But he did mention the name Robert Ortloff, who apparently had expressed dismay to Anna Carpenter over the soldier's budding romance with the young woman.

Gulczynski said he'd met Ortloff only once, an uneventful and brief contact a few weeks earlier in Mesa.


Kathleen Smith's alleged killer, Robert Ortloff, is now on trial.
Kathleen Smith's alleged killer, Robert Ortloff, is now on trial.
Robert Ortloff in 1985, during a secretly recorded interview with Channel 12.
Robert Ortloff in 1985, during a secretly recorded interview with Channel 12.

Tempe police knew very well who Ortloff was. Though the case officially remained unsolved, detectives were convinced that Ortloff had bludgeoned 20-year-old Kathleen Smith and then lit her on fire at her West University Drive condo on October 5, 1984 ("If the Shoe Don't Fit . . . You Must Acquit," Paul Rubin, February 7).

That wasn't the only reason to question Ortloff on the mail-bombing.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had assisted the Tempe cops in investigating the January 1985 case of an unexploded homemade bomb at a Subway on Tenth Street and Mill Avenue. That restaurant was owned by Rick Schibler, with whom Ortloff had a contentious relationship.

But prosecutors had been unwilling to go forward because of the lack of evidence against Ortloff in both the murder and Subway cases.

On January 12, 1986, FBI agents interviewed Ortloff in Tempe. He denied having had anything to do with the Fort Hood mail-bombing.

The feds already had learned that someone had mailed the bomb to Texas from a post office about six miles east of Ortloff's flower shop, located at 48th Street and Southern Avenue.

A postal clerk recalled the transaction, but what she told the agents about the sender, and the fact that they'd even interviewed her, remained under wraps for years.

As the FBI analyzed the evidence from Fort Hood, the world mourned when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded over the Atlantic Ocean on January 28, 1986, killing all seven onboard.

Three days later, an FBI fingerprint examiner concluded that one of Ortloff's fingerprints and a palm print had been on debris collected from Gul­czynski's room after the explosion.

The FBI arrested Robert Ortloff at his flower shop on January 31, 1986.

A federal magistrate ordered him held without bond, and he was extradited to Texas to face attempted murder and other charges.

During their search of Ortloff's home, the feds located a document that excited the Tempe cops when they learned of it. It was a checkbook for ROKS Incorporated, the partnership that Ortloff and Kathleen Smith had formed in early 1984 to open a Subway franchise.

Smith had lost a ROKS checkbook just before her murder, and police long had speculated Ortloff had stolen it to repay $7,500 that he'd embezzled from his grandfather.

A Tempe lieutenant told reporters that an indictment in Smith's murder finally might be at hand.

But the local cops learned it wasn't the missing checkbook after all but a new checkbook Ortloff had ordered after Smith's death.

The Smith case returned to the back burner.

The mail-bombing was another story.


Robert Ortloff's family hired two well-known Waco lawyers to represent him.

The fingerprint and palm print seemed damning, and an FBI agent also was prepared to testify that tool marks lifted from wires on the bomb matched up with pliers confiscated from Ortloff's home.

The trial began in June 1986.

Members of Kathleen Smith's family attended every day, as did Robert Ortloff's parents.

Prosecutors claimed that Ortloff's motive had been jealousy, pure and simple.

But Anna Carpenter testified that it hadn't been that serious between her and Ortloff, which didn't bolster the government's theory.

An important witness for the prosecution was FBI explosives expert James "Tom" Thurman, a soft-spoken Kentuckian with a résumé that already included an investigation of the 1983 suicide bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon.

Later, Thurman would be a key investigator in the deadly bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, the crashes of TWA Flight 800 and Pan Am Flight 103, and many other cases.

He testified that Ortloff's fingerprints definitely had come from the box in which the mail bomb had been sent, not the one Anna Carpenter had packaged at Fiesta Flowers, where the defendant's prints reasonably could have been.

But 10 of the 12 jurors were not swayed by the government's case against Ortloff.

On June 17, 1986, federal judge Walter Smith ordered a mistrial.

The retrial took place within weeks.

Shortly before the first trial, a jailbird named Michael Parker had told authorities that Ortloff tried to hire him to kill Anna Carpenter and her brother Michael in Mesa after Parker's imminent release.

By way of proof, inmate Parker turned over a map that he said Ortloff had drawn for him. The map gave directions to the Carpenter home.

Parker asked authorities for lenient treatment on a probation violation charge in return for his testimony. But prosecutors chose not to call him at Ortloff's first trial.

However, after the near-acquittal, the feds decided to use Parker, who agreed to testify even though he already had been freed.

Parker testified that Ortloff offered him $2,250 to execute one of two plans.

He was to place a homemade bomb inside a storage room at the Carpenters' Mesa residence, then tip police to make it seem that someone there knew his or her way around explosives.

Plan B was more depraved.

Michael Parker would go to Arizona and kill Anna Carpenter, then kidnap her younger brother Michael. Parker then was to force Michael Carpenter to write a phony murder-suicide note in which Michael would "admit" to being both the Fort Hood bomber and his sister's killer.

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4 comments
bill w.
bill w.

Alan Bell is a well known attorney to myself and other colleagues of mine. He has a sterling reputation as an ethical and dedicated lawyer. His many accomplishments are impressive. He is also a distinguished philanthropist.

KW
KW

I'll always love you Fred. Call me. Remember who you are and that all good intentions get twisted in this day and age.

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wacokid
wacokid

Fred Tokars is an honest man with a lot of personal integrity. Those closest to him, and there are many, know him to be a true friend, patient, gracious, and forgiving. I will always love this true friend and miss him forever.

 
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