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On Halloween morning in 1984, Robin Hoynes' sisters put on their costumes and started their day — never realizing a real-life monster had forever altered the dynamics of their tight-knit family.
Robin — a pretty, popular 21-year-old redhead — lay dead at a KFC in Torrance, California where she had worked as an assistant manager, according to “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered,” airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
Robin been killed the night before, but her family believed she was sleeping over at a friend’s house after working a late shift and didn't realize her tragic fate until Robin’s coworker Cheryl Fuller stumbled upon the body while trying to open the fast-food restaurant on Halloween morning.
Fuller had been the one scheduled to work the late shift on the night of October 30, 1984, but Robin agreed to trade with her so that Fuller could go out with a new boyfriend.
“I had just started dating somebody and we had plans,” Fuller told "Dateline" correspondent Keith Morrison.
When she pulled into the restaurant the next morning and noticed Robin’s car was still parked in the lot, she thought maybe Robin had gotten confused and didn’t realize that Fuller had planned to take her shift in exchange.
It wasn’t until she got into the restaurant’s backroom that she made the grisly discovery.
“As I came around the corner I looked and I thought why did Robin spend the night here? That was my first reaction and then when I looked closer, I saw that she didn’t spend the night there. She had been killed,” Fuller said.
Robin was lying face down in a pool of blood, with marks to the left side of her face, a slashed neck, and two stab wounds to the back.
Torrance Police Det. Jeff Lancaster said initially it had looked like an attempted robbery.
“The top cover of the safe was removed and there were some paint chips missing off a new combination lock,” Lancaster said.
But the night’s $600 deposit remained securely inside the safe.
“He got nothing out of it, not one thing,” Lancaster said. “It’s such a cold-blooded situation.”
Investigators noticed there had been no signs of forced entry and no defensive wounds on Robin’s body, leading authorities to believe that she had trusted her killer and willingly let the person into the store before they had attacked her.
While there were a few drops of blood on the safe, there were no fingerprints or a murder weapon left at the scene.
However, strangely, investigators did find a long piece of foam rubber on the floor not far from the body that they believed may have come from a backpack or the handle of a briefcase.
Robin’s oldest sister Kim Hoynes learned her sibling had been killed after coming home from work that day and discovering a note left behind by police instructing the family to call authorities. The first person she called after speaking to police was her mother.
“The first words out of her mouth were, ‘You’re lying to me, you’re lying to me,’” Kim recalled. “She couldn’t believe that. Once she realizes that, really, I am telling the truth, we know we have to talk to my dad.”
As Virgil Hoynes was rushing home to be with his family, Robin’s youngest sister, 16-year-old Wendy Castaneda, was finding out her sister's fate from a classmate at school.
“My immediate response was 'Did she die?' because I wanted her to still be alive, but she said no, she’s dead,” Castaneda said.
While the evidence at the scene had been limited, investigators did have one clue to work with. Fuller remembered that on Oct. 30, 1984, William Marshall, a former assistant manager who had been fired after money started to disappear from the restaurant, had been planning to stop by that night.
“Earlier that day William called me,” Fuller said. “He was going to come back and pick up his briefcase and return his uniform and so before I left that day, I just told her, ‘William’s going to be by later’ and she said, ‘OK, no problem’” Fuller recalled.
While Marshall — who was described as friendly, ambitious, and religious — had known the previous combinations to the safe, he hadn’t been aware that it had been changed just days earlier.
Investigators brought Marshall in for questioning, but he insisted he had been home the whole night of the murder. His girlfriend, Yvonne Hargrove, backed up his account, giving him a solid alibi.
Yet authorities couldn’t shake the idea that he had been involved, especially after an employee at a KFC 30 miles away from the Torrance location reported someone wearing Army fatigues casing the place after hours. The employee picked out a photo of Marshall as the man he had seen that night.
Torrance Police put Marshall under surveillance and followed him one night to that exact KFC. Police watched as he tried to convince employees to let him into the store, then saw him drove off. They pulled him over a few miles later and discovered he had been carrying a seven-to-nine-inch boning knife in his backpack. Lancaster believed it could have been the weapon used to kill Robin.
Marshall was arrested, but he was later released after the district attorney at the time declined to prosecute the case, noting that the case was too circumstantial and there was no direct evidence tying him to the crime.
Kim called the decision “maddening.”
“His life goes forward and you know, Robin’s is snuffed out and she never gets to meet her potential because of what he did,” she said.
The case went cold for years.
A decade after Robin was killed, her father Virgil committed suicide in 1995 at the age of 61. Although he had been suffering from emphysema, Castaneda believes he was “honestly dying of grief.”
It wasn’t until investigators decided to take a new look at the case in 2003 that they were finally able to piece together what happened to Robin that night.
Authorities always believed the Hargrove may have been lying about where her boyfriend was the night of the murder. Under the direction of deputy district attorney John Lewin, police dispatched two teams of investigators to simultaneously re-interview both Hargrove, who now lived in Cleveland, Ohio, and Marshall.
Initially Hargrove stuck to her story, insisting that Marshall had been home that night with her having a spaghetti dinner. But, after police left and she consulted an attorney, she decided to finally tell the truth and called police.
“I said, ‘I have something that you need to know. What happened 20 years ago with William being at my house was not true. He wasn’t at my house that night," Hargrove recalled. “I said, ‘The next thing is, he killed that lady and he did not get a dime.’”
For years Hargrove had lived in fear of Marshall, who she said beat her so severely one night she almost died, but she finally decide to break her silence, telling police how he had told her that he had gone to the KFC that night to try to get money. When Robin let him inside, he killed her.
Hargrove also knew what that unusual piece of foam at the crime scene had been. Marshall had a unique habit of taking his feet out of his boots without ever untying them, wearing away the backs of each of his shoes. That night, the piece of foam at the back of his boats had fallen out, leaving the tell-tale clue behind.
“I guess he looked at his shoes and all of them had the backs worn off, so the most crucial moment of his life, that’s when that little piece of foam in the back of the boot popped out and was on the floor,” Hargrove told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.”
By then, Marshall had become a respected fire chief in rural California. He was at the fire station when police took him into custody in 2006. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison the next year.
For Robin’s family, it finally brought a measure of closure.
“I always knew that he was going to pay for what he did, but I’m mean enough that I wanted to see him pay here on earth so I hope he lives to be 100 and he spends a lot of years in that little 6-by-9 cell,” Kim said.
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