her right
breast. Police said there was evidence of rape, although that charge was never
brought against him.
The charge filed was 1st degree murder, but Robert Waterhouse caught a break
some Greenporters haven’t forgotten – on March 13, 1966, he pleaded guilty to a
reduced charge of 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life in
Auburn State Prison. With time off for good behavior, and following a revision
of the penal code, he was paroled Oct. 29, 1975.
‘Bobby and his friends - were stuck back on the 50’s’
Today, Robert Waterhouse sits on death row in the Florida State Prison at
Starke, about 40 miles southwest of Jacksonville. He’s been there since 1980,
when he was convicted of another brutal sex slaying, this time of a 29-year-old
St. Petersburg woman, Deborah Kammerer. Only an 11th hour court order blocked
his execution this past March. His fate again will be on the line June 4, when
lawyers from the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee enter the Pinellas County
Courthouse in St. Petersburg to seek a retrial in the Florida case.
* * * *
Although Robert Waterhouse has spent 15 ½ of his 38 years behind bars, no one –
not law enforcement officials, not his former friends, not his family, not
Waterhouse himself – has adequately answered the question of what went wrong
with his life. Nor has anyone explained why a two-time convicted killer has
never had any meaningful psychiatric counseling.
Over the past 6 months, The Suffolk Times has attempted to answer those
questions by conducting more than 50 interviews with Waterhouse, (including one
at the Florida State Prison at Starke), members of his family, schoolmates and
friends who knew him as a boy growing up in Greenport. What has emerged is a
portrait of a rambunctious but otherwise seemingly normal youth who became
increasingly antisocial and estranged from his family and friends as he
approached manhood. Along with an extraordinary number of his teenage
associates who died before their time at the hands of alcohol, drugs and fast
cars, Robert Waterhouse never made the transition to adulthood. In the words of
one person who knew him well, Greenport restaurateur Bob Heaney; “Bobby and his
friends were still the rebels, with their slicked-back hair and their turned-up
collars. The times were changing, but they were stuck back in the ’50s.”
* * * *
Robert Bryan Waterhouse was born on December 12, 1946, the 4th of 5 children of
Mabel Quarty and Roger Waterhouse. Today if you ask Robert Waterhouse who his
parents are, he’s liable to give you 2 answers. That’s because at the age of 6
months he went to live with his aunt and uncle, Lois and Chester Foster, on
Wilmarth Avenue in Greenport. He never returned.
The “adoption” by his aunt and uncle – although Waterhouse is quick to point
out that he was never legally adopted – is the subject of some controversy.
According to Lois Foster and her sister, Mabel Waterhouse, both of whom have
retired to St. Petersburg with their husbands, the circumstances were simple.
Robert was 6 months old and the Waterhouse family was building a new home on
Sixth Avenue in Greenport. Mrs. Waterhouse already had three young children at
home; coping with a new infant was a problem. With the warning that “you’ll
probably be walking the floor all night” with a crying baby, Mrs. Foster agreed
to keep an eye on Robert for a few days. Mrs. Foster says she was only too
happy to accept an infant into her home; she had lost a child at birth only
shortly before. But “a few days” turned into a lifetime. As Mrs. Foster recalls
it: “She never asked to have him back, so I kept him.”
The story of how Robert Waterhouse came to live with his aunt and uncle is told
differently on the streets of Greenport. Numerous people interviewed by The
Suffolk Times, including several of his boyhood friends, say he was traded by
his mother to his aunt for a dining room set. As unlikely as that seems, the
theory appears to have been widely accepted as true in Greenport, and it seems
possible that it was used to taunt young Waterhouse as he was growing up here.
Waterhouse swears he heard the dining room set story for the first time last
month, after one of his lawyers returned from a fact-finding trip to Greenport.
His aunt says “there is no truth whatsoever” to the rumor, but she has an
explanation for its origin. When he was about a year old – in other words, 6
months after he came into the Fosters’ home – his aunt said Robert was moved
from her bedroom to a room formerly used as a dining room. In order to make
room, Mrs. Foster said she offered to loan her dining room set to her sister,
who had an empty room at her new home on Sixth Avenue. “But there certainly was
no trade,” Mrs. Foster said.
Mrs. Foster does remember Robert being taunted about the circumstances of his
“adoption,” however. “When he was a kid, he used to take the bus to school,”
Mrs. Foster recalled during an interview on the enclosed poolside patio of her
retirement home in south St. Petersburg. “He would always turn around and throw
me a kiss at the corner. But then one day he asked me to start taking him to
school. He was about 10 or 11 then, but I found out years later – after Mrs.
Carter – that the kids used to taunt him on the bus and make him cry. After he
was arrested, (a neighbor) told me the kids used to tell him, “You’re no good.
You’re mother didn’t want you and she gave you away.’”
(Mr. and Mrs. Waterhouse declined to be interviewed by The Suffolk Times when
contacted at their one-story bungalow, which is about a mile away from the
Fosters’ home. Mrs. Waterhouse’s only comment was that she and her husband
retired to Florida in September 1979 “in order to start over, only it happened
again four months later. It was like a nightmare all over again.”)
A 1961 entry in his records at the Greenport School, which were reviewed with
Waterhouse’s permission, stated: “Robert seems to be a cry baby if things don’t
go his way.”
Several of his childhood friends say he was spoiled by his aunt and uncle. Mrs.
Foster responds: “What I didn’t have as a kid, I wanted him to have. I never
had a bike as a kid, so I wanted him to have one. Almost anything he wanted, he
got. He was disciplined, but he never went without.”
‘He was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’
Waterhouse and his aunt also remember how the kids – and even one Little League
coach, according to Mrs. Foster – used to make fun of his last name. “I caught
a lot of hell because of my name,” he said during a recent conversation in the
interview room at the Florida State Prison. “You know, shithouse, outhouse,
water closet. I was in a lot of fights because of that. There was one black kid
– I used to fight with him every day. It was like a standing thing. Every day
when I’d go home from school for lunch, there he was waiting for me. We’d just
go at it. One day he’d win, the next day I’d win. To tell you the truth, I
don’t know what is was all about. I used to think why, why are we fighting? I
was in a lot of fights as a kid – mostly because of my name. That may be where
I got my reputation as a fighter, maybe even as a bully.”
At some point, probably in junior high, when he went from 95 pounds to 160
pounds in the span of two years, Waterhouse stopped taking abuse and started
handing it out. In the words of one former classmate: “He was an intimidating
guy. He used to pick on everybody who was smaller than him. He would do
anything to make himself look like a wild guy, a wise guy. I would describe him
as a hood.”
The incidents involving altercations with other students punctuate Waterhouse’s
school records. In 1959, he was given detention for bruising a girl’s arm. One
entry in his file said: “He seems to enjoy fighting with older boys. The boys
in his group seem to fear him.” Another stated: “There is a certain nervous
anxiety indicated by an almost violent chewing of his nails.”
Not all the teachers’ comments were negative. A junior high school profile
found him to be an ”average student” who “works hard.” He was described as
“very likable,” and it was predicted he would do well in high school.
For a time during his high school years, Waterhouse was involved in athletics,
primarily baseball. One former teammate, Joe Gordon, who is now a Southold Town
policeman, recalls: “He couldn’t field worth a damn, but he could hit a ball.
He almost got kicked off the team one time, but I don’t remember what for.”
Waterhouse’s former coach, Richard “Dude” Manwaring, remembers. “It was in a
game against Southampton,” Mr. Manwaring said. “He deliberately kicked the
third basemen as he was rounding the base headed for home. He was thrown out of
“He could be the nicest boy one minute, and then turn around the next and be
vicious. He was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the classroom, he was average or
better than average, but he had a history of losing himself completely. But he
was never vicious to me.”
Something else Dude Manwaring remembers about Robert Waterhouse is that he used
to wear combat boots instead of baseball spikes.
Mr. Manwaring was present during the incident that first brought Waterhouse to
the attention of the Greenport Police. It was October 15, 1964, at a Halloween
dance at the high school. As Mr. Manwaring remembers, Waterhouse “was half in
the bag” when he showed up at the dance and was asked to leave by another
chaperone, Charles Jantzen.
Waterhouse remembers it differently. “I had on a continental suit without a
tie, and he (Mr. Jantzen) said I had to have on a tie on,” he said. “He wanted
me to wear a piece of crepe paper for a tie. He wanted to make a clown out of
me. I said, ‘If you want to f— with me, come outside and get the whole thing.’
But he wouldn’t come out, so I took a tire iron and air conditioned the
windshield of his brand new Bonneville.”
An offer by his aunt to make restitution kept Waterhouse out of jail, but it
didn’t keep him in school. He was expelled on October 30, 1964. Only through
the intervention of a sympathetic school board member, which resulted in
tutoring at the home of Marguerite Layden on Fifth Street, did Waterhouse
graduate on time in June 1965.
Even before his expulsion from school, Waterhouse was spending more and more of
his time hanging out with his buddies in front of Rouse’s store on Greenport’s
Front Street. He was a regular perched on top of a garbage can almost every
‘We simply turned him loose back into society’
Another regular at Rouse’s, Tony Ficurilli, who now runs a barber shop on Main
Street, remembers the night Waterhouse showed up wearing a derby, a pink shirt,
imitation pearl buttons, a vest, black pants and black pointy shoes. “He was
trying to impress some girl,” Mr. Ficurilli said. “It was summertime, and he
just walked up to the girl and introduced himself. He said ‘I’m, the
continental gent,’ clicked his heels, tipped his hat and snapped his fingers.
She turned and walked away.”
Drinking was an important part of Waterhouse’s existence by this time. He
bragged about putting away as many as three six-packs of beer a day. Later he
earned the nickname “Stoney” because of his frequent use of marijuana.
“I was always out in the evening, downtown,” Waterhouse recalls. “And drinking
was the thing. Every day – a six-pack, two six-packs, a pint of whiskey.
Anything to get the place away from you.”
That feeling of alienation in his hometown is a recurrent theme with
Waterhouse. He said: “When I call Greenport a hick town, that’s because it was
small and still kind of red-necked in its ways. Call me different or whatever,
but it just didn’t make any sense to me. If you want to be like that, fine, but
don’t impose that on me.”
Later he said: “I got the feeling when I was 17 or 18 that they were trying to
make me different – the way they treated me, the way they looked at me. For
instance, people didn’t like my cousin, Ronnie Quarty, because he was a rebel.
Because I hung around with him, I got the tag. I think it’s very unfair to tag
somebody. I mean, the guy was my cousin.”
Ronnie Quarty was another of Robert Waterhouse’s friends who didn’t make it
through the 1960s. He was killed in a construction accident shortly after
Waterhouse went to jail the 1st time.
Asked if he thinks he was treated unfairly in Greenport, Waterhouse replies:
“It wasn’t that they weren’t giving me a shot. It was just that I wasn’t saying
nothing bad about them. I wasn’t doing anything to them. Why did they want to
put me down?”
Other than an interview by a BOCES psychologist following the incident with Mr.
Jantzen’s car, it does not appear that Robert Waterhouse asked for or was
offered any professional counseling during his troubled teenage years.
Said Dude Manwaring: “With all the things he was doing, he should have been
helped years ago. All those things showed up, and nobody ever helped the kid
Waterhouse’s aunt, Lois Foster, says she “begged for him to get help,” although
no formal request appears in his school records. “Even before Mrs. Carter, I
asked for him to be evaluated by a psychiatrist or psychologist. You just don’t
get any help until it’s too late.”
Lawrence J. Nokes, the BOCES psychologist who did examine Waterhouse on Nov.
12, 1964, reported that he “justifies (fights and other difficulties) in every
case as acts of self-defense, or having been justifiably provoked — Robert
describes the contact he had with his parents, brothers and sisters matter of
factly, and attaches little significance to the fact that he was not reared by
In an interview the same day with Mrs. Foster, the psychologist noted: “She
describes no difficulties with Robert. However, it is evident from her
conversation that little or no control is placed on Robert’s behavior in regard
to either controlling the time or the activities in which he participates. She
states that her husband has never taken an interest in Robert and has been a
negligible factor in Robert’s development.
“Robert’s behavior seems to be characterized by inadequate control over
aggressive impulses,” the report continued. “He is able to rationalize his way
around social convention, and the disapproval which society places on fighting.
He reacts with hostility when controls are placed on him.”
Mr. Nokes noted that Waterhouse had an IQ of 100, and concluded: “There are no
factors indicated … that would interfere with his receiving home instruction.”
Unmentioned in Mr. Nokes psychological profile of Robert Waterhouse is an
incident which, if true, would have profoundly influenced his youth. In a May
3, 1985, letter to The Suffolk Times, Waterhouse says he was the victim of a
homosexual rape when he was about nine years old. He said his attacker was a
neighborhood teenager who has since left the North Fork. “As with most children
who are molested,” Waterhouse said in the letter, “I was so embarrassed that I
never told anyone.” No record of the alleged rape exists in the files of the
Greenport Police Department.
Following his graduation, Waterhouse got a job as an ID checker at the bowling
alley that used to be located on Moore’s Lane, Greenport, where Jernick Moving
and Storage now sits. He was there early one morning in August, 1965, when two
of his friends, Myron “Mike” Prindle and Doug Dean, showed up and wanted to
drive to Riverhead for breakfast. They never made it. As Waterhouse remembers,
“They were both loaded before they got there.” The car swerved off the Main
Road in Jamesport and struck a utility pole. Waterhouse and Dean were thrown
through the windshield, but survived. Prindle, who was at the wheel, was killed
Waterhouse had a concussion, 13 stitches in his head and another 13 in his
hand. He was transferred to Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport after one
night in the hospital in Riverhead, but he says, “I checked myself out after 5
days because I couldn’t take it anymore.”
The seriousness of the injuries he sustained in that 1965 accident was an issue
last year, when Waterhouse’s court-appointed lawyer tried to convince a judge
in a Florida clemency hearing that “some part of Robert Waterhouse was damaged”
in the crash. According to a Jan. 27, 1984, account in the St. Petersburg
Times: “That damage should have been detected and treated, (attorney Henry)
Andringa said. Instead … ‘we simply turned him loose back out into society.’”
Asked if he experienced a personality change following the accident, Waterhouse
simply shrugs his shoulders. His aunt says he “complained of headaches every
day after that,” but she adds: “I don’t know if that had anything to do with
Following the accident in the summer of 1965, Waterhouse met Barbara Kelly, a
girl from Mattituck who was about to enter her senior year at Mattituck High
School. At first, the relationship flourished. In fact, Waterhouse says he and
Barbara were talking about marriage by the end of 1965, and she even was
thinking about dropping out of school.
The events of Feb. 10, and 11, 1966, changed all that, of course, and Barbara
Kelly’s whereabouts have been something of a mystery since that time. What is
known is that she dropped out of school in February 1966, leaving no forwarding
address. There is no indication that she completed her high school studies
because Mattituck was never asked to forward her records to a new school. There
have been reports that she lived in Riverhead for a while, but repeated efforts
to locate her have proved unsuccessful.
Waterhouse says the last time he heard from Barbara Kelly was when he was still
in prison in New York. He said: “She brought me to court to prove I fathered
her child,” who was born on Aug. 23, 1966. “I didn’t think I was going to get
out for 20 years, so I signed the papers.” However, now he denies paternity,
saying he’s not certain Ritchie Waterhouse is his son. Waterhouse last saw
Ritchie when he got out on parole in 1975. The boy is 18 now, and Waterhouse
says, “I’d sure like to see him now to see what he looks like.”
Waterhouse claims he doesn’t remember what he and Barbara Kelly fought about on
Feb. 10, 1966, but his aunt thinks it may have been because his girlfriend “was
in a family way. I didn’t mind his getting married,” Mrs. Foster continued,
“but they wanted to move in with us on Wilmarth Avenue, and we didn’t have any
room. It was only a 2-bedroom house. I thought it was best if he got out by
himself. I’ve hated myself every since. Maybe it wouldn’t have happened if I
had let them move in.”
* * * *
“When I woke up, my eyes and my head finally started to clear and focus.”
Robert Waterhouse is speaking about the morning of Friday, Feb. 11, 1966. I
said, ‘Where is this place? Where am I? Who is that?’ And then it settled in. I
thought, ‘Oh, my God.’”
Looking directly into the eyes of his interviewer, Waterhouse says he has no
recollection of what happened inside Mrs. Carter’s house the night he murdered
The official police account said Mrs. Carter’s nude body was found lying on a
bed in the bedroom of her five-room home at 6:38 p.m. Friday. The discovery was
made by Greenport Village Police and the victim’s nephew, George W. Hubbard of
Central Avenue. Mr. Hubbard, who is now mayor of Greenport, was called to the
scene by a neighbor, Anthony Andrade of 35 Washington Ave., who became
suspicious when milk delivered to Mrs. Carter’s home early Friday morning was
still on the doorstep in the early evening.
Waterhouse immediately became a suspect. He had done yard work for Mrs. Carter,
and police records indicated he had been charged in the past with being a
“peeping Tom.” When Waterhouse came to the police station early Saturday
morning with a family friend, Ken Norwood, he had scratches on his hands and
face. A warrant was issued, and a pile of bloody clothing was found in
Waterhouse’s bedroom. Waterhouse confessed to the crime at 6 a.m. Saturday.
‘I thought, “Oh, my God’”
An account in the Feb. 17, 1966, edition of The Riverhead News-Review reported
the following chronology after, according to police, Waterhouse broke into the
Carter house at about 1 a.m. Friday. “Police theorize Mrs. Carter fled to the
kitchen, where she was caught and dragged back to the bedroom. Authorities said
she fought desperately in the kitchen, through the living room, and in the
bedroom, where she was brutally beaten, sexually attacked, and then strangled.
An autopsy conducted by Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Hugh Ashmore, late
Saturday, revealed she had been beaten, raped, and then strangled.
“Robbery was obviously not the motive,” the news article continued. “(Police
said) Mrs. Carter’s wedding wring was still on her finger. They also found an
overnight bag under her bed, containing her savings, $2,333 in all.”
What was Robert Waterhouse doing in Mrs. Carter’s home at 1 a.m. in the
morning? When he is asked that question directly, his eyes glazed over before
he responds. “I used to shovel her walk in the wintertime. That’s all.” In a
recent letter to The Suffolk Times, he said: “I can honestly say that I never
meant or intended to kill Mrs. Carter.”
The question of Robert Waterhouse’s intentions appears to be key, because
somewhere along the line prosecutors decided to reduce the charge from 1st to
2nd degree murder. But that didn’t happen until after a mistrial was declared
in his first trial when his court-appointed lawyer, Edward LaFreniere of
Riverhead, was disbarred due to financial irregularities in other cases.
Attorney Harry Brown of Northport handled Waterhouse’s defense the 2nd time
around, and he advised his client to plead to second degree murder when it was
offered on March 13, 1966.
Looking back today, both Waterhouse and Mrs. Carter’s nephew, George Hubbard,
are upset about that plea, but for different reasons. Waterhouse thinks he was
ill-advised by Brown. “The suppression hearing was scheduled for Monday,” he
said in a recent interview. “They had just finished picking the jury on Friday,
and (the prosecutors) grabbed Brown and offered second degree, with 20 years to
life. If convicted of first degree murder, I would have done 26 years and 10
months before even seeing the parole board. It looked like a good deal at the
time, but I think (the prosecution) knew evidence was going to be thrown out in
the suppression hearing; that’s why they offered second degree. Brown should
have explained what we had going.”
‘Greenport gave him a second chance’
George Hubbard: “I was really mad that day. I tried to find the prosecutor, I
think his name was Mr. Jaffe, but he was out on the golf course. I would have
killed him, I think. He didn’t advise the family that he was going to let him
take the lesser plea. We were all upset at the time because we wanted to go for
* * * *
9 years and 10 months later, George Hubbard had another reason to be upset with
the legal/penal system – Robert Waterhouse was getting out of prison early. As
Waterhouse remembers it: “A change in the penal code enabled me to go to the
parole board earlier. My aunt and some other people had gotten a petition
together, and I had a very good prison record, which didn’t hurt.” According to
Waterhouse, his parole interview consisted of the following exchange with three
doctors: “I walked in there, and they said, ‘How are you doing?’ I said,
‘Fine.’ They said, ‘How do you feel?’ I said, ‘Okay.’ They said, ‘What do you
think about going back outside?’ I said, ‘That would be great if it happens.’
They said, ‘Okay, we’ll see you.’ That was their examination.”
George Hubbard: “The same people who spoke on his behalf about the goodness the
kid had in him – which is what got him paroled – should really feel responsible
for the second murder.”
Waterhouse was paroled on Oct. 29, 1975, 9 years and 10 months after his arrest
for the Carter murder. He immediately returned to Greenport.
Why did he return to the scene of the crime, a small town where everyone knew
his face and what he had done? “I had nowhere else to go,” he said. “I had $250
to my name. Where was I going to go?”
After looking for a job, which was a condition of his parole, he found one in
February 1976 at Greenport Yacht and Shipbuilding, where the both his uncle and
his father worked as painters. “Steve Clarke gave me that job more out of
generosity and sympathy than anything else,” Waterhouse says.
Steve Clarke: “At first, I thought the guys in the yard might kill him. But I
sat them down the first day and told them if they gave him a hard time, I’d
come down twice as hard on them. We never had any trouble. As far as I’m
concerned, Greenport was very decent to the guy. They gave him a 2nd chance.”
Waterhouse remembers it differently. “When I came out of the joint, (the sense
of alienation) was still there, only it was worse. You know: ‘We don’t want you
here. Why are you here? Why don’t you just evaporate?’”
Wasn’t that understandable under the circumstances? “The prison experience had
opened my eyes to many things in life,” he says. “But I didn’t see any open
minds when I came back there. Nobody would say, here’s a 2nd chance.”
What about Steve Clarke? Wasn’t he offering a 2nd chance? “He was doing it more
out of kindness to my family,” says Waterhouse.
The job at Greenport Yacht and Shipbuilding lasted until about September 1976.
After collecting unemployment benefits for a while, Waterhouse went to work as
a bayman with Jim Rock of Greenport, scalloping mostly. But when the season
ended in March, he said it was time to move on. “I just couldn’t see living on
60 bucks a week with no prospects for a job,” he says.
However, as with many chapters of Robert Waterhouse’s life story, there is
another version of his final days in Greenport. A number of people say he
started to “peep” again and was run out of town. What is known for certain is
that he did have another run-in with local police. On Oct. 15, 1976, he was
asked to appear in a line-up at the Southold Town Police station in Peconic
after a prowler was spotted in Orient. He wasn’t identified by the witness, but
his aunt said he was being harassed by the police. “He could not have stayed in
Greenport,” she said. In April 1977, Waterhouse decided to move to Monroe, La.,
the home of his older brother, Roger.
Whatever the circumstances of his departure from the village where he was born,
raised and returned after nearly 10 years in jail, Robert Waterhouse says he
hasn’t looked back since the day he left for the last time.
* * * *
Condensed, the years between 1977 and 1980 were divided between Louisiana and
Florida, mostly in a series of short-lived jobs. In Louisiana, Waterhouse
worked as a shipping and receiving foreman, painted houses and sold life
insurance. Although he got the jobs only after lying about his prison record in
New York, there is no indication that he got into any serious trouble with the
law while living with his brother and his family.
Florida was a different story. After moving in September 1978 to St.
Petersburg, where his aunt and uncle had retired a year earlier, Waterhouse
first worked in a boatyard. After he was fired from the job, he took a job in
construction, which he held for three days before being arrested on a charge of
attempted vehicular homicide.
The date was April 26, 1979, and police said Waterhouse deliberately struck
Lorenzo Sims and Evelyn Prince with his 1964 yellow Chevrolet Camaro while they
were walking on 11th Avenue S. in St. Petersburg. No reason was given for the
alleged attack, and a jury ruled it was an accident. Waterhouse was released
from jail 3 ½ months after his arrest.
It was back into construction until Jan. 9, 1980, when Waterhouse was arrested
for the last time. Police said he met 29-year-old Deborah Kammerer in the ABC
Lounge in St. Petersburg on the night of Jan. 2, 1980 – which in itself was a
violation of his New York parole, since he wasn’t supposed to be frequenting
bars. Ms. Kammerer, who was described in news reports as “blonde,” petite, a
bar-hopper and a (former) date of Waterhouse,” was found nude, lying face down
in the mud flats next to Tampa Bay the following morning. A description in the
March 12, 1985, edition of the St. Petersburg Times stated: “(Ms. Kammerer) had
drowned, but not before her 5-foot-2, 90-pound body was repeatedly violated…
“According to the medical examiner, Ms. Kammerer took 22 blows to the head,
some from a tire iron. Her nose was broken in 3 places, teeth were cracked,
eyes swollen, neck choked, back bruised. She was raped. There were extensive
cuts in her rectum, where a bottle was forced. A blood-stained tampon was
jammed in her throat.”
Although Waterhouse professes innocence in the killing of Ms. Kammerer, he has
declined to discuss details of the Florida case with The Suffolk Times because
of the possible impact on his June 4 hearing. However, he did tell reporter Jon
East of the St. Petersburg Evening Independence newspaper: “I don’t deny that
she may have been beaten very severely in my car. I never denied that. I just
denied doing it.”
The police and a jury of his peers didn’t buy that explanation. Waterhouse was
convicted of first degree murder on Sept. 2, 1980, and a day later he was
sentenced to death. After a lengthy series of legal maneuvers, Florida Governor
Bob Graham signed his death warrant Feb. 22, 1985. Only the intervention of
attorney Stephen Bright of the Southern Prisoners Defense Committee spared
Waterhouse four days before his execution, which was scheduled for March 19.
Without debating the merits of the death sentence itself, Mr. Bright argued
that Waterhouse should not be executed without having adequate legal
representation. Until he met Mr. Bright for the first time on the morning of
Friday, March 15, the day the stay of execution was granted, Waterhouse did not
have a lawyer.
‘He deserves to die’
According to Clive Stafford Smith, a lawyer who works with Mr. Bright in his
Atlanta office, the defense’s primary thrust at the June 4 hearing will be that
Waterhouse received “ineffective assistance of counsel” in the 1980 Florida
trial. They also will argue that Waterhouse suffers from “extreme mental
disorder,” and that he was “incapable of appreciating the criminality of his
Waterhouse says he has only one goal in the Florida case – a retrial. “If they
overturn the (death) sentence, I’m not really crazy about that,” he said. “I’d
just as soon go out like I’m sitting here now; in other words, let them execute
me. If they force 25 years to life on me, I’d be 58 years old before I saw the
parole board, and still owe New York life parole. No way. I’d just as soon get
it over with.
“If they did force (a life sentence) on me, and then threw me out in the
general (prison) population, just give me a couple of days. I’ll be at the
fence and they’ll have to kill me.”
Mr. Smith thinks Waterhouse may have second thoughts about that if Gov. Graham
signs a 2nd death warrant. He said: “They all say that. If he gets a little
closer to execution, He’ll change his mind.”
‘He was standing there like a lost soul, just looking over the crowd’
George Hubbard believes Robert Waterhouse makes an excellent case for the death
penalty. “I wouldn’t mind pulling the switch on the guy myself, after what I
saw he did to my aunt,” Mayor Hubbard said. “He deserves to die.”
* * * *
2 final images of Robert Waterhouse: one from a boyhood friend, Ron Tyler, one
from Waterhouse himself.
Mr. Tyler remembers seeing Waterhouse at the Apple Tree, a Mattituck nightspot,
after his 1975 parole. “A lot of the guys he used to hang out with were there,
but no one would talk to him,” Mr. Tyler recalls. “No one could relate to him.
What do you say to someone who has been in prison for 10 years? It was a very
awkward situation. As much as I wanted to go up to him and say, ‘Hi, Bob, how
are you doing,’ there wasn’t anything to say. Everyone must have had the same
attitude, because no one else talked to him. He was standing there all alone
like a lost soul, just looking over the crowd.”
Robert Waterhouse, the boy from Greenport who grew up to become a two-time
convicted murdered, doesn’t ask the sympathy of Ron Tyler or anyone else.
Defiantly, his hands manacled before him, he says: “I’m okay. It’s the rest of
the world that’s f—– up. I realize some people can have a problem and never
realize it, but I don’t think I’m one of those people. If you ask me, I’m
“Besides, for me, yesterday is a memory, and that’s all it is. Yesterday has no
real relevance. What counts is today and tomorrow – if there is a tomorrow.”
(source: Riverhead News-Review)