In the summer of 1968, the Robison family traveled to their summer home in the Blisswood Resort community, planning on staying for the entire season. The home was a beautiful log cabin, sat on the shore of Lake Michigan. The family of six consisted of Richard Robison, 42; his wife Shirley, 40; and their children, Susan, 8; Randy, 12; Gary, 16; and Richie, 19. All had been staying in the cabin.

Some women had gathered in a nearby cottage to have a bridge party when they all started to smell something bad, rotten. Believing it to be coming from a nearby cabin, they called Monty Bliss, the caretaker, to take a look. When he did, he discovered the bodies of all six Robison family members. The bodies were found on July 22, 1968, 27 days after the family had been killed.


It was believed that the murders began with five gunshots aimed at Richard, fired through a rear window from a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle. The murderer then entered the cabin through an unlocked door and killed the remaining five people with shots to the head from a .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Susan and Richard were also bludgeoned with a hammer found at the murder scene.

Shirley’s body seemed to be intentionally posed so that when the crime scene was discovered, it would lead the police to think that the crime was part of a sexual attack. Bloody footprints on the floor led investigators to conclude that one person had committed the murders. Due to the bodies not being discovered for 27 days and conditions of the scene, the bodies were in advanced decomposition.

Locations of the six bodies. The father and two youngest children were lying in the hallway, the two older boys were in bedroom and mother was found in the living room, covered by a blanket. 

By the second week of the investigation, the Michigan State Police and the Emmet County authorities strongly suspected Richard’s employee, Joseph R. Scolaro III. He had not been seen or heard from for more than twelve hours on the day of the murders, and his alibis for that time period all proved to not add up. He had also purchased both of the murder weapons determined by police forensic tests to have been used in the murders, specifically, a .25 caliber automatic Beretta pistol, and a .22 caliber AR-7 semi-automatic rifle.

The four .22 caliber spent shells found at the cabin murder scene were forensically compared to several .22 caliber evidence shells known to have been fired by Scolaro at a family firing range. The two sets of shells were found to be an exact match. Scolaro claimed to have given this weapon away, but a neighbor told police he had seen the .22 caliber AR-7 rifle in Scolaro’s house not long before the Robisons were killed.

Scolaro’s missing .25 caliber Beretta, which he also claimed to have given away prior to the murders, was matched forensically to a second identical .25 caliber Beretta pistol, also belonging to Scolaro. Both guns had been purchased on the same day.


Also found at the murder scene were several Sako .25 caliber spent cartridges, a rare 1968 Finnish brand sold only for a limited time of a few months in Michigan. It was documented by investigators that one of the actual few Sako ammunition purchasers in Michigan had been Joseph Scolaro III. His statements that he had given away both of the missing murder weapons and the Sako ammunition prior to the murders also proved to be untrue.

During the lengthy murder investigation it was determined by a forensic accountant that more than $60,000 was missing from the two combined businesses of Richard Robison. The two Robison businesses had been left in the care of the suspect Scolaro prior to the murders.


On the morning of the murders, Richard had talked to his banker and learned that a lot of money was missing from his account. He called his office, and according to a receptionist, Robison was furious. He demanded to speak to Scolaro – apparently looking for an explanation.

Scolaro failed two lie detector tests; a third test was judged inconclusive. It was also noted that he tried to deceive the polygraph interviewers in his pre-test interviews.

The two investigating police agencies involved in the case presented their combined Evidence Case Report to the jurisdictional prosecution on December 17, 1969. The detailed report implicated Joseph Scolaro as the sole perpetrator of the mass murder crime.

However, In January of 1970, Emmet County prosecutor Donald C. Noggle decided not to bring charges against Scolaro at that time, citing the two missing murder weapons and the absence of his fingerprints from the crime scene.

Four years later, a newly elected chief prosecutor in Oakland County, L. Brooks Patterson, believed the crime had originated within his jurisdiction and reopened the prosecution. When Scolaro learned of the impending charges and arrest, he committed suicide on March 8, 1973. He had shot himself with his .25 caliber Beretta pistol, the second gun that was used to kill the Robisons.

Scolaro left behind a typewritten note on which he wrote:

“I am a lier—a cheat—a phony”

The note included a list of people he had swindled in multiple business schemes. He then added a handwritten note to his mother on the same sheet of paper saying:

“I had nothing to do with the Robisons—I’m a liar but not a murderer—I’m sick and scared—God and everyone please forgive me.”

Since Michigan law does not permit an open murder case to be officially closed, the suicide of the prime suspect Scolaro placed the case in the inactive file.

Those who personally knew Mr. Robison were quoted as saying they had never known a better family man, friend, or business partner.

Due to the brutality of the murders, the cabin was torn down. For five decades, the land where the Robison cabin once stood has stood vacant. Shorty after the murders, a family purchased the property and kept it untouched, almost as though it was a memorial.




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