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Slain Bronx woman’s daughter finally gets some closure 20 years after finding her body


A woman who found her mother stabbed to death in their Bronx apartment as a 12-year-old is finally getting some closure after her mother’s ex-boyfriend was charged with the 2005 murder, recalling both the abuse they suffered at his hands and her mom’s “infectious” smile.

“It’s so much and it’s been weighting on me all this time. It’s triggered all these emotions,” said Brittany Robertson, who at 30 is now a year older than her mother Erica Robertson was when she was killed. “My mom’s finally getting the justice she deserves.”

“I’m grateful to the detectives and everyone that continues to focus on the case,” she told the Daily News on Monday. “They have been diligent. She’s not forgotten.”

It was the day before Thanksgiving when young Brittany found her mother murdered in the kitchen of their home on Grant Ave. near 167th St. in Morrisania. For the next 19 years, Robertson’s family had no doubt who was responsible but the ex-boyfriend seemingly disappeared, never to be heard from by the Robertsons again.

Erica Robertson (Courtesy of Brittany Robertson)
Erica Robertson (Courtesy of Brittany Robertson)

James Devore, 54, appeared in Bronx Supreme Court on Thursday, charged with the murder thanks to DNA evidence found under Erica Robertson’s fake nails. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail.

“It was one of those things — who else would have done something like that to her? She was such a sweet, kind, respectful person,” the daughter said after the arraignment.

“She was taking care of her ex-boyfriend’s child. That’s just a testament to the type of person she was,” said the victim’s brother William Robertson, 43.

Robertson said her mother had gotten Devore’s daughter out of foster care and brought her to live with them, but Devore’s “hateful” ways drove them to flee him.

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 are pictured outside Erica Robinson’s Grant Ave. apartment building in the Bronx on Nov. 23, 2005, after Robinson’s body was discovered by her daughter. (Andrew Savulich / New York Daily News)

“He was always abusive and aggressive and yelling at us,” the daughter recalled. “He was always just abusing all of us.”

Erica Robertson took her daughter and Devore’s daughter and left Devore, the trio first staying with friends and then moving into a homeless shelter before landing at the Grant Ave. apartment, said her daughter.

Through it all, Erica Robertson shielded her daughter from the worst of it. It wasn’t until after her murder that Robertson found out Devore had stabbed her mother previously, while she was at her job at a homeless shelter.

“I didn’t know that he had done that til after, how he was harassing her the day before,” said Robertson. “She protected me from that, she always let me be a child.”

As a child, Brittany Robertson never imagined Devore would kill her mother.

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 / New York Daily News)
Police are pictured outside Erica Robertson’s Grant Ave. apartment building on Nov. 23, 2005. (Andrew Savulich / New York Daily News)

“I was 12. You never think of that at 12, but when I look back, between him stalking her and harassing her at work, the things I found out over time and him stabbing her while she was at work — he was already showing those signs.”

At Devore’s arraignment, Assistant District Attorney David Birnbaum said on the evening of Nov. 22, 2005, the victim, Brittany and Devore’s daughter 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.

The following morning, Erica Robertson was gone.

“It’s something you never get out of your head,” said Robertson, crying at the memory of finding her mother. “Extremely traumatic.”

Devore never called the Robertsons to offer condolences and did not attend the funeral.

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 are pictured outside Erica Robinson’s Grant Ave. apartment building in the Bronx on Nov. 23, 2005. (Andrew Savulich / New York Daily News)

William Robertson said the past 19 years without his sister have been “agonizing.”

“Erica was just a sweetheart. Everybody that came into contact with her just wanted to be around her. She liked to laugh, joke. She just didn’t have a mean bone in her body,” he said.

Robertson will always be thankful for how her mother raised her — to be forgiving but strong.

“She just had the biggest, prettiest smile. She was infectious. She was the kind of person, to know her or to meet her is to love her,” said Robertson. “Multiple occasions, people just naturally gravitated to her, she was a nurturing and caring person.”

After her mother was killed, Robertson was raised by her grandmother. She now thinks about how the victim would have been a grandmother today, with her own children asking her, “Do you have a mom? Where’s your mom?”

“I tell them, yes, I had a mom,” Robertson said through tears. “My children have missed out on an experience they shouldn’t have because of somebody else’s madness.

“He took everything from me with that — my best friend,” she continued. “It’s never stopped hurting, obviously.

“She deserves justice,” said Robertson of her mother. “And it’s been a long time coming and we all had to wait.”

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