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Crime News Breaking News

Ohio Man Sentenced To Life For Killing Girlfriend’s Ex-Husband In Front Of His Children

Sterling Roberts was convicted of gunning down his girlfriend Tawnney Caldwell's ex-husband, Robert Caldwell, as the victim left a counseling appointment with the former couple's three kids. 

By Jax Miller
A police handout of Sterling Roberts

An Ohio man was sentenced to life in prison after feds say he cyberstalked his girlfriend’s ex-husband and then gunned him down in front of his children.

Sterling Roberts, 39, was found guilty in March for the shooting death of Robert Caldwell, according to the Department of Justice. Officials said that on Aug. 15, 2017, Roberts “executed” Caldwell as the victim crossed a parking lot following a counseling appointment in Riverside, Ohio.

Caldwell’s three children, all minors, were with their father when he died at the scene.

Roberts was accused of cyberstalking Caldwell in the midst of a custody battle between Caldwell and Roberts’ then-girlfriend, Tawnney Caldwell, who had been married to the victim. According to officials, Roberts and Tawnney Caldwell conspired with four codefendants to “plan, execute, and cover-up the murder.”

“Killing a father in front of his children is a cold and ruthless act that deserves a lengthy prison sentence,” said FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge J. William Rivers. “I applaud the local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that investigated this homicide and the prosecutors who pursued justice for the victim’s family.”

During the trial’s opening statements, U.S. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Amy Smith stated Roberts went to kill Caldwell to “fix the problem,” according to CBS Dayton affiliate WHIO.

“Sterling shot Bobby again, and again, and again,” said Smith. “Standing there over him, he fired more than 12 shots.”

According to federal prosecutors, Caldwell’s murder was Roberts’ second attempt to kill the victim. Earlier that month, Roberts allegedly posed as a prospective customer and messaged Caldwell to inquire about stonework. Prosecutors said Roberts lured his victim to a meeting in Jamestown, Ohio and then ambushed him with a gun.

Caldwell managed to escape, and reported Roberts to the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.

Between the first attempt to take Caldwell’s life and the murder, Roberts allegedly fled to his relatives’ home in Tennessee. There, Tawnney crossed state lines to pick up Roberts and bring him back to Ohio — but not before stopping in Kentucky, where Tawnney illegally purchased an AK-47 rifle for Roberts, according to the Department of Justice.

Officials said Roberts “cyberstalked Robert Caldwell via cell phone through the assistance of Tawnney Caldwell,” according to the federal indictment.

For her role in the death of her ex-husband, Tawnney Caldwell was convicted on charges of interstate stalking resulting in death. In July 2021, she was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison.

Tawnney Caldwell’s mother, Chandra Harmon, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the intimidation of a witness. She was sentenced to 70 months in prison after admitting that she attempted to help Tawnney Caldwell prevent a witness from making statements about the purchase of the firearm.

James Harmon, Tawnney Caldwells’s stepfather, was charged in March of 2018 with aiding and abetting the illegal gun possession, as were Sterling Roberts’ brothers, Christopher Roberts and Chance Deakin.

All the other defendants pleaded guilty.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Kenneth L. Parker called Caldwell’s murder an “American tragedy” in the announcement of Roberts’ life sentence.

“This heinous crime continues the American tragedy of children seeing loved ones shot down in front of them,” he said. “Our justice system must work hardest to protect our society’s children by ensuring their physical safety and mental well-being.”

The story of Caldwell’s murder made national headlines when his 14-year-old son, Jacob Caldwell, vanished less than a week after witnessing his father’s murder.

The teen was found safe one year later when police found him living with four adults who were allegedly acquainted with his mother. Three of them were charged with interference of custody in the incident, and the Dayton Daily News reported that two of the people charged had worked with Tawney Caldwell's maternal aunt. All were convicted in the case, according to WHIO.

It was reported that Jacob ran away after being placed in the care of his paternal grandmother shortly after his father’s death. He was found to be delinquent after running away multiple times, according to the Daily News, and briefly remanded to a facility for treatment and counseling