Suspect sought in attempted armed robbery of Baton Rouge motel in July _lowres

Jonathan Robertson

A Baton Rouge man awaiting trial in the 2015 slaying of two Texas women was found guilty Thursday of robbing a convenience store clerk at gunpoint and then trying to rob a hotel security guard — both times clad in an Atlanta Falcons cap — just 12 days after the double homicide.

The pistol the security guard wrested from Jonathan Robertson on July 1, 2015, was traced to the June 19, 2015, killing of Brandi Gilbert, of Plano, Texas, and Corrine Rayford, of Grapevine, Texas. The 23-year-old women were both shot in the head and found in a parked car on Boone Avenue in Baton Rouge.

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Robertson, 29, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder in their deaths. A trial date in those homicides has not yet been set. A second-degree murder conviction would carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison. 

Meanwhile, Robertson faces up to 99 years in prison on his armed robbery conviction and up to 50 years behind bars for attempted armed robbery. The jury voted 10-2 to find him guilty on armed robbery; the attempted armed robbery conviction was unanimous. The new state law requiring jury verdicts in felony cases to be unanimous applies only to crimes committed after Jan. 1 of this year.

State District Judge Beau Higginbotham scheduled a Dec. 11 sentencing date.

“After sentencing, we will be in a better position to determine how we will proceed on the double homicide charges,” East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said.

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The armed robbery occurred inside a Cracker Barrel store on Jefferson Highway near Barringer Foreman Road shortly after 1:50 a.m. July 1, 2015. The attempted armed robbery took place in the parking lot of a Comfort Inn hotel on Valley Creek Drive off College Drive about 3:50 a.m. An Atlanta Falcons hat was found near the security guard’s vehicle.

The victims in both crimes testified that their assailant was a black man armed with a black gun, wearing black clothes and a black glove, and sporting a Falcons hat with a sticker on the bill. Robertson’s DNA was found on the hat, prosecutors said.

“It’s not just Mr. Robertson’s H-A-T. It’s his D-N-A,” Assistant District Attorney Stuart Theriot argued Thursday to the jury of eight men and four women.

Atlanta Falcons hat looms large at accused killer's Baton Rouge trial

Assistant Public Defender Margaret Lagattuta called the prosecution “identification by clothes.”

“They want you to put him in jail, for quite a long time, on a hat,” she said in her closing argument. “It’s all about that hat. They want you to convict him on this hat, and that’s it.”

The hotel security guard, Warren Lands, testified Wednesday that he’s certain the man who tried to rob him was Robertson. Lands also said Robertson bit him on the arm during their struggle. Theriot labeled Lands, who is 6-foot-6 and weighs more than 300 pounds, a hero.

Robertson, the prosecutor said, “picked the wrong guy.”

The Cracker Barrel robbery was captured on surveillance video, but Vindushi Sood — the 19-year-old clerk who was held up — could not identify the robber because he partially covered his face. She said the robber made off with about $70.

“It is always difficult for victims of violent crime to appear in court in relive their trauma, but both victims appeared at trial in this case,” Moore said. “Their testimony corroborated by physical evidence enabled the jury to hold the defendant responsible for his actions.”

Roughly $70 was taken during the store armed robbery.

“Mr. Robertson got greedy. That wasn’t enough for him,” Assistant District Attorney Ryan Volo told the jury in his rebuttal closing argument.

Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.