Stamford man gets maximum sentence for killing 93-year-old woman in home invasion

Family and friends of Isabella Mehner packed the courtroom to see Robert Simmons, 54, get 85 years in prison.

Marissa Alter

May 22, 2023, 10:20 PM

Updated 372 days ago


A Stamford man convicted of killing a 93-year-old woman in a home invasion received the maximum sentence in Stamford Superior Court Monday. Family and friends of Isabella Mehner packed the courtroom to see Robert Simmons, 54, get 85 years in prison.
Several gave emotional statements at the hearing before Judge Gary White handed down his ruling. Ellen Blanchard, Mehner’s daughter, spoke through tears. Blanchard was one who discovered her mother dead on Sept. 25, 2019. She’d stopped by her home on Cove Road after not being able to get Mehner on the phone.
“Finding her that night at the bottom of her basement stairs has been pretty much impossible for me to get over,” Blanchard shared, adding the trauma of seeing her mother bludgeoned to death made her sad, angry and not wanting to live. “It breaks my heart to think of what my mom went through in those last few minutes of her life.”
Police said security cameras from the neighborhood showed Simmons enter Mehner’s home that evening and leave eight minutes later. He’d previously done work at the home while employed at a plumbing company owned by one of Mehner’s family members. Police also said they found Mehner’s blood on Simmons’ pants and his DNA under her fingernails. Mehner’s wedding and engagement rings were missing when she was found, along with cash from her wallet.
“You're a coward for preying on a defenseless 93-year-old woman,” said Kathy Mehner, the victim’s daughter-in-law, who addressed Simmons directly during court. “I only wish that your punishment could be the same as you gave to Isabella—six bashes to the head and two broken fingers.”
Other family and friends that couldn’t be in court wrote letters that were read. One from Mehner’s great-grandson said, “Dear Robert, I cannot forgive you for what you did. It was wrong, cruel and there are more words that I will not say.”
Police said Simmons gave three different accounts of that night, his story changing with each interview. In video interviews, Simmons initially denied knowing Mehner, then said he knew her but wasn’t at her home, then later admitted to going there to ask for money for a beer and cigarette. But Simmons claimed Mehner was alive when he left.
“If there was ever a case for a maximum sentence, this is it,” Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Moran told the judge. “This was a bludgeoning in her own home, a home where she raised her children, her grandchildren, and grieved the loss of family members. The defendant has taken no responsibility for his actions make this more deplorable, your honor.”
Moran asked for the maximum sentence of 85 years.
“Isabella had to suffer those last few minutes in the basement of her home, watching that door close from the bottom of the stairs, and the state asks that you close the door on Mr. Simmons, as well,” she said.
Simmons did not address the court. His attorney Kevin Black said Simmons maintains his innocence. Black pushed for the minimum sentence, citing Simmons’ history of severe substance abuse issues, bipolar disorder, homelessness and a childhood trauma.
“At 11 years old, his father was taken from him violently, as well. So, to a certain extent, he understands what everyone is going through in this courtroom today,” Black said.
But in issuing his ruling, Judge Gary White said none of that rationalized what Simmons did. White called it “brutal, heinous, unnecessary and completely unjustified.” He sentenced Simmons to 60 years for the murder and 25 years for the home invasion and burglary convictions. Those sentences will run consecutively for a total of 85 years with a mandatory minimum of 35 years, White said.

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