Police in Norristown, Penn., said today a University of Pennsylvania professor charged with murder his wife tried to use his background in game theory — a complex mixing of psychology, human behavior and economics to determine an adversary’s next move — to outsmart detectives.

It didn’t work.

“The efforts to throw police off were amateurish,” District Attorney Bruce Castor said.

Rafael Robb, 56, was arrested earlier this week and charged with bludgeoning his 49-year-old wife, Ellen, to death in the kitchen of their home in Upper Merion. Robb is charged with first and third degree murder, and possession of an instrument of crime. He is being held without bond.

Police say Robb killed his wife because she planned to divorce him, and then made it look like a burglary. A divorce lawyer told Ellen Robb she could expect to receive $4,000 a month. However, investigators noticed the broken glass hadn’t been stepped on; the family’s dog, which had been locked in a bedroom, did not bark; and Robb’s alibi that he was in Philadelphia didn’t check out. Police also say that a stranger wouldn’t have beaten Ellen Robb beyond recognition.

“This was an attack that was designed to punish somebody who was threatening him,” Castor said.

Evidence in the case also includes statements from friends. One woman said Ellen Robb said she could not attend a party last October because her husband had hit her and given her a black eye. Another friend told investigators that in winter 2006, Ellen Robb told her she was having marital problems and wanted a divorce.

Other friends told officers the cpuple, who met through a dating service, slept in separate bedrooms, and the tension between them was obvious.

“I, unfortunately, in the last couple years, did not have any conversations with her because she was withdrawn so much,” said Becky Best, who was the maid of honor when the couple married in 1990. “I think she was probably embarrassed with the situation.”

The couple has a 12-year-old daughter. If convicted, Rafael Robb faces life in prison.

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