Syrl and Christine Orbach. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Courtesy of Oklahoma Cold Cases

Police Investigators Say Orbach Slayings Case Will Be Solved Eventually
Charles Gaylor
June 26, 1983

Almost a year has passed since the bodies of Syrl and Christine Orbach were found in the den of their house at 2200 NW 56. The couple, ages 87 and 68 respectively, had been struck in the head and their throats had been cut.

Prior to their murders on July 1, 1982, the Orbachs were looking at plans for their retirement home in the Arkansas Ozarks.

Robbery is the apparent motive in the slayings, police said. Among items taken were a fur coat; $50,000 in jewelry, including an 1878 $3 gold piece, an 18-jewel, 18-carat yellow gold Patek Phillips wristwatch, with gold-mesh band; a woman's 14-carat yellow gold Kelbert watch; plus an undetermined amount of cash believed to be not very large.

The couple's car, a Toyota, also was taken from their home. It was found later that night in the parking lot of Penn Square, about 1/2-mile from the murder scene.

Since then, Oklahoma City homicide detectives have followed scores of leads, but mostly to nowhere. Detectives have sifted through numerous pieces of evidence found at the house and in the couple's car.

"Right now, we don't have that many leads," said Sgt. Larry Baldwin. Two homicide detectives are currently assigned to the case.

Eighteen detectives helped with the initial investigation. "We've followed a lot of them, but they've kind of slowed down right now.

"Someone might call in something that has to be checked," he said.

One of those detectives, Ray Rupert, has logged hundreds of miles travelling to neighboring states and municipalities trying to verify leads police have received or looking into other crimes that might be linked to the Orbach slayings.

To date, those trips have been fruitless, Baldwin said. Nor, has there been any cases in Oklahoma City remotely similar.

"It's really kind of discouraging," he said.

The events on that July afternoon, began about 3 p.m. when the son of the man who did yard work and general maintenance work for the couple for more than 10 years, entered the Orbach's house to go to the bathroom and discovered the bodies.

The handyman, Everett Owens, said recently that it was not uncommon for him to not see the Orbach's. He had keys to the house and its alarm system, he said.

"We had a preset time that I'd do my work," Owens said. "In fact, I talked to Mrs. Orbach that morning, but I didn't think anything of not seeing them.

"It was nothing to be alarmed about," he said.

"They were good friends and people ... it's something you don't like to have happen to loved ones. "I don't really want to talk about it," Owens said.

After the discovery, police began canvassing the area and were able to come up with this scenario of the crime: A man came to the Orbach home sometime after 10:30 a.m., the last time neighbors reported seeing Mrs. Orbach. The man may have gained entry to the house on the pretext of buying the home, which the couple had placed on the market as they prepared to move to their retirement home in Arkansas.

While the Orbachs' looked at the plans to their new home, the intruder killed them.

The intruder then apparently took the jewelry, fur coat and the cash and fled in the couple's car. The car was abandoned a half-mile away, at Penn Square. Traces of human blood were found in the front seat of the car.

Through questioning of neighbors and people who might have parked next to the couple's car in the busy shopping mall lot, police were able to put together a composite of a suspect.

The man police are looking for is described as a white male, 5-feet-10, weighing 180 pounds. He has curly, sandy-colored hair, and when seen in the area by neighbors he was wearing dark blue pants, and pink golf shirt. No other strong suspects have surfaced.

"As far we know, none of the items taken have turned up anywhere," Baldwin said.

Baldwin said there is no reason to suspect that the Orbachs were the target of a hired killer.

"That's something we won't really know until we catch the guy," he said. "It's just one of the many questions we'd like to ask him." He said evidence currently points to murder to hide a robbery, not a robbery to hide a murder.

Though a year has passed since the killings, Baldwin still believes the case will be solved, even if it takes another year. He admits it may take a big break to solve the case.

During that year, the quiet neighborhood where everybody knows everybody and everybody watches out for each other has pretty well returned to normal.

Until recently, the Orbach house remained vacant, neighbors said.

The house sold about a month ago and the new residents have just finished moving in.

Mrs. Joan Douglas' husband, John, along with the Orbach's gardener, found the bodies of the clothing store founder and his wife.

"It was pretty upsetting at the time," Mrs. Douglas said. "We eventually had to take a vacation (last year) to get away from it."

Much of the paranoia in the neighborhood that immediately followed the murders seems to have abated now, as people in the neighborhood began to believe the murders were not a random occurrance.

"Most of us feel they were particularly picked out, that it was not a random burglary," she said.

If you have credible information about this murder, call the Homicide Tip Line at 405-297-1200 or Oklahoma City Crime Stoppers at 405-235-7300. You can remain anonymous.

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