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Tuesday, July 7, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Amber alert suspect found dead inside Whitman County home; son safely in custody

UPDATED: Tue., April 23, 2019

By Jonathan Glover and Will Campbell The Spokesman-Review

ST. JOHN, Wash. – A man accused of stabbing his wife and abducting their 5-year-old child – generating an Amber Alert in Washington and Idaho – was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound Tuesday evening inside a home in St. John in Whitman County.

After an hourslong standoff, Justin P. Robertson relinquished his son Ethan O. Robertson to law enforcement before he reportedly killed himself.

Robertson, 41, broke into the residence at 12808 E. Blossey Ave. in Spokane Valley early Tuesday morning, where he stabbed his estranged wife and kidnapped their son, Spokane Valley police spokesman Cpl. Mark Gregory said.

Officers responded to a panic alarm at the home at about 5 a.m. When they arrived, they heard a woman screaming from inside. The back door was wide open and they found the victim “bleeding profusely,” a police news release said.

The stabbing victim, Melissa A. Robertson, was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, Gregory said. She is expected to survive.

The Robertsons were going through a divorce and Melissa Robertson had obtained a temporary restraining order against her husband, according to court records.

Gregory said Justin Robertson left the scene with Ethan Robertson in a 2014 Subaru Legacy with Washington license plate number APN2450.

An Amber Alert was issued for Ethan Robertson in Washington. It was later amended to include Idaho. The alert was canceled at about 2 p.m. when Robertson and his son were located in St. John, Washington.

Deputies were scouting a house in St. John belonging to Robertson’s father, who’s a banker in St. John, according to neighbors. Gregory couldn’t confirm if Robertson’s father’s house is where the standoff took place.

The restraining order, granted on March 12, suggests Justin Robertson had a history of making violent threats against himself and his family, including installing tracking devices on his wife’s car months earlier and following her to work.

On March 11, Melissa Robertson wrote that her husband said he “should’ve driven us in the car in the front of an oncoming semi truck.” Six days earlier, she said he held a knife to his neck and “threatened to end his life.”

Kim Armstrong, a family friend and neighbor of the Robertsons, said after the March 12 incident, a cluster of police vehicles was outside of their home. Soon after, he said Melissa Robertson installed a security system.

Monday night, however, he said he saw Justin Robertson’s red Subaru parked in the driveway.

“I wish I knew them well enough,” he said. “I would have knocked on the door. I wish I’d called.”

In December, Melissa Robertson petitioned the court for an earlier restraining order, saying her husband had put a device in her car, according to court records. She found it after receiving an anonymous text message.

Records say the woman reported further instances of suicidal behavior. In November, during a family trip to Steptoe, Washington, he swerved toward oncoming semitrucks saying, “Are you ready?”

In a previous marriage that ended in 2011, his then-wife wrote a declaration in Spokane County Superior Court detailing similar behavior. She said he would often lose his temper, at times grabbing a kitchen knife and threatening to kill himself or his family.

“He has periods where he is irrational and aggressive and it frightens me,” the woman wrote, according to court records.

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