On December 5, 2007 19-year-old Robert Hawkins killed eight people and injured four in a shooting at an Omaha, NE mall.
His stepmother Candace Sims and father Ron Hawkins did an intense interview for Investigation Discovery’s first episode of Evil Lives Here, titled “Something About Robbie,” which first aired in 2016. They reveal that Robbie’s behavior growing up was disturbing, and he even tried to poison his stepmother.
Candace says that there’s no one except Robbie who knows why he would do such an inexplicable thing.
A violent childhood
Robbie was extremely bright and creative when he was young, according to Candace. However, he was also had a lot of angry outbursts, like if he got the wrong color toy as a gift.
One time his tantrum was extreme. He was trying to hurt and bite his parents.
He got kicked out of Kinder Care for kicking other kids and hitting one with a chair. At only four-years-old Robbie’s parents made the decision to admit him to a psychiatric hospital.
Candace says admitting him made her feel numb and like a worthless parent. When he came home, she says he wasn’t angry anymore when he came home, but he no longer expressed other emotions like happiness either.
His anger came back when he got older, and he focused his anger on his stepmother. One day he told her that if she ever told him what to do again, she would regret it.
Robbie poisoned his stepmother
One day Robbie brought Candace a soda while she was out working in the yard. She thought that the soda tasted weird, and stopped drinking it after a few sips.
That night, she felt sick and then found out that Robbie had poisoning her drink with pesticide.
When asked why he’d poisoned her, Robbie just laughed and pointed out that she had survived. She wanted to believe that he wasn’t capable of harming her further.
Robbie left their house after the next episode with his stepmother. She had confronted him about stealing his older sister’s money. She’d asked to look inside his backpack to see if he had the money.
He started screaming at her, and they wrestled over the backpack. In the tussle, Candace’s wedding ring cut Robbie on the cheek.
Robbie then threatened to kill Candace if she ever touched him again. Robbie then told his friends and the school counselor that the cut on his face had come from Candace.
He also told his friends that he had plans to stab Candace in her sleep that night. Candace believed that Robbie meant to do this, but his father questioned whether or not he was serious.
Later, they found that he had carved “Killer” into his dresser and had been collecting pocket knives.
They called the police asked that Robbie be physically removed from the house and put into a group home.
Ron knew Robbie needed a structured environment, but he felt “terrible” about sending away his son. Doctors told Robbie’s family that he could have a lot of diagnoses, like “separation anxiety disorder, PTSD, and ADHD. He was put on a lot of different meds, but nothing seemed to make a change in Robbie’s behavior.
While away, Robbie would often draw his family in violent scenes.
One of Robbie’s goals in therapy was to apologize to his stepmother. He would say the words, but seemed completely unbelievable.
Candace knew that Robbie couldn’t come home if she was still there, so she decided to leave and divorce Ron when Robbie was 17-years-old. “Maybe Robbie could come back home if I was out of the picture,” Candace says about this difficult decision. She thought maybe his dad could help him and teach him how to be a man and live life.
Candace never spoke to Robbie again.
Robbie did come home to live with his dad Ron once Ron had a new house. Ron had no illusions that life would be easy with Robbie, but he wanted to give his son a chance.
Ron asked that Robbie do his schoolwork, have a curfew, and not use drugs and alcohol. “When Robbie applied himself, he could do anything,” Ron says about his son. Ron had hopes that Robbie could help others once he came out on the other side of his struggles.
When he turned 18, Robbie moved out of his dad’s house. He got a job and got a girlfriend, and Ron was hopeful about Robbie’s future.
When news hit of the shooting at the mall, Robbie’s sister suspected that it may be him.
At the time, Robbie’s dad Ron was right down the street from the mall. He talked to a cop, who asked for his ID and then left. Then, Ron’s oldest daughter called and all he heard was a scream on the other end of the line. The police never came back to talk to him, but he found out from his daughter that it had, indeed, been Robbie.
Candace says that when she got confirmation that the shooter was Robbie, she screamed and then passed out.
After Robbie killed eight people and injured four, he turned the gun on himself.
In the aftermath his dad and stepmother struggle to understand why this happened and why Robbie was able to commit this type of atrocity.
Candace often blames herself for the fight she had with Robbie over his backpack. Ultimately, she has made peace with the fact that she doesn’t think there was anything she could have done to prevent Robbie from acting out in extreme violence. She stills loves Robbie and misses him, and she feels unable to express exactly how much she feels for his victims and the people affect by his shooting.
Ron would go online and read the flood of comments about the incident. He saw how people asked again and again why nobody did something to intervene with Robbie, but he points out that they had done everything they could to help with Robbie’s behavior.