Wayne Cordell Mitchell and Robin Little met as students at Schenley High School in 1995. They had a son, Malik, in January 1997, and got married in Ohio on April 10, 1997.
Their relationship was troubled from early on, however, by Mitchell’s jealousy, anger, and alcohol abuse. Mitchell had grown up in an abusive and alcoholic home, was diagnosed with a personality disorder, had dropped out of high school, and was intermittently employed.
Living together in Little’s mother’s home, they argued frequently, leading Little to separate from Mitchell in July 1997 and to obtain a protection-from-abuse order against him. She then began seeing another man.
After Mitchell learned of this relationship, on September 1, 1997, he found Robin and raped her in her home. She reported the attack to police, leading to Mitchell’s arrest. He confessed to police and was held in jail.
In court proceedings soon after the rape, efforts to have Mitchell transferred to in-patient alcohol treatment prior to further legal proceedings allowed him to be released on his own recognizance to report for treatment. Little had apparently agreed to such an arrangement, though her family and counsel subsequently argued she thought she was agreeing to the treatment, not to the release prior to admission for treatment.
Out of custody on September 9, 1997, Mitchell did not report for treatment. Instead, he returned to Homewood, found Robin in her Hamilton Avenue apartment, left and spent several hours drinking, returned to Little’s home after midnight, raped her again, and stabbed her fifteen times. Her body was discovered in an empty lot two doors down from her apartment building.
When Mitchell sought admission for treatment that afternoon, he was arrested.
The incident exposed the failures of the system designed to protect victims of violence.
Once in custody, Wayne Mitchell provided a full, audio-taped confession. Little’s diary, which became evidence, documented two years of abuse by Mitchell. Phone calls and letters Mitchell wrote boasting of Little’s suffering and death were also admitted as evidence. His defense centered on his history of alcohol abuse beginning at age 11.
Mitchell was found guilty of rape and murder on October 12, 1999, and was formally sentenced to death on December 8, 1999.
His conviction and death sentence were affirmed on appeal when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the trial court had not erred in rejecting his claim of diminished capacity related to alcohol abuse (Commonwealth v. Mitchell, 588 Pa. 19, 2006). Mitchell’s subsequent request for relief under the state’s Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) was also rejected (Commonwealth v. Mitchell, 141 A.3d 1277, 2016).
Wayne Mitchell remains in prison under a sentence of death.