Trial begins for man accused of shooting a man in front of sons in Riverside parking lot

Credit: Butler County Jail

Credit: Butler County Jail

A trial in the case where a father was shot and killed in front of his kids in a Riverside parking lot started Wednesday with a prosecutor telling a jury that the defendant shot the man nearly a dozen times while the defense told the jury that he didn’t do it.

Sterling Houston Roberts, 38, is charged in United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in connection to the Aug. 15, 2017, shooting death of Robert “Bobby” Caldwell. He has pleaded not guilty in the case.

Opening statements were given Wednesday where an assistant prosecutor said Roberts killed Caldwell because his presence was part of the reason his girlfriend, Tawnney Caldwell, lost custody of the children to their father.

“Sterling extinguished Bobby’s life in front of his sons,” U.S. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Amy Smith said.

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Smith laid out a series of events that she said led to Bobby Caldwell’s death which included multiple states. She said Roberts tried killing Bobby Caldwell earlier that month in Greene County but wasn’t successful. She said that Roberts went to Tennessee after the attempt but was picked up by Tawnney Caldwell shortly thereafter and they then went to Kentucky where a gun was purchased from her stepfather. Smith said the two also went to Dayton where they got another gun from Roberts’ brothers.

Smith said eventually a burner phone was purchased and Roberts went to the Cornerstone Building on Linden Avenue in Riverside where he waited for Bobby Caldwell to emerge from a counseling session.

“Sterling shot Bobby again and again and again, causing Bobby to fall to the ground,” Smith said. Smith added that Bobby Caldwell’s children were with him and “within feet” of the bullets.

She said the gun used to kill Bobby Caldwell has not been recovered. Smith also said there is surveillance video that was taken from a nearby building that the jury will see.

Meanwhile, defense attorney Donald Malarcik shifted much of the blame onto Tawnney Caldwell during his opening statements. He said that Tawnney Caldwell hired, coerced and/or threatened someone else into killing Bobby Caldwell and that it wasn’t Sterling Roberts.

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An alternative suspect was not named during the opening statement. Tawnney Caldwell was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role in Bobby Caldwell’s death after she pleaded guilty to interstate stalking.

The defense attorney said his client didn’t try to kill Bobby Caldwell during their first encounter either, saying instead that Bobby Caldwell and Roberts had an ongoing feud between them since they were young and would argue and fight regularly. He said that Tawnney Caldwell wanted Roberts to kill Bobby Caldwell, but someone else ultimately did.

“Sterling Roberts is not guilty of the murder of Bobby Caldwell,” Malacik said.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

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