Phoenix cold case: Decades after teen murdered at home, police are still searching for answers

Apr 3, 2024, 1:00 PM

Robbin Burgette and crime lab....

It's been more than 46 years since a 16-year-old girl was killed in her family's Phoenix duplex. (Silent Witness and AP File photos)

(Silent Witness and AP File photos)

This article originally appeared May 16, 2016.

PHOENIX — It’s been more than 46 years since a 16-year-old girl was killed in her family’s Phoenix duplex, leaving behind a trail of unanswered questions that continue to haunt both her loved ones and the detectives tasked with solving the case.

Pauline “Robbin” Burgette was found dead on March 12, 1978, at her home near McDowell Road and 24th Street, northeast of the Mini Stack.

“I have a very distinct memory of that day,” Robbin’s brother Chad Burgette said. “It’s as clear as if it was yesterday.”

Here’s what we know so far about events leading up to teens Phoenix murder

When Chad was 11 years old, he returned to his family’s duplex and opened the door to find his teen sister murdered.

“I don’t believe I will ever be able to un-see that,” he said.

Chad and his mother had been away for the weekend while Robbin was left to babysit at an apartment in west Phoenix.

Phoenix police cold case Detective Clark Schwartzkopf calls the murder a crime of passion.

“She had been brought back home early,” Schwartzkopf said. “And we know there were problems at the other complex with a gentleman making advances on her while she was baby-sitting there for the three weeks before her murder.”

Schwartzkopf said DNA evidence was collected from the murder scene, but there has yet to be a match. Officers need leads on where else to look for a possible match.

Investigators believe there were at least two people present when the murder happened.

A brother determined to figure out the truth in Phoenix homicide

Chad described his sister as very outgoing, saying she loved life and enjoyed being outdoors.

“She hated wearing shoes and loved the hot summers. She was a great sister and she was my friend,” he said.

Chad added that their single mother didn’t have a lot of money.

“Our weekends were spent at Saguaro Lake,” he said. “We’d swim and spend the night there. We also did a lot of horseback riding at South Mountain.”

Just three years after his sister’s murder, Burgette’s mother, a diabetic, passed away. He said his mother never recovered from Robbin’s death, the devastation leading her to stop taking her insulin.

“It’s time they paid their debt to society and paid their debt to my family,” Chad said.

Read more about the case here.

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Phoenix cold case: Decades after teen murdered at home, police are still searching for answers