20 Aug 2014
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Moving Forward: Following Son's Murder, Sickles Family Seeks New Start

After hearing a jury convict her son's murderer, a mom from Mission Viejo remembers the boy she lost.

Moving Forward: Following Son's Murder, Sickles Family Seeks New Start Moving Forward: Following Son's Murder, Sickles Family Seeks New Start

After they sold their Mission Viejo home, Robin and Jim Sickles moved to Virginia October 11. There were several reasons, but the move was made "in part because of Robert and what went down."

In the first hours of 2011 at a New Year's party, Robert Sickles was stabbed to death in front of his brother outside the Costa Mesa Hilton.

A jury convicted her son’s killer of murder last week. Robin was there inside the courtroom. The family had flown back to Orange County for the trial.

"We sat on that 11th floor for almost 7 hours," she said. "The day before we were there for an hour and a half. We never left. People brought us lunch. We just sat and sat and waited and waited. We never felt we could leave the court room ― just in case."

The verdict was read at 4:04 p.m., and Robin points out her son was born on 4/4. He died on 1/1/11, and his killer's verdict came in on 12/12/12.

Those numbers bring significance to a senseless personal tragedy. When she sees 11:11 on a clock face, she said it gives her comfort.

The trial itself offered little comfort.

"All we could think about was how he died, and leading up to the trial, just reliving all the ugly detail," she said. "Now that it’s done, we feel we can start celebrating his life, and the joy he’s brought to a lot of people. We were looking to get this behind us. As hard as it was and as difficult as it was, it’s done."

Brothers

It's been a long two years for the family. Robert left behind sister Genevieve Hanlin, 24, and a brother David Hanlin, 23. Robert was the oldest by five years.

Robin relied on Robert as a young boy to help raise his siblings.

"I was a single, divorced mom with three kids," she said. "So it was just the four of us. (Robert) was very protective, very loving, very patient. He was very helpful, very close."

His death has been toughest on his brother David, Robin said. David was there the night Robert died.

The two brothers were lab partners at Saddleback College They were teammates on the track and field team, too. And the two had recently been accepted to the University of Oregon and planned to attend next fall.

"Watching his brother die in his arms has been horrific," Robin said. "There’s been a disconnect with him and the rest of us. But I think getting this behind him—he knew he was the main witness. He knew he had to testify. He says it’s just like a video going and going and going. There’s times when I'll see him drifting—I guess disconnect would be an OK word. He’s the one I’m worried most about."

David now lives on a ranch where he helps his cousin raise animals for movies and commercials.

"He loves it, and he loves the animals," his mother said. "I think it’s really been a good therapy for him."

New Beginning

In 2010, Robert convinced his mom to sign up for an Ironman triathlon in Tempe, Arizona. They had planned to start training in January.

Her son's death made it difficult to focus on her training. But she eventually realized her tough training routine gave her a break from the pain of losing Robert. In November 2011, after eight months of training, Robin finished the triathlon in 15 hours, 7 minutes.

Now the Sickles live on a "beautiful, beautiful property" in northern Virginia, Robin said. They have six acres of horse property. The land keeps Robin busy with yard work and animals.

The new home also offers reminders of Robert's life and loves. While Robert served in the U.S. Air Force, he was stationed in Japan. He fell in love with Japanese culture, she said.

"When I bought the house here in Virginia, I didn’t even know this until Hurricane Sandy blew down three of my trees—the gardener came over and asked what I wanted to plant in their place," Robin said. "I said, 'Cherry blossoms.' He said, ‘You’ve got a huge one right there.’ Right next to my house is a big, huge cherry blossom. And I have a pond in the back yard. It is filled with koi fish. It was like, ‘I think this is where I need to be."

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