Lady Killer – Times Publications, May 2008
It’s October 23, 2004. A recent rain has strewn small puddles across the desert floor on the outskirts of Phoenix. There is an almost eerie quiet amid the faint sounds of passing traffic as investigators document a grisly discovery made by a morning passerby.
A large blue tub sitting near a group of busy crime-scene investigators has their attention, its putrid and piercing stench detectable from yards away.
Phoenix Homicide Detective David Barnes peers into the tub, noting that what remains of the body inside is actually a partial torso, cut below the belly button and above the knees.
The victim, a male, remains clothed in a pair of bloody denim jean shorts – in its pockets, a set of keys and more than four hundred dollars in cash. In the bottom of the tub, covered by crumpled black trash bags, the detective finds a single bullet casing.
Not enough of the body remains to identify the victim, but DNA tests will later reveal it to be that of Jay Orbin, a 45-year-old arts dealer who has been missing for more than a month. His wife, Marjorie, a petite blonde who moved to Phoenix after a stint as a Las Vegas showgirl, had reported him missing, claiming he didn’t return from a recent business trip.
Since filing the missing person’s report, Marjorie’s callous and suspicious behavior has had police suspecting they would not be finding Jay alive.
The difficult investigation to follow reveals a series of twists, turns and gruesome details, leaving many questions unanswered, including the whereabouts of the rest of Jay Orbin’s body.
MARJORIE AND JAY
It was in the spring of 1995, while on a business trip to Las Vegas, that Jay Orbin reconnected with an old flame who drastically changed his life.
Traveling nearly half the year selling Indian art and jewelry, Jay had built his company, JayHawk International, into a successful business.
While on that trip, driving through the streets of Las Vegas, Jay noticed a familiar face on a billboard, advertising the racy show “Platinum Blondes.” It was Marjorie Kroh, a girl he had dated as a teenager. After their breakup, she began living what would later be described as a “wild life” before moving to Las Vegas to pursue a career as a dancer.
Married three times to a series of wealthy men, Marjorie was once featured on the popular 1980s show “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
Between marriages, she supported herself as a dancer. After moving to Las Vegas, she made a name for herself performing as a showgirl and doing some choreography work.
After noticing the billboard, Jay looked Marjorie up in the area phonebook and gave her a call. According to friends, Marjorie was happy to hear from him, and the two quickly rekindled their relationship.
Although Marjorie was told she would never be able to have children, they expressed their mutual desire to become parents.
Soon after meeting, they eloped, and Marjorie moved back to Phoenix with Jay. A year later, Marjorie gave birth to their only son.
THE LAST DAYS OF JAY ORBIN
The last time Jay saw his son, on Aug. 29, 2004, it was his eighth birthday. The family had spent the day at Jillian’s arcade at Desert Ridge, playing games and celebrating with carrot cake.
That night, Jay hugged his son goodbye and took his work truck, loaded with merchandise, on a planned business trip to Florida.
According to his associates, Jay considered his business to be “high risk” since he often traveled with upwards of $300,000 worth of merchandise. Due to the risk, he was very safety-conscious, traveling with several guns and remaining secretive about his planned routes.
The day before he was scheduled to return to the Valley, Jay conducted business in Tucson and spent the night at a La Quinta Inn.
The following day, his birthday, Sept. 8, 2004, while driving back to Phoenix, Jay called his parents and his brother.
“I’m on my way home,” he told them. They wished him a happy birthday.
It would be the last time they would ever hear his voice.
Twelve days passed.
On the afternoon of Sept. 20, two of Jay’s friends and at least one business associate recognized Jay’s cell phone number on their caller ID, each call having taken place within five minutes of the others.
None of the call recipients actually heard Jay’s voice, but one of them reported having clearly heard the “Rush Limbaugh” radio program, one of Jay’s favorites, playing in the background. None of them believed Jay had made the calls.
Marjorie told Jay’s family and friends that he never came home from the Florida trip. She said that since she and her son had both come down with strep throat, Jay had decided to take a detour business trip to avoid being exposed to their illnesses.
Since Jay was always good about returning phone calls and he would normally speak to his parents at least every three to four days, Jay’s friends and family were panicked over his disappearance.
Finally, on Sept. 22, Marjorie called police and reported Jay missing.
The last few years of Jay and Marjorie’s relationship had been strained.
The couple lived in a spacious one-story home in North Phoenix, near 55th Street and Bell.
But Jay’s business caused him to be out of town for significant periods of time and, according to friends, his work often had to come first.
“He was a workaholic,” says Mario Olivarez, a friend who knew Jay for more than 20 years. “He was on the road a lot, and that’s tough.”
When he was in town, Jay spent a great deal of time with his family, spending Sundays with his parents and his son. According to Jay’s friends, Marjorie was more of a loner, typically skipping family time to go to the gym.
“She’s hardcore,” Olivarez told police. “She just didn’t get along with people.”
Most of the information available about the couple’s relationship reveals the two to be polar opposites on a number of fronts. While Marjorie was obsessed with working out, Jay was about 60 pounds overweight.
Some friends described Marjorie as “high maintenance” and materialistic, while Jay was seen as a more casual blue-collar guy who wore shorts and sneakers year round.
“He’s the type of guy that he’ll buy tennis shoes at Target,” one of Jay’s best friends, Marshall Roosin, told police, adding later that he “didn’t even like joking around with her.”
The one thing Jay and Marjorie did have in common was they were both doting parents.
The couple had gone through a difficult period trying to conceive, which Marjorie would later tell police was like going to “hell and back.” After spending more than $100,000 and undergoing 36 in vitro fertilization procedures, Marjorie finally became pregnant. After the birth of their son, the couple later tried unsuccessfully to have more children.
“Jay was just a phenomenal father,” family friend Carol Rita says. “He was always talking about his son and how proud he was and how he loved spending time with him.”
It had been six days since Marjorie reported Jay missing when, on Sept. 28, Police Detective Jan Butcher spent the morning calling Marjorie’s home and cell phone.
At 5:50 p.m., Marjorie finally returned her call.
“I’m kinda getting the feeling that you’re really not available or willing to help us find Jay,” Butcher told her.
“You get that feeling, huh?” Marjorie reportedly replied. “Uh, I… they’re… his family is calling everybody in the world and, and, you know, doing just about, you know, everything, that I can see that can be done.”
Butcher made it clear to Marjorie that given all of the missing person’s cases she had investigated, she found it highly unusual that Marjorie was not as concerned as the typical worried spouse.
Marjorie, however, insisted she was concerned.
“I’m past being emotional about Jay,” she said. “I still refuse to believe he’s not gonna come, you know, bustin’ in the door any minute.”
At 8:51 p.m. that night, police served a search warrant on the Orbin residence, and say that although voices could be heard inside, no one answered the door, forcing police to break it down.
Upon entering they were confronted by Larry Weisberg, a 60-year-old computer designer with whom Marjorie later admitted she had been having an affair for the past three months.
According to reports, after acting hostile toward police, Weisberg was taken to the ground and placed in handcuffs.
The Orbins’ son was discovered in a bathroom and removed from the home by police. As the home was searched, police noticed that most of Jay’s clothes were missing.
In addition, police reported a number of other curious findings while searching the home, including empty picture frames on the wall, a new piano in the living room and a spotless garage that had recently been coated with epoxy paint.
“I’m always doing construction projects,” Marjorie explained to police, adding that in the past she had laid tile herself and taken on large-scale home improvement projects.
Police also discovered an envelope containing more than $3,000 in cash.
When asked about the money, Marjorie admitted she had been liquidating Jay’s personal and business accounts, which at the time totaled more than $100,000, as well as withdrawing the daily maximum amount of cash from ATM machines. She explained that she was carrying out Jay’s wishes.
Jay, who was known to be a very diligent planner, had left a “farewell letter” for Marjorie in the event of his death, Marjorie told police. The letter read in part, “Marjorie, if you’re reading this something has probably happened to me.”
The letter identifies all of the insurance polices totaling nearly $1 million in death benefits and naming Marjorie as the sole beneficiary.
Meanwhile, like the police, Jay’s family was growing suspicious of Marjorie. While family and friends were panic-stricken about Jay’s disappearance, calling hospitals across the county, they described Marjorie as “cold,” “callous” and “unemotional.”
Frustrated, Jay’s brother Jake hired Steve Kopp, a private detective, to help find Jay and reveal background information about Marjorie. Kopp uncovered information on Marjorie’s three ex-husbands and an arrest record for indecent exposure.
While holding out hope that Jay would be discovered alive, the family was coming to the realization that he was likely dead.
When the news broke that an unidentified partial torso had been discovered in the desert near the couple’s home, the family asked the detectives to find out if it could be Jay.
To family and friends, Marjorie and Jay’s marriage seemed to work.
Jay supported Marjorie financially while she raised their son and helped out occasionally with the business.
However, while standing in the kitchen of her home on Sept. 22, 2004, Marjorie revealed several previously unknown facts about their lives to police.
“Jay and I are not married,” she told the detective. “We’ve been divorced for a number of years.”
While pregnant with their son, Marjorie said she learned of a $50,000 tax lien in her name, the result of a transaction during a prior marriage.
Because she claimed she didn’t want Jay to be held financially responsible for the debt, they divorced in Dec. 1997, a fact that would later shock the closest of Jay’s friends and family.
“Jay’s friends and family think he has been living a normal, perfect little life with a pretty wife and a beautiful child and everything is happy and rosy,” Marjorie told police. “It’s all been a farce.”
While they carried on as a married couple, Marjorie claimed they hadn’t been intimate in years. Their marriage had become more of a friendship.
Marjorie claimed Jay had no idea about her affair with Weisberg.
Six weeks after the remains of Jay Orbin were found abandoned in the desert near Dynamite and Tatum, police arrested Marjorie and booked her on charges of first-degree murder.
Marjorie had become the prime suspect soon after the remains were found, Detective David Barnes told The Times in a recent interview.
“She was the most obvious suspect,” he says. “The evidence just kept building against her.”
Two days after his body was found, police located Jay’s green Ford Bronco, abandoned in the parking lot of an apartment complex less than a mile from the couple’s home. Three witnesses told detectives a thin woman with long blonde hair had been seen around the Bronco some time after Sept. 8.
Jay’s American Express cards had been used on Sept. 10 at a Lowe’s location in Scottsdale. Surveillance video from the store shows Marjorie using one of the cards to purchase two blue Rubbermaid containers and black plastic trash bags. One of the containers matched the one Jay’s body was discovered in down to the UPC code sticker on the tub.
At Jay’s warehouse, a package of jigsaw blades was discovered with two of the blades missing. A test by the Medical Examiner’s Office showed the two missing blades would have matched the pattern left on Jay’s body.
Autopsy reports later showed Jay’s body had been frozen for some time before being thawed and dismembered. At least one witness saw a large horizontal freezer in the couple’s garage that has never been found.
Today Marjorie Orbin, now 46, is inmate number P031041 and sits in the Estrella Jail, awaiting trial for Jay’s murder. If convicted, she faces the death penalty and would be only the third woman on Arizona’s death row.
Though the trial is likely to be delayed for the fifth time, it is currently scheduled to begin May 12.
Marjorie’s boyfriend, Larry Weisberg, who was at one point considered an investigative lead, has been offered immunity in exchange for his testimony.
Marjorie did not respond to requests for comment through her lawyer; however, she has pled not guilty to the murder.
Jake Jr., Jay’s brother, who had resided in San Diego, has moved back to Glendale to raise Jay’s son.
Jay’s family has been torn apart by this tragedy and say the delays in the justice system have only prolonged their suffering.
“Jay was a wonderful and caring son and father,” Jay’s mother, Joann, said in a recent e-mail to The Times. “The hole left in our hearts can never be mended.”