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Family of Bronx mom always suspected newly-arrested ex in 2005 cold case slay


DNA from under the victim’s fake fingernail provided the break in the case of a Bronx woman found stabbed to death in her kitchen by her 12-year-old daughter just before Thanksgiving nearly 20 years ago.

Family of victim Erica Robertson, 29, always suspected the victim’s ex-boyfriend of the heartless murder that took place on Grant Ave. near 167th St. in Morrisania.

“Wow,” said Robertson’s cousin Myeesa Robertson when she heard James Devore, 54, had finally been charged. “It’s about time.”

When asked if the family had always suspected Devore, the cousin was emphatic. “Oh yes, definitely. We all did.”

Devore is the father of the victim’s daughter who found her dead. The NYPD at the time of the slaying incorrectly gave the victim’s last name as Robinson and her age as 28, errors that have been repeated in most media reports since.

Devore was always a suspect but it took until 2022 for DNA typing to catch up and a match to be made from the scrapings under Robertson’s nail. An indictment for Devore followed and he was arrested by U.S. Marshals in Ohio at the end of May, then held until he could be extradited to New York, sources said.

Police are pictured outside Erica Robertson's Grant Ave. apartment building in the Bronx on Nov. 23, 2005, after Robertson was murdered. Robertson's 12-year-old daughter found the body. (Andrew Savulich for New York Daily News)
Police outside Erica Robertson’s Grant Ave. apartment building in the Bronx on Nov. 23, 2005, after Robertson was murdered. Robertson’s 12-year-old daughter found the body. (Andrew Savulich for New York Daily News)

On Thursday Devore appeared in Bronx Supreme Criminal Court, charged with the murder. Assistant District Attorney David Birnbaum said on the evening of November 22, 2005, Robertson, her 12-year-old daughter Brittany and one of Devore’s daughters were in the apartment and that Brittany had heard an argument going on in the bedroom.

“She was awoken in the middle of the night … She heard the voice of the defendant and her mother arguing. Brittany was very familiar with the defendant as there was a close relationship through her childhood,” said the prosecutor.

During the night, the children heard a thud in the bedroom.

“The defendant’s daughter at the time identified a person leaving the apartment as, she believed, her father,” Birnbaum said.

However that information and DNA found on a glove next to Robertson which matched butts from cigarettes Devore smoked during a December 2005 interview with police were not enough to indict him at the time, said Birnbaum.

Towards the end of 2022, Robertson’s fingernails were found in the Medical Examiner’s office and scrapings from underneath tested, revealing a match to Devore’s DNA in early 2023.

“It was the same DNA on the cigarette butts as on the glove, and then the fingernails matched again,” said Birnbaum.

Devore’s lawyer argued that the presence of his client’s DNA was not proof of his guilt since he spent so much time with Robertson.

“I am confused how both DNA evidence is allegedly connecting him to a homicide,” said Brian Sullivan.

James Devore, 54, left, is arraigned for the 2005 murder of his girlfriend Erica Robinson in Bronx Supreme Court Thursday, June 6, 2024. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)
James Devore is arraigned for the 2005 murder of his girlfriend Erica Robertson in Bronx Supreme Criminal Court on Thursday. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

Judge George Villegas rad in court an earlier statement made by Devore saying “he was not going to speak with a detective because he knew the detective could not get him a deal.”

Sullivan said that statement was not made by Devore the way it was written.

“The detective said to him if I get you six years, will you plead guilty to this and say you did it and he said, ‘I did not do anything, and you can’t get anything because you’re not the prosecutor in the case’,” said Sullivan.

Devore was ordered held without bail Thursday.

Robertson’s brother Phillip Robertson, now deceased, told the New York Times shortly after his sister’s slay that Devore had a key to her apartment he had refused to give back after their breakup.

Her co-workers had reported Devore had been threatening Robertson, The Times reported.

Devore did not attend Robertson’s funeral and never contacted her family despite the fact that she had been raising his daughter along with her own, The Times reported in 2005.

“He didn’t call or give his condolences, nothing,” Phillip Robertson told the paper that year..

Police are pictured outside Erica Robinson's Grant Ave. apartment building in the Bronx on Nov. 23, 2005, after Robinson was murdered. Robinson's 12-year-old daughter found the body. (Andrew Savulich / New York Daily News)
Police outside Erica Robertson’s Grant Ave. apartment building in the Bronx on Nov. 23, 2005, after Robertson was murdered. (Andrew Savulich / New York Daily News)

Robertson was preparing to cook a Thanksgiving dinner for her friends and coworkers from a Harlem homeless shelter with new pots and pans when she was killed, the Daily News reported at the time.

“She told me she was going to be making some noise but I told her to have a good time,” landlord Jerome Blount told The News just after her death.

Her cousin remembered Robertson Thursday as a quiet person who kept to herself and a devoted mother.

“She loved people,” said Myeesa Robertson, 52. “She was stylish.She was very put together.”

Myeesa Robertson remarked on the deaths of her cousin’s parents and brother back in her native Columbus and said they would have liked to see Devore charged.

She had a message for Devore: “Gotcha. I’m glad they got you.”

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