THE ULTIMATE LOCKED ROOM MYSTERY … OR IS IT?
Posted September 25, 2015on:
Many years ago I read a smashing little book called The World’s Greatest Unsolved Crimes by Nigel Blundell and Roger Boar. There was one case that intrigued me particularly, and it came under the heading of The Impossible Is Possible. This was one for armchair sleuths everywhere.
The story as described was that on 11 March 1981 at 9PM 38-year-old Roy (I’ve also seen him listed as Ron) Orsini, a heating engineer, had kissed his wife Mary Lee and his daughter Tiffany goodnight, and had then taken himself off to bed at their home in the suburbs of Little Rock, Arkansas. Roy was said to often sleep alone when he had an early start the next morning, so as not to disturb the family, and Roy had an early morning appointment with a client the next day, about 60 miles away. He set his alarm for 4:00 AM, and settled down to sleep.
The following morning, at 7 AM, Mrs Orsini got up and, assuming her husband had gone off on his business trip, went about her routine as usual. She gave her daughter breakfast and took her to school. When she returned she began to do the housework, but was confused as to why Roy’s bedroom door was still locked. This was very unusual, as he never normally locked the door. Mary Lee knocked and called out to him, asking if he was alright. When she got no reply, she ran round next door to alert a neighbour, Mrs Glenda Bell.
The two women managed to get the door open, and were confronted with a shocking sight. Roy was found shot dead in bed. He was lying face-down, in his pyjamas, and had been shot in the back of the head by a .38 bullet fired at close range. The door and windows had all been locked. Roy’s own gun was in a closed drawer several feet from the bed. Although it was also a .38, it was a Smith and Wesson, and the fatal bullet had been fired from a Colt. Sergeant Tom Farley arrived a few minutes later and established that none of the family or neighbours had heard a gunshot, so deduced a silencer had been used.
Extensive checks were made on Roy’s family (including his wife of 5 years Mary Lee), and business contacts, but nothing could be found that showed Roy had led anything but a normal, blameless life. Sergeant Farley concluded that “the Orsini murder belongs in a book, not in real life”.
Intriguing story eh?
At first I thought that would be all the detail I could get, as it’s the story that is commonly repeated, but some digging around on various chat-forums, and The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, yielded some further information. Apparently Mrs Orsini was arrested and convicted of the crime. Far from the blameless existence supposedly lived by the couple, Mrs Orsini was found to have financial problems, which her husband had been unaware of. Instead of being baffled, police were suspicious of her, feeling that her tears were contrived.
With suspicion mounting against her Mary Lee hired local lawyer Bill McArthur to act as her defence attorney. In the autumn of 1981 McArthur had become the co-owner of a local nightclub, which became plagued by suspicious fires, amongst other dubious things. The local police suspected an influx of organised crime in the area. Mary Lee began spending a lot of time at McArthur’s office, once organising a champagne birthday bash for him there. It’s probably fair to say she had an obsession with McArthur, even though it appeared he had no interest in that way in her. In a classic move by a female psychopath, she was also said to have tried to befriend his wife, Alice. Then, on 21 May 1982, Alice McArthur suffered minor injuries when a bomb planted under her car exploded, but failed to detonate fully. Mary Lee claimed that she and Alice had been on a “hit list” for organised crime.
On the afternoon of Friday 2 July 1982, Mary Lee had requested a meeting in McArthur’s office, even though she had nothing legal to discuss. Meanwhile Alice was at home, packing for a weekend away. She had recently come into some money, approximately $50,000 dollars a month, from oil leases, with which she planned to set up a trust fund for her children. It was said that at about 4PM she had answered the door to deliverymen with a flower delivery. At 5:00 PM Bill McArthur left the office and went home. He found his wife dead upstairs, with a gunshot wound to the head. A bouquet of flowers rested at her feet, with a card bearing the sick words “Have A Nice Day”.
An anonymous telephone call to the sheriff’s department led to Mary Lee’s arrest. During her trial, Mary Lee was the typical Narcissist. She relished all the attention, and didn’t seem to care what the result was, as long as the media turned up in force to look at her. In October 1982 Mary Lee was convicted of hiring Eugene Hall and Larry Darnell McClendon to kill Alice, posing as florist’s deliverymen. The following year she was also convicted of the murder of her husband, but that conviction was later over-turned. Mary Lee stayed in prison until her death, from a heart-attack (even though she had no history of heart-disease), in 2003, a week before her 56th birthday. She was reputed to have confessed to both the murders of Alice and Roy shortly before her death.
On the Unexplained Mysteries forum I found a poster who, in 2007, claimed to have lived very near the Orisini house, and said there was many an untold story about the case, and “famous politicians were allegedly involved”. I’ve seen others try to link this with the Bill Clinton (there are plenty of dark conspiracy theories about the high amount of fatalities connected with the Clintons). When asked to give further information though, the poster seemed to decline to answer, and the thread ended there.
So there you have it. I was hoping to present you with the Ultimate Locked Room Mystery, and instead I found myself digging up stuff about a female psychopath, hit-men, and the grubbier side of politics. Sometimes you never know what you’re going to find when you go looking into a mystery.