A couple charged with the murder of their infant son, who mysteriously died the same way as the couple’s first child, have taken a plea deal.
Investigators knew something was very wrong when they learned Gage and Debra Roberts lost a second infant in what appeared to be an unsafe sleeping death. To have a horrific accident happen twice, taking two children less than a year apart, didn’t quite add up. The mother of those children won’t face prison time, unless she violates probation, but the same can’t be said for the father.
It was April 2016. A young married couple, Debra and Gage Roberts, both 22 awakened at the Downtowner Motel on Chester Avenue. That’s when Gage Roberts says he made the horrifying discovery: his 18-day old son Crimson lay next to him in bed, the child was dead.
Gage’s first thought: “Oh my god, not again …”
The couples first child, Camden, died in November 2015 in Kansas. Camden’s short life appeared rocky from the start, born with meth in his system but never taken away from his parents. The coroner in Kansas ruled his death was accidental, caused by unsafe sleeping, as the baby was in bed with his parents.
Debra was pregnant at the time, and neighbors cautioned Topeka Police that there was cause to be concerned for the welfare of the Roberts’ unborn child. But Bakersfield Police learned of those concerns when it was too late.
The Roberts’ second baby died in scenario identical to the first. It appeared Gage Roberts accidentally smothered him in their sleep. Only now, Kern County officials didn’t think there was anything accidental about it.
Prosecutors only had jurisdiction to charge the Roberts for the death of their second baby who died in Bakersfield. The filing of homicide charges was significant as neither baby’s death was ruled a homicide by pathologists.
In a jailhouse interview in July 2017, Gage Roberts denied any wrongdoing in the death of either baby.
Olivia: Did you kill both of your children?
Gage: No, if I had then I would’ve disappeared.
Olivia: So you absolutely in no way harmed either of your babies?
Gage: No, if I did it wasn’t intentional
As of July 2017, the District Attorney in Kansas told us they were reinvestigating the death of the Roberts first baby. We called today to ask for an update, but haven’t heard back.
The couple was scheduled to begin trial soon, but on Friday they struck a deal with prosecutors. Debra Roberts pleaded no contest to willful cruelty of a child. In exchange – 2nd degree murder and assault on a child resulting in death were dismissed. At their sentencing hearing next month, Debra will be released, but she faces 4 years of probation. If she violates her probation, Prosecutor Melissa Allen says she’ll serve 8 years in prison.
Gage Roberts pleaded no contest to 2nd degree murder-in exchange for willful cruelty to a child and assault on a child resulting in death being dismissed. Had he gone to trial and risked being convicted of assault on a child resulting in death, he would’ve faced 25 years to life. By taking this plea his sentence will be 15 to life.
Previous story, originally published July 25, 2017:
A couple accused of murdering their 18-day-old baby made their first court appearance Tuesday. It’s the story we first broke last night, after 17’s Olivia LaVoice spoke with the baby’s father behind bars.
The young homeless couple briefly faced a judge, Tuesday afternoon, in the case of the alleged murder of their second child. Meanwhile, investigators in Kansas continue looking into the sudden death of the couple’s first child.
With hands and feet shackled-Gage and Debra Roberts, both 22, saw each other for the first time since the married couple was arrested Friday. Gage Roberts told the Judge he doesn’t want an attorney if it means he would have to go up against his wife on the stand. The judge urged him to get an attorney for now-and figure the rest out later.
The couple is facing charges of second-degree murder and cruelty to a child, in the death of their infant son Crimson, who died at the Downtowner Hotel in April 2016.
Police reports state detectives felt Gage Roberts’ story of waking up with his baby in bed and finding him not breathing-was inconsistent with the infant’s bluish appearance.
Officers also took note that the couple had a 6-moth-old baby die in 2015, in Kansas, in a “strikingly similar” way.
Gage Roberts told us the coroner in Kansas ruled the first baby’s death as “sudden infant death syndrome.” The cause of death for their second child, in 2016, was ruled “smothering” by the Kern County Coroner, who also ruled the manner of death undetermined. But prosecutors feel there’s still enough evidence to charge the couple with the child’s murder.
Gage Roberts told us he and his wife never hurt either baby-and the death of their second child in 2016 is another unexplainable tragedy.
17 News asked Roberts how he thought their second child died, to which he responses “I don’t know…if anything one of us accidentally rolled over on him, but we’re both sensitive sleepers enough to where we would’ve woke up.”
As we continue to learn more about the couple’s life in Kansas, we obtained an “offense report”, stating the couple’s first child, 6-month-old Camden, was listed as “endangered”, four days before his death.
Again, to make the timeline clear-the couple’s first child, 6-month-old Camden, died suddenly in November 2015 in Kansas. In April 2016, their second baby, 18-day-old Crimson, died suddenly in Bakersfield. And just last Thursday, the couple had a third child, who was placed into protective custody. The next day, Bakersfield Police arrested them for the 2016 death of their second child.
Gage and Debra Roberts arraignment was postponed until Aug. 1.