An Abusive Mother Commits

the Inconceivable Crime - The Robert Hays Story

By Virginia Russo and

Rhonda Riglesberger, JD Staff

Edited by Sheila Howard, JD Staff

Justice:Denied magazine, Issue 24, page 3

A loving father of five was falsely accused of molesting his eight-year-old daughter, and received four consecutive life sentences. He has spent the last ten years in a Nevada State Prison attempting to prove his innocence. This is Robert and Jennifer’s story.

In 1992, Robert Hays was charged with four counts of sexual assault and four counts of lewdness with his then eight-year-old daughter, Jennifer. Over the years, Jennifer has repeatedly refuted the allegations against her father and has publicly denounced them as false. She insists that her father never molested her and has signed several sworn affidavits to reflect this. The first of these affidavits was signed within a week of Robert’s conviction. Jennifer has appeared on both the Maury Povich and Montel Williams Show earnestly seeking to help her father and desperately trying to set the record straight.

Robert’s problems began approximately a year before his arrest when he left his wife and gained custody of their children. They lived in Brooklyn, New York at the time. Unfortunately, he loved his wife and the couple reconciled after only a few months. Shortly after the reunification, and after they had moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, his wife filed the false allegations against him. It is a matter of record that his wife suffered from mental illness. She further exacerbated her symptoms by using alcohol and illegal drugs. She often committed acts of prostitution to support these activities, and had more than a few illicit affairs. She admitted under oath that she had committed numerous instances of infidelity during their marriage.

Robert’s trial transcripts openly reveal that his wife, K.H., was a terrible mother, dirty, unkempt, horribly neglectful, and abusive towards her young children. She left them in dirty diapers, neglected to feed them and relied on her eight-year-old daughter to care for them before she left for school in the mornings. She had severe mood swings, unexplained angry outbursts, and constantly told her children that she hated Robert. There were several episodes of violence, instances where others had stopped her from beating the children, many documented in Robert’s trial transcripts.

The extremely troubled K.H. was in fact much more mentally ill and abusive towards her children than anyone could have predicted. Jennifer had a close relationship with her father, which may have created “a bone of contention” between her and her mother. Robert felt sorry for Jennifer because she had so much responsibility for her siblings, forced upon her at such a young age, more responsibility than most adults would have. He took her with him to pick out videos, as a way of rewarding her for helping out so much, and he spent time alone with Jennifer on different occasions like most fathers, time that the prosecution twisted around, as they contended during Robert’s trial that these special moments between father and daughter were opportunities for Robert to molest Jennifer.

Because they had separated the previous year and K.H. had lost her children to Robert, K.H. grew increasingly desperate and resentful. She knew that Robert was planning to divorce her and although she did not want her children, she did not want him to have them either. Robert and his wife were working different shifts and had little time to spend together. Finances would not allow the cost of a full time sitter, and their poor relationship was stretched beyond endurance. The major issues between them enveloped all their previous problems, for K.H. did not seek help for her mental illness. She continued to neglect and harm the children even though she had agreed to work on these things before they reconciled.

Whether her motivation was retaliation, resentment and jealousy, a complication of her mental illness or that she was simply a sexual predator of young children, we may never know. But K.H. began to sexually abuse their eight-year-old daughter Jennifer. In the evenings, after Robert left for work, she kept Jennifer up with her. Jennifer recalls many, many nights spent with her mother viewing pornographic magazines, watching pornographic movies on the Spice channel, and being encouraged by her mother to penetrate her vagina with “two fingers” when reenacting the sexual acts she witnessed. As a result of being heavily exposed to pornography and seeing sexual acts performed at such a young age; and because she had never felt such a strong bond with her mother, Jennifer began to habitually and invasively masturbate herself. K.H. and Jennifer continued to have their “special” time over a period of several weeks.

Jennifer has appeared on both the Maury Povich and Montel Williams Show earnestly seeking to help her father and desperately trying to set the record straight.

On June 14, 1992 K. H. called Robert’s parent’s home and told them that Jennifer had come to her crying, stating that “Daddy” had been having sex with her. She asked them for money and for some help to move into a new apartment. She requested new furniture later as well. Family members and friends agreed to stay quiet until after she had a chance to move out.

Robert’s nightmare did not begin until June 14, 1992, when he received a phone call from K.H. She told him not to return home because their daughter Jennifer had just told her that he had been doing bad things to her, and when he attempted to question her further about them, she refused to elaborate. She hung up before he could respond. Robert repeatedly tried to call his wife back but received a busy signal. When Robert returned home the following morning, he found their apartment a mess and his wife and children gone. He called his friends and family who of course told him nothing.

In the couple’s apartment, a letter was found that his wife had written to a friend stating that she had solicited someone to do away with Robert for $100. She mentioned that she did not have enough money together to do this yet. At the end of her letter she advised her friend to burn the letter because it was “too incriminating.” This same letter mentions a new boyfriend and how Robert “has no one now”. She made no mention about the allegations, or even mentioned her children. She only mentioned, “how things are looking up” and that she “had a cheap babysitter.” The letter was read in court, but the DA never filed charges against her.

On June 29, 1992, fifteen days after absconding with the children, K.H. called the Child Abuse Hotline and told them that Robert was having sex with his eight-year-old daughter.

Robert heard rumors through co-workers that his wife had filed charges and that there was a warrant out for his arrest. The couple worked across the street from each other and had many common acquaintances. This prompted Robert to call the police department on July 1, 1992, to see if this was actually true, or to see if it simply was a result of his wife’s vindictive gossip. If there was a warrant, he planned to turn himself in. Robert mistakenly believed that because he was innocent, he and the police could straighten this thing out. Robert’s story is typical of someone unjustly accused, because at that time he wholeheartedly believed in the fairness of the justice system.

The police dispatcher told Robert that no warrant for his arrest existed at that time. The dispatcher told him that she wished to transfer his call to the detective’s office. The detective testified during Robert’s trial that the dispatcher said that Robert wanted to make a confession.

Robert says that he never told the dispatcher anything that even resembled a confession. The dispatcher asked him his name, where he was, and what he thought he was wanted for. He stated, “I believe I am wanted for sexually abusing my daughter, but I am innocent of the charges.” The detectives informed Robert that there was in fact an open investigation. This statement would later cause great confusion as “I believe I am wanted for sexually abusing my daughter” was interpreted as a confession by the dispatcher as well as the detective who investigated the case.

Robert was asked to come down to the station for questioning, but he had no car at the time, so all agreed to meet in the parking lot where he worked. Robert, who had never been in trouble with the law before, signed his Miranda rights away. During the questioning period, Robert adamantly denied each and every allegation of which he was accused.

Robert tried to explain to the detectives what the actual situation was between him and his wife, but they didn’t want to hear about their marital problems. Robert was not aware that his daughter had in fact been sexually abused, and thought these were flippant accusations brought on by his wife. The officers grew impatient and left saying, “We’ll be back when we have obtained a warrant for your arrest!”

July 9, 1992, K. H. contacted the detective and told the detective that she had coached Jennifer for about two weeks to lie about her father. She swore that all of the allegations against Robert were false. A meeting was then conducted with Jennifer who gave statements of how she hated her mother and wanted to call her a “bad word”.

On July 16, 1992, Robert was arrested and charged with four counts of sexual assault and four counts of lewdness with a minor child under the age of fourteen.

While Robert was in the county jail, K.H. lost custody of their five children and they were placed with the Child Protective Services for the State of Nevada. The children have not seen K.H. since the removal. They were placed in a group home pending foster placement. Later, in October of 1992, they were placed in the care of their Grandparents, where they have remained.

On August 6, 1992, K. H. wrote a letter to Robert, then in the county jail awaiting trial, stating, “I’m sorry that I lied. I was afraid that you would take the kids and go away.” She further states in the same letter, “I hope the courts can see the truth and set you free.” She affirms her love for Robert and wants to be a happy family again.

August 19, 1992, K. H. contacted the detectives and told them the allegations were correct, that Robert had abused his daughter and agreed to testify at the hearing.

When the state awarded custody of the children to Robert’s mother, Virginia, and Jennifer realized that she and her siblings were not going to be returned to their mother, who had threatened to kill them if Jennifer did not say bad things about her father; Jennifer tried to confide in her grandmother, to let her know that the accusations against her father were false. She attempted on several occasions to talk to her grandmother, social worker and aunt and was told they were not allowed to discuss the details of the case or the trial with her.

Jennifer also tried to recant her testimony to the district attorney, Mr. Moreo, whom she recalls, greatly intimidated her. At their last meeting before trial he stated, “You’re not telling me what I want to hear. I am going to have to do what I have to do.” Jennifer, afraid that she would be removed from her Grandmother’s home, the only safe and stable home that she had ever lived in, went on to tell the DA what he wanted to hear.

Robert went to trial on March 3, 1993. The medical testimony regarding the sexual abuse consisted of 2 pictures and “expert” testimony from a Nurse Practitioner who worked under the (then existing) Saint’s Program. Jennifer had been examined in August of 1992 and the hymen was found to be abnormal. The diameter of the hymen was found to be excessive and “consistent with abuse”, a controversial method of determination, both then and now. This method has been highly criticized by the medical profession as a scientific method of determining how much sexual abuse a child has sustained, and in fact the diameter alone does not indicate abuse at all as larger measurements occur naturally within the non-abused population. It should also be noted that the measurement itself is obtained by holding a “ruler up to the bottom” of the child being examined, so at best the measurement would be a guess and is completely absent of “scientific method.” No tearing or scarring was visible and the explanation given was that the tissues were “resilient and would accept varying sizes of objects.” (The nurse testified inaccurately as to the elasticity of the female vagina. The elasticity is only present when a woman produces estrogen, a hormone an eight-year-old child could not possibly physically produce.) The faulty medical testimony was presented as fact, when in reality, years later, a standard for measuring this is still not agreed upon by the medical community in general.

K. H. testified at an appeal hearing where she said, “Just little by little I gave her more details”. “I told her to say that her father was doing things to her, touching her, licking her, putting her mouth on his private. I put it into her head that she was -- that they would all get taken away”. Referring to Jennifer, “I might have said I wish she was never born.” She testified under oath that Jennifer had in fact been exposed to pornography, watched the Spice Channel, and that she encouraged her to masturbate. She described how she gave Jennifer events to remember for time frame references, and that she impressed upon her, how the well being of her siblings depended on her cooperation. She went on to testify that her trial testimony was all a lie.

The damage that may or may not have occurred to the hymen is also consistent with the statements of Jennifer’s mother and Robert’s account that he did nothing sexual to his daughter.

The trial lasted three days. No experts testified for the defense, Robert had simply one character witness, a close family member, stating that he couldn’t possibly have done this. It took the jury approximately four hours to reach a guilty verdict on all eight counts. Robert received four consecutive life sentences for a crime that he did not commit. He also received four concurrent sentences ranging from four to seven years each.

The weekend after Robert’s trial, Jennifer took her Grandparents aside and told them the truth. They were shocked that a mother would do such a terrible thing to a child; and they immediately sought help for Jennifer. They called Jennifer’s social worker who came over and met with her, with her grandmother present. (The social worker later denied that Jennifer’s grandmother was present at the meeting and went on to say that Jennifer had gone back to her original story that morning.) Jennifer and her grandmother both say that the social worker lied about what was said at the meeting.

Jennifer went to Drew Christianson, Robert’s defense attorney, where she filed an affidavit recanting her testimony on March 11, 1993, eight days after her father had been convicted. In this affidavit, Jennifer outlined what had actually happened to her. She clearly stated that her father never molested her and gave graphic testimony regarding the part her mother played in this.

Jennifer also met with her therapist within the week and attempted to recant her story. The therapist later provided a report, saying that Jennifer had recanted her testimony, because her father’s conviction had hurt her grandparents terribly. In her professional opinion, recantations are common and do not substantiate that the abuse did not happen. Notably, in all her years of practice, she testified (in another unrelated trial) that children under the age of 11 are “incapable” of lying or fabricating a story of abuse. She further stated that children’s accounts are usually of a progressive nature, gaining more detail over time, even though her notes in Jennifer’s situation reflect that Jennifer gave a consistent account, the same account of the abuse she sustained numerous times. She also performed an evaluation test on Jennifer (a test that does not exist) and used the results of this test to determine that Jennifer had been sexually abused (pre-trial).

Robert was and is hopelessly entangled in web of lies and deceit that has taken away his most basic rights and freedoms. Statistics show that once a man is accused of sexual abuse, the law goes on to incriminate him, often unjustly, regardless of the fact that he might actually be innocent. Sexual crimes against children have the highest conviction rate of all felonies in this country.

Jennifer also filed an affidavit regarding her experience with Prosecutor Moreo on February 22, 2001. Now eighteen years of age, she says that both her mother and Mr. Moreo forced her into testifying untruthfully against her father.

Currently Jennifer feels overwhelmed and consumed with guilt. She feels responsible for her father’s conviction and incarceration. Robert constantly assures her that it is not her fault. He tells her that she was only a child, a victim, caused by her mother’s need to retaliate against him.
Jennifer says, “I have to do everything possible to help my father because he is innocent.” “My mother is the perpetrator of this crime, not my father!”

Meanwhile, Robert is in the Nevada State Prison in Lovelock, Nevada in protective custody. He has had difficulties given the nature of his conviction, and his refusal to admit that the allegations are true. Paroles continue to be denied, because when someone does not admit to his or her guilt, he or she cannot show that they have rehabilitated within the system. Therefore, Robert will continue to serve four consecutive life sentences. Anyone who stands convicted of sexual offenses against a child becomes a walking target within the system and faces a considerable threat from the other inmates.

Robert and Jennifer are asking for your help. Robert’s address is:

Robert Hays #39760
Lovelock Correctional Center
P.O. Box 359
Lovelock, Nevada 89419

Robert’s outside contact is his mother. Her address is:
Virginia Russo
3960 Sagewood Street
Las Vegas NV 89147

Note: JD’s editors thoroughly researched this story and we relied heavily on the supposedly, “expert” testimony presented during Robert’s trial. We researched trial transcripts, affidavits, appellate records, numerous interviews, and statements from the victim, Jennifer.