NORTH HAVERHILL – Despite pleading guilty to his role in the 2008 murder of Chris Gray, a developmentally-disabled man he thought was his romantic rival, Michael Robie says he’s been a model inmate and now wants his sentence reduced.
The matter of the sentence reduction was considered during a June 28 hearing in Grafton County Superior Court by Judge Lawrence MacLeod, who took it under advisement.
The plotting of Gray’s death began with a complaint by Amy Talbot, who was Robie’s girlfriend at the time and had been living with him at his home on Lime Kiln Road in Haverhill. Talbot complained that Gray, who worked at a business located in the Woodsville Walmart where she worked, had been “hitting on her.”
Talbot had that and numerous subsequent conversations with Robie on a recorded telephone line at Grafton County Jail where Robie was incarcerated on unrelated charges.
From the jail, Robie, enlisted the help of two longtime friends, Timothy Smith and Anthony Howe, who agreed to kill Gray.
On Oct. 6, 2008, Talbot, Smith and Howe picked up Gray at Walmart after work and drove him to Talbot and Robie’s home where Howe held Gray while Smith stabbed him.
In total, Gray was stabbed more than 30 times by two knives, the blade of one of the knives bending in the attack.
The state said 15 of the wounds were to Gray’s chest and abdominal area, damaging his heart, liver and stomach. There were also 15 stabs wounds and two incised wounds to the right side of Gray’s back, damaging his lung and liver. Gray’s body, according to the autopsy, also showed signs of strangulation.
Talbot, Smith and Howe originally told police that they dropped Gray off in Newbury, Vt., but that story quickly fell apart when they began contradicting each other during interviews.
Smith and Howe were each sentenced to 40 years to life while Talbot is serving a term of between 25 and 50 years.
Robie later pleaded guilty to assault, conspiracy to commit assault, hindering apprehension and conspiracy to hinder apprehension and was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison with reductions in his sentence for completing certain educational goals.
Last November, a judge reduced Robie’s sentence by one year, which would mean his current minimum parole date is Dec. 24, 2022.
In a motion filed in May, Robie asked for even more consideration, proposing “that upon entering an accredited college and obtaining a Master’s degree, the remaining minimum sentence” on one charge, shall be suspended.
Alternately, Robie wants the suspension on the grounds of his volunteering in the community and obtaining the Master’s degree “upon release.”
Jeffery A. Strelzin, Associate Attorney General, said the state opposes Robie’s motion, writing that “The facts of the case” justify its denial.
Strelzin said Robie, as the “moving party,” should have the burden of proving why his sentence should be suspended.
Citing a past court precedent, Strelzin said that the burden should be the defendant’s because “a suspended sentence is granted as a favor and not as a matter of right.”