Robin Frances Murphy lived in Carmel, New York with her parents and three siblings. The 17-year-old loved to play guitar and write poetry. She had dropped out of high school but planned to re-enroll in order to attend college and realize her dream of becoming a journalist. Sadly, Robin vanished without a trace before that could happen.

On April 9, 1995, Robin borrowed her mother’s red Oldsmobile and told her that she was going to visit 31-year-old Howard J. Gombert at the Shop-Rite Plaza Shopping Center across the street. At the time, Howard worked at a laundromat and was dating a 17-year-old friend of Robin’s. Robin also planned to meet her boyfriend, Matt Esposito at Burger King.

Tragically, Robin never showed up.

The red Oldsmobile was found abandoned in the parking lot of the Burger King later that evening and Robin’s wallet, purse, and keys were found dumped in the grass behind the shopping center just a few days later.

At first, the authorities assumed that Robin was a typical teenage runaway but her parents insisted that she wouldn’t have abandoned everything and everyone she knew. Easter presents for her two younger siblings were found hidden in Robin’s room as well as a ticket to see the Ramones in Concert on April 10th, signifying that she hadn’t planned to take off.

Matt Esposito was quickly ruled out as a suspect. Instead, detectives set their sights on Howard, the last person to ever see Robin alive.

Howard told the authorities he asked Robin to meet him at the laundromat because he needed advice about his relationship. He said that she left 10 minutes later because she needed to call someone named “James” and visit her boyfriend. Howard couldn’t explain exactly who “James” was and he attempted to overdose on prescription medication just a few days later.

The case quickly went cold and five years went by.

Then, a shocking discovery was made.

On February 29, 2000, Howard’s live-in girlfriend called the police after he sexually assaulted her and threatened to kill her. He was arrested and while searching their home, officers found a pair of underwear in his suitcase. According to a report by the Carmel Police Department, the underwear was sent in for DNA testing and it came back as a match for Robin.

At first, her loved ones were thrilled that there had finally been a break in the case. Sadly, their hopes were crushed almost immediately.

Howard J. Gombert

Howard said he had no idea how Robin’s underwear got into his suitcase. He insisted that it must have somehow come into his possession when she came in to the laundromat to get her clothes washed. Since there was only circumstantial evidence and no body, he was never charged with any crime regarding Robin’s disappearance, devastating her friends and family.

But Howard’s freedom would be short-lived.

A year later, Howard was arrested for sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl. He was subsequently convicted and is currently serving a 30-year sentence. He maintains his innocence in Robin’s disappearance.

Robin Frances Murphy

Robin was last seen wearing black ripped jeans, a plaid flannel shirt, and black boots. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5Ə” and 140lbs with blue eyes and dyed black hair. If alive, she would be 44 today. If you have any information, contact Carmel Town Police at 845–628–1300.

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