Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 30, 2013

Roberts receives sentence

Woman faces 30 years for robbery that ended with husband’s death

By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — A McDowell County woman was sentenced to 30 years in prison Monday for an armed robbery in Bramwell that led to the fatal shooting of her husband.

Jessica Persiani Roberts, 33, of Crumpler was sentenced by Mercer County Circuit Court Judge William Sadler to 30 years for first-degree robbery, and one to five years for conspiracy to commit robbery. Roberts was then remanded to the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver. A jury found Roberts guilty of first-degree robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery on May 16 in the Aug. 23, 2011 armed robbery of the Pop Shop in Bramwell.

Before the sentencing, Sadler allowed the two individuals who were at the Pop Shop during the robbery to testify.

Candace Flanagan was working as a clerk the night of the robbery and her boyfriend Andrew Bailey had been at the Pop Shop to drive Flanagan home from work. During the robbery, Jessica Roberts’ husband — the late David Roberts — was shot several times by Bailey. David Roberts later died while in route to Bluefield Regional Medical Center.

Flanagan asked Sadler to impose the maximum sentence.

“I can’t imagine the cops going to my mother’s house or Andrew’s mother’s house and saying to them because she needed a fix we were shot and killed,” Flanagan said. “I don’t know what my and Andrew’s lives are worth, but I would appreciate her getting the most she can get.”

Bailey said he is still haunted from the actions he took that night to protect himself and Flanagan.

“Every day I have some kind of thought that goes back to that day,” Bailey said. “I don’t know how someone can risk other people’s lives just so they can get a fix on drugs.”

Jessica Roberts’ father Jesse Persiani also spoke prior to the sentencing. Persiani said his daughter was the “real victim” of the crime as well as abuse at the hands of David Roberts.

Before she was sentenced, Roberts tearfully addressed both Flanagan and Bailey.

“I am so sorry,” she said. “I know your lives have been changed. If I could take it all back I would.”

Sadler described Jessica Roberts as a “tragic figure” before handing down her sentence.

“She had a lot of things in her favor going for her,” Sadler said. “She could have taken advantage of those things, but she has a drug addiction that has prevented that. Ms. Roberts’ severe substance abuse problem and her relationship with her husband may explain her actions, but they do not excuse them.”

Sadler said that Flanagan and Bailey are “contributing members of society” who were working for a living and providing for their families. Sadler said neither Flanagan nor Bailey should have found themselves “confronted by two drug addicts only concerned with themselves.”

As the bailiff led Roberts away she mouthed, “I love you” to her father.

Sadler also denied a motion by defense attorney David Kelley for a new trial, and a second motion to acquit Roberts on all charges. Kelley argued Roberts should be given a new trial because of a lack of evidence, circumstantial evidence and Roberts’ history of abuse. Kelley also said statements Jessica Roberts made to police following her arrest should have been made inadmissible because she was under the influence of drugs at the time she gave the statement.

Sadler said he denied the motion because the court previously ruled during a suppression hearing that Roberts’ statement to police was admissible evidence, Jessica Roberts was read her Miranda Rights, and Sadler said the jury had evidence that allowed them to “conclude reasonably” whether Jessica Roberts was guilty.

Jessica Roberts was initially charged with first-degree murder in the death of her husband, but the charge was dropped after the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals issued a ruling Nov. 8, 2012 about a similar case in Hancock County. The justices ruled that a participant in a crime could not be charged with murder if another participant died while it was being committed.