He based that on crime-scene photos of Kathleen's back, which show the presence of livor mortis, the maroon color that appears after a person's heart stops and no longer churns the blood.

Medical journals say livor mortis never should be used as the sole means of establishing how long someone has been dead. Unlike what might be discerned from television's CSI, there's no way to say exactly when someone died unless you happen to be there.

That said, according to a respected medical text, livor mortis is "usually noticeable about an hour after death and is often apparent earlier, within 20 to 30 minutes."

Tom Carlson
Kathleen Smith
Kathleen Smith

Davis' conclusions open up many possible scenarios concerning Kathleen's murder and its aftermath.

For example, assume Kathleen was murdered an hour before the fire started and her killer, at first, didn't have the gasoline with him (or her) inside the condo. He could have left, put gas in the Clorox bottle, sneaked back in, lit the fire to try to destroy evidence, and then fled as the flames quickly took hold.

But if the killer did have the gas with him when he entered Unit 110 — which obviously suggests premeditation — why would he have stayed with the body even for a minute, much less longer than that, before igniting the fire and hightailing it?

The ROKS Subway project seemed a distant memory as 1984 drew to a close.

Kathleen Smith was dead, Robert Ortloff didn't have any money to speak of, and David Smith had terminated (and paid off) the line of credit.

Ortloff's attempts to collect the $125,000 on Kathleen's life met with ongoing roadblocks in the form of insurance company investigations and lawsuits filed by the Smiths.

In January 1985, a customer at Rick Schibler's Subway shop on Mill Avenue found an unexploded homemade bomb inside the store. Tempe police called in the FBI to assist with its investigation.

Again, Ortloff was a prime suspect, though police never interviewed him about it. But they did speak with Schibler, who claimed Ortloff had been causing problems for him.

Schibler told detectives he had been trying to sell the Mill Avenue store, "because of financial problems partially caused by a recent divorce settlement."

When they returned a few days later to ask Schibler more questions, he refused to be interviewed further.

No one ever was charged with the attempted bombing of the Subway. But a private investigator hired by David Smith to get dirt on Robert Ortloff later wrote in a report, "The police apparently feel that Rick Schibler was losing a considerable amount of money in his Subway shop. Schibler is suspected to have placed the bomb himself to burn the place for the insurance."

That was not what Smith wanted to hear, and it wasn't accurate: Ortloff, according to police reports generated in 1985 and beyond, was the chief suspect in the Subway case.

But county prosecutors weren't close to seeking an indictment against Ortloff in that case or for allegedly murdering Kathleen Smith.

That was crushing news to the Smith family, especially their powerful patriarch, David, who had been relentless from day one in his quest to bring Ortloff to justice, whatever it took.

Frustrated by the lack of "progress" by the Tempe cops toward that end, David Smith hired private investigator John Lyon and told him what he thought about Ortloff.

"It was just a matter of hours before I knew that the son of a bitch did it," he told the investigator on tape in February 1985, speaking of the murder of his daughter. "I just got that instinct."

Smith was determined to get Ortloff.

"If you've got to pay somebody, pay them, I don't care," he told Lyon at a meeting, referring to bribing police or civilians for information.

"I want this son of a bitch convicted, okay, before I have to kill him. And I don't ever want to be put in that position . . . As far as the cops are concerned, you don't have to pay them nearly as much, you know. I'm sure that you can get cops for $1,000, $2,000, whatever is required."

One of the attorneys at that meeting pointed out that there was "nothing to tie Ortloff to it at this point, other than motive and opportunity."

Undaunted, Smith told everyone what he thought had happened at the condo.

"I think that she broke his toe," he said. "I think that she bruised his ribs, and I think she beat the shit out of him."

Over the next months, David Smith hired a public-relations firm and held press conferences to keep his daughter's murder fresh in people's minds and paid for billboards adorned with Kathleen's image to be placed around the Valley.

The billboards reminded everyone that a $50,000 award awaited anyone who provided information leading to the arrest and conviction of his daughter's killer.

Meanwhile, John Lyon kept meticulous notes as he went about his business. He and his team tailed Ortloff, Jennifer Spies and others everywhere, rummaged through Ortloff's garbage, and spoke to dozens of potential witnesses, seeking anything with which to propel the investigation forward.

Months later, Spies said Ortloff had been frightened enough of David Smith that he began carrying a gun with him wherever he went.

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