Jailhouse phone recordings sink bond chances in Chris Pardee case

Virginia Beach prosecutors told a judge today that a man who was asking for bail planned, upon his release, to go on a pot-smoking binge and to punch a former friend in the face.

That came from recordings of Erin Robertson’s jailhouse phone calls to family and friends. Some of the calls were played in court Tuesday.

Prosecutors accused Robertson of “fabricating” a relationship with the woman claiming to be his girlfriend to sway the judge.

Kathryn Zapatka testified that she and Robertson had been together off and on for a couple years, but as of the weekend, committed officially as boyfriend and girlfriend.

Prosecutor Scott Lang played a recorded phone call between Robertson and his mother Randi Robertson in which the mother asked, “So, she’s your girlfriend now?” And Erin Robertson responded, “That’s what I am going to say to get the f— out of jail.”

Lang also said there are recorded phone calls between Zapatka and Robertson discussing their frequent pot smoking and that Robertson wanted to smoke marijuana as soon as he was released. They both testified that they smoke pot two or three times a week. But Zapatka says her father doesn’t approve. She assured the judge Robertson would stop smoking pot because her father, a man she identified as a retired Navy commander, would not allow it in the house where Robertson planned to live.

She told the judge: “When I do smoke marijuana, I don’t do it at my home.” She agreed with prosecutors that she sometimes smokes marijuana two or three times a week. Judge Thomas Padrick then replied, “Maybe you ought to consider moving to Colorado.” Zapatka, apparently not sensing the judge’s sarcasm, replied, “Yeah, or DC, the nation’s capital.”

“The point,” the judge said to her, “is that it’s illegal.”

Robertson’s public defender then tried to end the conversation saying to Zapatka, “I think you’ve said enough about that.”

Last summer, Robertson was the back-seat passenger in a car along with his friend Chris Pardee. There was some sort of a car accident, and Pardee ended up on the pavement. He died several days later. Pardee’s mother Diane Pardee said she doesn’t believe the stories of how Chris died. And as her son was on his hospital deathbed, she found out Robertson somehow had Chris’ $3,000 Canon camera and was trying to pawn it. No one was charged with Chris’ death. The driver, then a 19-year-old woman named Alexa Liebig, is facing charges for underage alcohol possession.

Robertson was scheduled to plead guilty two weeks ago, but at the last minute, he backed out. Lang then told a judge Robertson had threatened to kill a witness in the case. The witness was Robertson’s own father. A judge then ordered Robertson locked up while prosecutors brought new charges. In Monday’s hearing, Robertson was asking another judge to reconsider bail. Typically, hearings like this take a few minutes. Monday’s hearing lasted more than an hour and included a video projector playing the recorded phone calls.

The judge denied bond.

At one point, the public defender told the judge that this was just a grand larceny charge that would be heard by a jury. The judge interrupted, incredulous: “You’re going to take a jury on this?”

Lang said it was the prosecutors who now wanted a jury since Robertson had backed out of the plea.

As she left court, Zapatka said to NewsChannel 3’s reporter, “There are two sides to every story.” She declined to answer a question.

In several months, Robertson has not returned any messages or a certified letter sent to his home, asking for his side of the story. When he was arrested on the new charges two weeks ago, we again asked for an interview, and he declined.

Related: 

Man accused of stealing from dying friend now a fugitive
Prosecutors subpoena online videos after fatal crash
Police collect what could be compelling evidence in Beach man’s death
Beach police admit possible mistake as grieving mother seeks answers in son’s death

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