Harrah’s Joliet Alleged Stranger-Killer to Plead Insanity

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Posted on: February 7, 2023, 05:52h. 

Last updated on: February 8, 2023, 01:56h.

A man accused of the brutal murder of a stranger in a hallway of Harrah’s Casino Joliet intends to plead insanity, his lawyer has told a judge in Will County, Ill.

Harrah’s Joliet, murder, Robert Watson
Robert Watson, seen in a mugshot above, was deemed fit to stand trial in 2020, but his lawyers argue he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of the attack (Image: Patch.com)

Robert Watson was arrested on March 25, 2019, at the Joliet Public Library, the day after he is alleged to have stabbed to death 76-year-old Emanuel “Sam” Burgarino, a guest at the hotel.

Burgarino was knifed 26 times and robbed in a shocking attack.

At the time of his arrest, Watson was a transient with a violent history. His lawyers contend their client suffers from schizophrenia and was mentally incompetent at the time of the killing.

Trial Upcoming

The trial was scheduled to begin this week, but Will County Judge Dave Carlson granted a request by Watson’s lawyer, Shenonda Tisdale, to bump the trial to May 1, Patch.com reports. That’s because more time is needed for the defense to prepare for an insanity defense trial.

Watson was deemed fit to stand trial by a Will County jury in August 2020. That’s when Dr. Anna Stapleton testified for the prosecution that Watson appeared to be faking his mental illness.

Duty of Care

Burgarino, from Hales Corners, Wis., was visiting the casino with his fiancée. His alleged attacker was not a hotel guest, nor did he have a key or an assigned room.

Instead, he “suspiciously lurked and stalked patrons on Harrah’s property for hours—in plain view of the hotel staff—without checking in, gambling, or buying anything.” That’s according to a civil negligence lawsuit filed against the casino owner, Caesars Entertainment, by Burgarino’s fiancée, Denise Dixon.

Dixon argues in her suit that Harrah’s staff had a duty of care to protect their guests from Watson.

He was repeatedly caught on security cameras loitering around the venue. That’s while staff did nothing to investigate his presence or prevent the attack on Burgarino, Dixon claims.

At his 2020 competency hearing, jurors heard that Watson had lived in Wisconsin, Arizona, Hawaii, Florida, and Minnesota, according to Patch.com. Recently, he had stayed with his mother and then his grandmother. But both kicked him out. Jurors heard that on one occasion, he accused his mother of worshipping the devil.

In 2013, in Florida, police were called to see Watson standing naked on a roof, “wanting to kill himself.” He later told officers he had taken drugs and was hearing voices.


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