Or maybe he's telling the truth.

On October 26, 1999, Tom Magaz­zini went to the Sheridan Federal Prison Camp in Oregon, where Tokars had been transferred.

During two days of interviews, Tokars' recollection of what Ortloff allegedly had told him was exhaustive and offered a glimpse into how the Atlanta man had laundered millions of dollars in complex offshore accounts collected through the sales of cocaine and other drugs.

Robert Ortloff in 1982
Robert Ortloff in 1982
The SceneOne Condominiums in Tempe, where Kathleen Smith was murdered in 1984.
Paul Rubin
The SceneOne Condominiums in Tempe, where Kathleen Smith was murdered in 1984.


E-mail paul.rubin@newtimes.com, or call 602-229-8433.

Tokars claimed that Ortloff "doesn't think there's a chance that [the Smith murder case] could ever resurface, and he said the cops are dumb."

He added more details to the "confession," saying Ortloff also had admitted to putting the bomb in Rick Schibler's Subway shop.

Tokars said Ortloff always denied that he'd been guilty of the Fort Hood mail-bombing, which supposedly was the reason the two men had started "working together."

Tokars now claimed he'd "never seen any reports," referring to the Tempe police reports on Kathleen Smith's murder.

He claimed he'd decided to come forward after he learned that Ortloff had been talking on the prison phone about him. In the same breath, he alleged that Ortloff had been speaking about breaking out of prison with a remote-controlled helicopter to be provided by members of a South American drug cartel whom he knew.

"I said, 'I don't want to break out of prison. Leave me alone,'" Tokars said.

Tokars then handed Detective Magazzini 88 pages of notes in Ortloff's handwriting "that he made after he had admitted to me that he did this. There's no admissions in here, but there are things that are relevant."

Tokars said Ortloff had given him the notes to help with new legal papers that Tokars was supposed to compose for him.

Actually, they were photocopies of notes replicating the detailed "statement of facts" that Ortloff had attached to court pleadings over the years, including the most recent habeas filing on January 21, 1999.

Ortloff points out, "Why would I need Tokars' assistance to write out a chronology that I already had perfected? Those notes are one of many drafts of my chronology that were all over my files. He stole those notes for study purposes, and I didn't even know it until later."

Tokars described Ortloff to the detective "as being evil. He doesn't really care about anyone other than himself. He thinks he's smarter than everyone else. He thinks other people are expendable when it comes to him."

To those familiar with Fred Tokars' own infamous story, it sounded as though he were describing himself.

Tokars said he would be "surprised if there were other people that Ortloff had told about [the murder]."

Magazzini didn't ask Tokars about the pair of condo eyewitnesses whom the likely killer almost had run into outside Kathleen Smith's condo.

If Ortloff were going to tell all, he surely would have told Tokars about that close call.

Tokars summarized the legal work he was supposed to have done for Ortloff in one sentence: "We were working on it."

But he wasn't. He had done nothing for Ortloff.

In Oregon, a polygraph examiner from the Tempe Police Department asked Tokars a series of questions designed to see whether the snitch was telling the truth.

The examiner said the results were "inconclusive," which Magazzini later suggested might have been because of various medications Tokars was taking.

Magazzini returned to Tempe with one hell of a yarn and the case of a career. Time passed.

Then, in March 2003, then-Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley wrote to federal officials that his office was prepared to indict Robert Ortloff "due, in large part, to the anticipated cooperation and trial testimony of federal inmate Fredric Tokars."

Around that time, Fred Tokars was accepted into the witness-protection program. No one will confirm where he is housed, or whether he is in prison at all.

On May 14, 2003, a Maricopa County grand jury indicted Robert Ortloff in the murder of Kathleen Smith, but not before one of the jurors asked Detective Magazzini a question about Tokars:

"What credibility can you really place on a person that has [themself] in that predicament [and] used to be a judge and a lawyer?"

Prosecutor Noel Levy wouldn't allow the detective to answer, saying that "normally, a [trial] jury determines credibility, not you."

Now, going on five years after that indictment, Fred Tokars finally will tell his story to a 12-person jury sitting in the courtroom of Judge Warren Granville.

That moment, especially the cross-examination of Tokars by Ortloff attorney Dan Patterson, promises to be as dramatic as it gets.

If the jury believes Tokars, Ortloff will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

If it doesn't, Ortloff walks.

OCTOBER 5, 1984
(all times but the 10:42 call are approximate)

7 a.m. Kathleen Smith drops off her boyfriend at her mother's home in Tempe, then attends a class at Mesa Community College.

9:50 a.m. Robert Ortloff's mother calls his home from Fiesta Flowers. Jennifer Spies answers, lies about Ortloff's whereabouts, and says he is on his way to work. Actually, she doesn't know where he is.

10–10:30 a.m. Richard Schibler claims to have gashed a finger in his Subway store on 10th Street and Mill Avenue.

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
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.


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


test comment


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.

Phoenix Concert Tickets