Delaware County family hopes to clear a teen of murder 86 years later
DELAWARE COUNTY (WTXF) - Who killed Vida? It's a real life murder mystery 86 years in the making. A Delaware County family is trying to clear a teen of murder after he was executed in 1931.
The pain is still fresh 86 years later. Susie Williams Carter was just an infant when her brother Alexander McClay Williams made headlines in 1931. The youngest person known to be put to death in Pennsylvania's electric chair at the age of 16. He was the oldest of 13 children and she never knew him.
"I always said he didn't do it. My mother said he didn't do it," she told FOX 29.
While serving 4 years at what is now known as the Glen Mills School, which is a facility for juvenile delinquents, Williams was convicted of the bloody murder of 33-year-old house matron Vida Robare.
She was stabbed 47 times with an ice pick in the cottage where she lived with her husband who taught farming at the school. Williams was doing chores unsupervised at the time of the murder. But according to records, he quickly confessed to the crime. He was arrested October 10th of 1930 and executed on June 8, 1931-- just 243 days later.
But now an unlikely stranger has come to clear Williams' name.
Sam Lemon has been researching this case for the past 30 years. That's because his great-grandfather William Ridley was the attorney who originally represented Williams during his murder trial.
"The image of him sitting in that electric chair with the hood over his head, I can't get that out of my mind. That haunts me. Like this story haunts me," he explained.
Lemon's search for justice has taken him to Greenlawn Cemetery. FOX 29 met him while he was searching the overgrown weeds for William's gravesite. But so far, there is no record the 16-year-old ever got a headstone.
"Even based on the information the prosecution provided he could not have possibly have done this," Lemon said.
Lemon uncovered a trove of new evidence. He says he found forged documents changing Williams' age and Robares death certificate naming Williams as the killer written in different color ink days before the boy was even arrested.
The headlines of the day say the crime was committed by an adult and a bloody handprint on the wall. But Williams never had a speck of blood on him that day.
"Anybody now knows you stab somebody that many times it's a crime of passion," Susie said.
So if Williams didn't do it who did? The family now believes the killer was the victim's husband, Fred Robare, and they say they have the evidence to prove it.
In a stunning revelation not known until recently they learned Vida Robare actually divorced her husband 9 years earlier in Michigan. The reason she stated in records: extreme cruelty. The belief is that Robare killed his wife in a fit of rage and framed it on the closest delinquent he could find.
And don't take his word for it.
"I believe my ancestor got away with murder." We tracked down the Teresa Smithers a great niece of Fred Robare on the phone from Michigan.
She tells us her uncle came from a very abusive and alcoholic family and after doing her own family research she even believes Alexander McClay Williams was framed.
"We've had a lot of troubles in our family. I feel the best way to move forward is to correct the past And this would correct an injustice from the past and would make us better people," Smithers said.
On Friday, decedents of Alexander McClay Williams and the attorney who represented him will come back to the same Media courthouse where he was convicted of murder 86 years later to try to clear his name.
They want to clear Williams' name not just for him but for his last surviving immediate family member.
"I'd fight for justice. Fight for justice" It's been going on too long," Susie Carter said.
On Friday morning, this case will go back to court to fight for expungement. But that doesn't address guilt or innocence. The family may have to take this case to the supreme court to get the 86-year-old murder conviction overturned.