A Salem man allegedly constructed this box to keep his ex-girlfriend in while she detoxed. (submitted photo)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The most disturbing aspect of Clinton Russell Robison’s plans to kidnap his ex-girlfriend is difficult to pin down.

It might be the way he brazenly drove through a police barricade and attempted to approach a home where a SWAT team was executing a search warrant.

It could be the numerous threatening text messages he sent to the intended victim and others (see related story below, Texts provide).

The box he built to keep his victim in once he’d completed his plan is certainly near the top of the list.

There’s also the numerous people he told of his plans who never called the police (see related story below, Many knew.)

But for Officer Darsy Olafson, of the Keizer Police Department (KPD), it was the closed loop of Robison’s thinking during questioning after his initial arrest.

Clinton Russell Robison’s booking photo.

“We got him back to the station and he was flat-out telling us that he had been following her and tracking her and he had found her at this house,” Olafson said. “I told him that this was weird and he was a stalker.”

Robison countered telling Olafson, “Did you not hear what I just said? This girl is on drugs and I am going to save her.”

Olafson said it was one of the most unusual interviews he’d ever conducted. Not only did Robison counter every question with another question, Olafson said he was adamant about being in control. Olafson typically doesn’t follow his cases through the justice system, but he said he maintained a close watch on Robison’s during the past year.

In July 2016, Robison pleaded guilty to charges of burglary, assault, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, attempt to commit kidnapping, delivery of methamphetamine and stalking. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but is appealing the length of the sentence.

Keizer police officers are only now able to talk about the case because litigation pending against other suspects involved recently wrapped up. The story begins almost exactly a year ago.

A “rescue” mission

On May 19, 2016, KPD officers were backing up the Salem Police Department SWAT team while it executed a warrant on a suspected drug house at 3555 Cherry Avenue Northeast.

When SWAT is on a scene two perimeters are established, one for the immediate area where the team is operating and a secondary, outer ring for additional protection. While the operation was ongoing, Robison drove a van through the outer perimeter, around a police vehicle with lights flashing and into a nearby parking lot.

“He went through the exterior perimeter and I thought he was going to pop back out after the driver realized he’d made a mistake,” Olafson said.

Robison had other ideas. He got out of his van and started walking toward the house where the search warrant was being served. Olafson got out of his vehicle and began asking what he was doing. Robison told Olafson that he needed to get to the house to “rescue” his ex-girlfriend.

“The visual presence of the SWAT team would be enough to deter many, many people and he was walking toward them,” said Officer James Young, who became  the second primary investigator on Robison’s case.

The ex-girlfriend, and Robison’s intended kidnapping victim, was known to police as part of other investigations.

While Olafson was talking with Robison in the parking lot, other officers noticed the butt of a handgun sticking out of Robison’s pants. At that point, Robison was taken into custody and he gave consent to search his vehicle. The search yielded a pipe that tested positive for methamphetamine, a can of bear spray – a type of pepper mace – and a notebook with details about the comings and goings at the house being searched.

“He was watching the house like we would,” Olafson said.

Police also seized Robison’s phone based on the assumption that it may have additional evidence of stalking behavior.

Robison was taken to the Keizer police station and questioned regarding his approach of the house and motivations. Olafson left the encounter feeling like he had been the one under interrogation.

Robison was taken to Marion County Correctional Facility and charged for the concealed weapon and drugs, but he had no prior record and was likely back on the street within 12 hours.

The Phone

Robison seemed to police unconcerned about them keeping his phone and alluded to the possibility of trying to “wipe” it remotely. It was kept in a protective bag to prevent such access while Olafson applied for a warrant to search it.

The warrant was approved six days after police met Robison in the parking lot and Olafson began reviewing its contents on May 31.

The messages included threats to the victim and others that appeared to show he had attempted to kidnap the woman at least twice in the three weeks leading up to his encounter with police.

Messages also revealed that Robison had told numerous people about his intentions and no one had contacted police with any concerns.

One exchange between Robison and the victim suggested that he had let himself into her home and assaulted her while trying to take possession of her phones.

Another exchange between Robison and a friend showed him asking her for a ride to the victim’s apartment. When the friend arrived, Robison had a black bag with him containing a gun and bear spray.

“Robison told (the woman and her boyfriend) about his plan to take the victim and get her clean. He wanted them to go up to the door and get her to come outside,” Olafson said.

When they arrived at the apartment, Robison got out of the vehicle and hid behind bushes while the woman went to the door. The woman told the victim about Robison’s intentions and told her to call the police before leaving.

The couple drove away with Robison still hiding in the bushes and searching through his bag. No one called the police.

“The victim didn’t and the couple thought they had done their duty,” Olafson said.

Another kidnap attempt occurred while police were surveilling the house on Cherry Avenue. Text messages from Robison to the victim provided details about her cleaning her car outside the Cherry Avenue home when he drove past. Robison continued driving and pulled into the Keizer/Salem Area Senior Center parking lot so that he could clean out the front seat of his car and remove anything the victim might hit him with.

In text messages, Robison described returning to the nearby area and parking before approaching the home and crouching near the victim’s car. He eventually left without executing his scheme.

Police knew precisely when Robison was in the area that day because surveillance notes and photographs showed the victim cleaning out her car.

“He would also send her circular ultimatums,” Olafson said. “He would tell her that she needed to text him in the next five minutes or he would take it as a sign that he needed to come rescue her.”

No matter what the victim chose to do, it required making contact she did not want.

“The texts would get more and more descriptive and graphic. He would threaten to poison the drugs going around the Salem-Keizer area and caution her against using them,” Young said. “He would tell her to watch the news that night for something happening around where she lived, and if something happened it was the result of something he had done because of her.”

Olafson and Young read the text messages together and came to the same conclusion.

“We looked at each other and said we have to go find her,” Young said.

Searches

Olafson and Young found the victim at her father’s home. They had badges displayed, but they were in plainclothes and the woman would not come to the door.

She later told the officers she feared they were more of Robison’s accomplices sent to get her out of the home.

Eventually, the woman’s father arrived on the scene and he was able to diffuse the situation.

They brought the victim to the Keizer Police Station for a full interview, and requested the help of the KPD detective squad in finding Robison himself. Detectives initially tried to find Robison at his Woodburn employer, but he had called in sick. They tried a home he shared with a roommate next and found him there.

Additional search warrants were issued for a new search of Robison’s van and the home itself.

“In the car we found dope, delivery tools and packaging scales to the point where we could charge him with the manufacture and delivery of methamphetamine. He was trying to save a girl from dope while manufacturing and selling it,” Olafson said.

Items found in and around the home were more troubling.

“I found a bag that I described as a ‘go-bag.’ It had survivalist books, rope, lubricants, restraints and other types of tie-downs. Small amounts of alcohol and marijuana,” Young said.

A ball gag, collars and sawed-off weapons were also among Robison’s possessions.

Olafson was standing outside the house and noticed a large amount of plywood leaning up against something else. Olafson moved the plywood and found the box.

The box, which is now in the possession of KPD, is about five foot tall and three-and-a-half foot wide. It’s constructed out of four-by-four posts and layer-upon-layer of plywood. It is extremely heavy. The interior space is about three-foot wide and four feet tall.

Robison would later tell police that it was constructed to keep and ship tools, but some of the details do not bear that out.

“You would pay hundreds of dollars to ship just the box,” Young said.

Officers found industrial-type kitchen mats with porous surfaces inside. They suspect Robison planned to put his victim in the box while she detoxed and the mats would keep her from drowning in her own vomit if she got sick and passed out. Additionally, bracing brackets are on the outside of the box where they cannot be tampered with inside. If the box was meant for shipping, the parcel would be more secure with the brackets on the interior.

“It was pretty clear it had been built for a person,” Olafson said.

Olafson was ready to call off the search of the house when Young opened one last cabinet. Inside he found an improvised explosive device. The Salem Bomb Squad determined it was inactive in its current form, but that it was likely meant to be affixed to box and detonate if the box was violently jostled or tipped over.

Things had been moving so quickly, it wasn’t until the search was completed that Young was able to take stock of it all.

“The gravity of it didn’t really sink in until we found things like the box and the sawed-off weapons and the explosive device,” Young said.

A Quick Plea

On July 7, 2016, Robison pleaded guilty to many of the charges filed against him. Olafson and Young had nothing but praise for how the case was handled given that Robison had no priors.

“(Deputy District Attorney) Jennifer Gardiner did a miraculous job of organizing the case and presenting it. He plead guilty to felonies and they convinced the judge that he needed the maximum sentence of 15 years,” Olafson said.

He said KPD officers take any case of stalking seriously, but that most of the offenses involve people driving by someone’s home or workplace or harassing phone calls. Robison took it to another level.

“It’s like having a high school baseball team up against a major league team or one level below it,” Olafson said. “If he had the opportunity he would have taken her. He says that he just wanted to help her get clean, but I’m not certain she would ever have seen the light of day again.”