By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
But no one at the bank, including the manager, ever confirmed to police that Kathleen had an appointment on October 5, 1984, or on any other day.
As for Ortloff's whereabouts on October 4, then-girlfriend Jennifer Spies consistently has said that they spent a quiet night with his brother Michael watching television at home after going out to dinner.
"Everything just seemed normal," Spies told a prosecutor in 1985. "Nothing stands out in my mind."
Little would be normal for Ortloff on October 5, 1984, the day someone murdered Kathleen Smith.
For months afterward, Jennifer Spies stuck to her original account of Ortloff's whereabouts when she awoke about 10 a.m. on October 5.
She said he'd been with her at home and then they'd left for work at the flower shop in separate cars.
That seemed to provide Robert Ortloff with a nice alibi, whatever the police or the Smith family believed about his guilt.
But Spies was lying.
In truth, she had no idea when she awoke where Ortloff was and how long he'd been gone.
Her lie may have started innocently enough. Ortloff's mother had surprised her with a phone call wondering why she and Robert weren't at Fiesta Flowers getting ready to open for business at 10 a.m.
Claire Ortloff had driven up from Tucson that morning on a whim, but no one was at the store. Spies said later she'd covered for her boyfriend so that his mother wouldn't get on him for being tardy.
Spies told her that Ortloff already was on his way and that she'd be right behind him.
Skipping her shower, Spies drove to Fiesta Flowers, later estimating that it was about 10:15 a.m. when she arrived. Within minutes after saying hello to Claire, she walked across Southern to a nearby bank to deposit money.
When she returned to the store, Robert already had shown up.
"I seem to remember just a feeling that he was clean," Spies told a prosecutor months later, just as she was about to leave Ortloff and return to California for good. "His normal work clothes are very casual, but he was groomed."
By casual, Spies said she meant khakis and a polo shirt.
Rick Schibler's daughter, Robin, was working next door at the Subway shop and said she'd first seen Robert Ortloff at "approximately 10:30 to 10:35 a.m.," a police report states.
The timing is crucial: The Tempe Fire Department was dispatched to Kathleen Smith's condo at 10:42 a.m., just a few minutes, according to arson investigators, after the residence would have gone up in flames.
Remember, Ina Weisbaum and her granddaughter had seen a guy in red shorts and a T-shirt fleeing from the area of Kathleen's condo.
How could Ortloff have found the time to change, cool down after a brawl with Kathleen — in which he'd sustained visible injuries — and gotten to his job even by 11, clean-shaven and neatly dressed?
Prosecution witness Fred Tokars will testify that Ortloff told him of creating a delayed, wick-type fuse to give himself up to an hour to get out of the condo and over to work before it ignited.
According to Jennifer Spies, sometime before noon, Ortloff helped her load a bulky helium tank into her car for a drive to Phoenix.
To this day, Spies — who testified against Ortloff in the 1986 mail-bomb case — has been steadfast: She stood next to Ortloff at the flower shop as he loaded the tank, and didn't noticed any cuts or bruises on his neck. Nor did she see him limping with a foot injury of any kind.
"And you would have [noticed the injuries]?" a prosecutor asked Spies at a secret meeting in June 1985.
"Oh, yeah," she replied.
Spies said it was only after she returned to the shop with the refilled helium tank in the early afternoon that she "saw the injury to his neck and that he was limping."
They were not insignificant injuries. Police later noted a six-inch scratch and three smaller abrasions across Ortloff's neck.
Kevin Corrado, a former friend of Ortloff, told police that he showed up at the shop sometime before 12:30 p.m. and that Ortloff did not seem injured "in any way."
Ortloff's account of his whereabouts before he showed up at the flower shop that morning has been consistent.
A few weeks ago, he wrote to New Times, "I awoke around 8:45 a.m. to work on the damaged rear fender of my car. Jennifer was still asleep. My brother Michael was in his room. My first attempts proved futile. Using the tire as a leverage point, the fender would move outward a little but spring back afterward.
"I did not have anything heavy enough [or] the room to pound the offending lip back. So I took off to my [other] brother's house, which was less than a mile south of my home. He had all the neat tools."
Ortloff claims he worked on the car for a while longer and then drove it home.
"Pulling into my driveway, I must have just missed Jennifer," he wrote. "I took a quick shower, shaved, and rushed off to the shop, where I arrived around 10:20 a.m. Robin Schibler saw me at the back of the shop around this time.