Just after his $500,000 cash bond was set in district court, Hiawatha Robinson’s mother told Lagniappe she is sure her son was not involved in 8-year-old Hiawayi Robinson’s murder.

“I know he’s innocent,” Merline Howard said. “I know he didn’t do it.”

Though it has been four months since Hiawayi’s disappearance and murder, Robinson’s arrest Tuesday was the latest public development in months. Howard wouldn’t comment other than to defend her son, saying she was “too emotional” over the situation.

Following today’s bond hearing, other members of the family — including Hiawayi’s mother Yosha Populus — provided statements through Disaster Victims Services, acknowledging Robinson’s alleged involvement in Hiawayi’s death for the first time.

“Please pray for us, and give us privacy as we now must deal emotionally with the facts of what was done to Hiawayi and knowing now that it was a member of our family who did this to her,” the statement reads. “We would also ask that the community pray for the District Attorney’s office as they prepare to prosecute the killer to the fullest extent of the law.”

As was requested in the statement, the family chose not to speak with local media, but were present during the bond hearing. According to Tony Dickey, a chaplain with Disaster Victims Services, the family is “devastated” by the situation.

Chaplain Tony Dickey spoke to reporters on behalf of Hiawayi Robinson's family on Dec. 17.

Chaplain Tony Dickey spoke to reporters on behalf of Hiawayi Robinson's family on Dec. 17.

“This has been very traumatic to the family,” Dickey said. “It’s very emotionally traumatizing that a member of a family can do this to another member, and it’s traumatizing to the entire community that anybody could do this to a child.”

Dickey said the family plans to participate in the court process and is supporting the District Attorney’s office “100 percent.” He said Disaster Victim’s Services has been with the Robinson family since Hiawayi went missing and would continue to do so throughout the phases of the trial.

State Rep. Napoleon Bracy Jr., who represents Prichard and its surrounding areas, also attended the hearing. He was also closely involved with the community’s efforts to find Hiawayi when she was first reported missing in September.

“It was very hurtful to find out who it was yesterday,” Bracy said. “(Robinson) was one of the people who helped with the search, and just to learn that a lot of misleading things were going on at that point was really devastating for me and for so many other people who worked hard trying to recover her.”
Since the disappearance first made headlines, Bracy has been in discussion with State Sen. Vivian Figures about a co-sponsored bill that would expedite the notification process when a child is reported missing.

“It’s still being worked out at this point, but as soon as we start our next session in March we do plan on introducing that legislation,” Bracy said.