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Thread: Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

  1. #1

    Default Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

    I worked at Orbach's at the time this happened and it was just horrific. Syl was a really kind and nice man as was his wife.

    There was much speculation about all the because only months earlier his son had taken over the business and it was very extended... They had gone from a men's and boy's store at 50 Penn to having Varsity Shops, women's clothing and a bunch of different locations. Then, the oil bust came along.

    It wasn't long before the stores started to close and the whole business was slowly driven into the ground.

    It's pretty clear this was a professional job but the reasons for it remain a real mystery:


    Thu July 19, 2007
    Leads dry up, but police not giving up on '82 case

    By Ken Raymond
    The Oklahoman

    Somewhere along the line, the handyman's son took a wrong turn. Seeking the bathroom, he instead found the den.

    His screams could be heard outside.

    July 1, 1982, the 9-year-old boy became the first innocent to see the savaged bodies of Syrl and Christine Orbach. The prominent Oklahoma City couple lay dead in their home, their heads battered and their throats slashed.

    Everett Owen, the boy's father, was the second witness.

    "He come out crying and screaming,” said Owen, 65. "Of course, I didn't know what went on. I just ran in there and was right in the middle of it all. I just found them, that's what I seen. I just found them two and called their son and then called the police.”

    During the past 25 years, Oklahoma City police have exhausted hundreds of leads trying to find the Orbachs' killer or killers.

    But somewhere along the line, the investigation took a wrong turn. The evildoers were too careful, too smart or — more likely — too lucky.

    Despite the best efforts of some of the state's top detectives, the Orbach case grew cold.

    ‘A man in the house'
    Christine "Chris” Orbach started the final day of her life by taking her black dog for a walk.

    The 68-year-old woman, who volunteered at the Christian Science center near NW 63 and Western Avenue, paused at one point to chat with a neighbor about flea powder. He later described her as "just as happy as she could be.”

    She had good reason to be happy. After 19 years of marriage, she and Syrl "Sy” Orbach, 87, were building their retirement home in the Arkansas Ozarks. Her husband was finally ready to relax.

    Sy Orbach's success was built on boys' clothes. In 1919, he and two associates started a clothing business and leased the boys' section at a department store. He'd grown the business from there, once telling The Oklahoman that boys should always dress up because "a thing of beauty is a boy forever.”

    In time, he extended the clothing lines to include men's and women's apparel. He also launched stand-alone stores in downtown Oklahoma City and at area shopping centers.

    And a few months before, after working so hard for so long, he'd turned the business over to his son, who declined an interview request for this story.

    Now the Orbachs were selling their $350,000 home in an affluent area near Nichols Hills. The leafy, quiet area was so safe and peaceful that one resident proclaimed it "the most crime-free neighborhood in the city.”

    That was about to change.

    By 10:30 a.m., Chris Orbach was back at the house at 2200 NW 56. Her last known words were spoken to a friend over the telephone.

    "Jan,” she said, "Sy just let a man in the house. Hold on a minute.” A pause. "Jan, I've got to go show him the house. Call me back. We'll be home all day.”

    ‘There was no life left'
    Sometime in the next 30 to 60 minutes, a neighbor watched as a stranger pulled up outside the Orbachs' home in a blue Toyota station wagon that looked very much like the Orbachs' own car.

    The man had a ruddy complexion and a solid build. He seemed to be about 35 to 40 years old, two inches shy of six feet tall and about 180 pounds. His wavy hair was sandy or reddish blond. Wearing a pink shirt and blue pants, he walked toward the house "at a very determined fast pace.”

    The neighbor didn't notice when he left.

    Nothing else seemed amiss until 3 p.m., when Owen's son entered the house and found the bodies.

    There was nothing unusual about a member of the Owen family going into the Orbach home. Owen had worked for the Orbachs for years, maybe decades, and the families were close. The Rollins alarm system at the Orbach house was set up to ring Owen's phone any time it went off, and Owen had remodeled part of the Orbachs' home — including the den where the couple died.

    He raced to that room when his son screamed.

    "I know exactly what all was there because I tried to help them,” Owen said, "and then I seen there was no life left, and that's when I went back out the room again. It was terrible.”

    According to police records and autopsy reports:

    β’ Sy Orbach had been beaten and stabbed, and his throat was cut. His wife was lying face up on her left side. She, too, had been beaten, and her throat was slashed.

    β’ Both were fully clothed but wore no jewelry, not even wristwatches. Each clutched several strands of their own hair, leading investigators to theorize that they'd been forced to lie down on the floor with their hands behind their heads before they were beaten and killed.

    β’ Jewelry had been stolen. Newspaper accounts estimated the value at $50,000, but a police document indicates the jewelry may have been worth three times that much. Missing items included a rare 1878 $3 gold piece, an 18-jewel Patek Phillipe man's watch in 18 karat gold with a yellow gold mesh band and a woman's 14 karat gold Kelbert watch. A small brown-and-white checked bag, which the killers may have used to hold the jewelry, also was taken.

    β’Aside from the den, the Orbachs' home was immaculate. There were no signs of forced entry, and the rooms had not been ransacked. The killers almost certainly wore gloves, and no murder weapon was recovered. Police later described the scene to reporters as "incredibly clean.”

    β’ The couple's station wagon was gone. It was found about 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the Penn Square shopping center, about half a mile from the house. The steering wheel was "blood-soaked,” and blood streaked the driver's door and the rear driver's side seat. No fingerprints were recovered from the car.

    ‘A hideous type crime'
    So what happened inside the house once Chris Orbach hung up the phone?

    Part of the police theory is spelled out in a two-page case summary, provided to The Oklahoman:

    "The victims may have let the suspect(s) into the home on the pretense of buying the home and was taken to a secluded area of the home where the male victim was forced to lie down on the floor, face down, was beaten and the female victim forced to get or take a suspect with her to get the jewelry and also open a floor safe.

    "Possibly the suspect(s) did not find exactly what they were looking for, money, etc., and then beat the female victim. ... The suspect or his possible accomplice ... cut their throats making sure of their death.”

    The killers may have left the house after beating the Orbachs, then returned later to make certain they were dead, said police Capt. Steve McCool. That would explain the witness sighting of the wavy-haired man exiting the Orbachs' car. Police released a sketch of that man to the media. He has never been found.

    By July 9, 1982, the trail had grown cold enough that Crime Stoppers offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the killers. This was unusual. In most cases, Crime Stoppers rewards were only $1,000, and very few other cases, if any, went to Crime Stoppers after only about a week.

    A police spokesman explained Crime Stoppers' early involvement as being "because it's such a hideous-type crime, committed in broad daylight in a residential district.”

    But the money wasn't enough to nab a suspect.

    Almost a year after the deaths, The Oklahoman ran a story headlined: "Police investigators say Orbach slayings case will be solved eventually.”

    A story published on the second anniversary lacked even that hint of optimism. Its headline read: "Two years later: Mystery of Orbach killings still unsolved.” The story quotes a police officer as saying, "We don't consider any case unsolvable.” Twenty-five years later, McCool said, that still holds true.

    Somewhere along the line, someone found out something about the Orbach case. A lover has suspicions. A cellmate has heard a confession. A killer needs to clear his conscience before death. Until the solution is finally revealed, the case will remain cold. But police won't stop looking.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

    Here's an ad from January 1983, about six months after the murders.

    You'll see three locations in OKC (50 Penn, Crossroads (!) and the FNC Arcade) and four in Tulsa. Plus, they had multiple stores at several of those locations. They expanded that rapidly in just a matter of a few years.

    Also, shows you how times have changed for Crossroads. Orbachs had a very nice store there for quite a while.

    For those of you that don't know Orbach's, it was the chief competitor of Harold's for several decades.

  3. Default Re: Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

    I would pray that these horrific crimes will be solved. I recall when this happened, and there was absolutely no trace evidence, which is highly unusual because so much blood was dispersed. Perhaps with new techniques, then the issue may still be solved. I hope so.

    For those with a strong disposition, then you can read the reports from the medical examiner here:



    These are the ACTUAL documents, so be prepared to read highly graphic information as contained therin.

    DO NOT read them if you are sensitive to such!

    My apologies to anyone that might be offended by my post.

    My intent for them to be posted here, is only for the intent of anyone reading them, may come up with a clue that might assist in the resolution of this case.

  4. Default Re: Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

    Not of this case, but a link to the MISSING in OKC

    Welcome to the Oklahoma City Police Department Web-Site

    The Oklahoma City Police Department




    btw: I perused each site and never located any information regarding the Orbach Murders.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

    I've been a true-crime buff for years, at least as far as watching true-crime television programs, especially cold-case shows. It's amazing what can be accomplished despite the passage of time. Let's hope that fate smiles on the investigation, and the Detectives get the one clue that will break it wide open.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

    I think it's pretty obvious this was a professional job by someone that really knew what he was doing.

    I'm sure even if they could figure out who did it, they'd never find him at this point.

  7. Default Re: Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

    No one is that professional, I would hope.

    I read in one of the news reports that the killer(s) returned to the house after the murders, to make sure they were dead. A man was seen and described in the item, and he was driving the Orbach's car. He hurried into their home and was only in there for a little bit, then he hurried out and left in their car.

    And it was reported that the side of the car and inside had massive blood in it.

    He would have gotten quite a lot of blood on him when he beat them nearly to death, but he sure would have gotten massive blood on him when he slit their throats, if they were still living. Arterial spray would have gushed on him.

    They had suffered massive and lethal head wounds but if they were not bleeding badly enough, then the trauma would have made their blood pressure rise to the point that the spray would have nearly soaked him.

    That makes me believe it was not committed by any professional.

    I think that after they were beaten (and more than likely near death) the killer(s) returned and slit their throats to make sure.

    Plus, they parked the bloodied car at a Mall, not far from the scene of the crime.

    It sounds like they were not too organized.

    They may have came to just rob them under falsehood of viewing the property, as I suppose it was for sale and being shown, and something went wrong and they beat them, perhaps so they would tell them where the valuables were.

    Perhaps they even knew them because they took a high risk of being seen and/or caught when they returned to make sure they were dead.

    It is difficult to believe that there were no legible fingerprints or other evidence. Perhaps with the scientific technology we have available now, they stand a good chance at obtaining something.

    I really hope so.

    The killer(s) responsible for these horrible and cowardly acts deserve to be brought to justice.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

    The robbery was just a cover-up for a professional hit.

    They lived in a nice home but it was nothing special. And homes come up for sale all the time in nearby Nichols Hills and nothing like this had ever happened. The odds of this being a random act are extremely small.

    The business was hugely over-extended and the economy had just taken a pretty big downward turn... Penn Square Bank was to fail in just a few more days. They had just transfered ownership to the son a few months earlier.

    And just out of complete coincidence they are brutally murdered? If the person entering the home didn't intend to kill them, why would they go during the day when they knew they'd be home?

    Syl & his wife were tiny and frail... Why would anyone savagely beat them and cut their throats?

    Soon after this, Orbach's (the business) continued it's downward spiral and stores started closing. Before long, the entire business was in ruin and all stores were gone.

    Way too many coincidences especially when you consider the huge percentage of violent crime is committed by people that know the victim.

  9. Default Re: Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

    Oh yeah, I think that the killers knew them or knew the person(s) that hired them to kill them. I just meant that the killers didn't act too professional in the act(s) of the murders.

    They wanted something from them. They were retiring and moving to the Ozarks. So who would have profited from their deaths?

    If they were over-extended in their business and the area and stores were suffering losses, then why hand the store over to their son? Seems like a big burden on him to undertake. Why not just sell it and move on?

    How has the son done? I did retrieve some news articles from the archives of area news stations and have not had the time to peruse all of them, yet, and I have not read anywhere who their next - of - kin (s) were or the son's name.

    These murders were especially brutal and were entirely over-kill. As reported in the news, actually over-kill TWICE. It appears it was personal, which is what the pros consider it when a head/face is generally the targeted area, as well as over-kill.

    I recall the time of the incidences, however, did not have access to all of the information.

    I am reading most of it for the first time.

    Bless these two sweet people. It really burns me up that these two utterly defenseless elderly people were murdered.

    Like, previously mentioned, I perused the website of the OKCPD and the OSBI, FBI and did not find anything regarding to this case, whether cold or not.

    I became highly interested when it was brought to this forum. I saw a small photo of the front of the house (porch/door) but have not located a photo of either of them. I would very much like to see their faces.

    I have always had a sense of intuition, let's just say, that has aided in the location of the missing and other information.

    I can feel for this little couple and want to see their faces.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

    Who benefited? The beneficiaries on their insurance policy and the heirs of their will.

    As far as I know, they only had one son: Robert. And he was very involved in rapidly expanding the business before he took over in full right before his parents were killed. But he had been making all the business decisions for a while.

    I don't have any pictures of Syrl & Christine but they were really tiny, soft-spoken and sweet. He was 87 for crying out loud!

    Robert was a very difficult person to like under any circumstances and seemed to be the polar opposite of his father. The murders happened in '82 and three years later, Robert closed all three stores in Tulsa, claiming he wanted to focus on OKC and that the business was in great shape. Five years later, all the stores in Oklahoma City were closed as well.

  11. Default Re: Orbach Murders: 25 years later and still unsolved

    Leads dry up, but police not giving up on '82 case

    By Ken Raymond
    The Oklahoman
    Sun July 22, 2007
    NewsOK: Leads dry up, but police not giving up on '82 case


    Orbach Slaying Probe Continues
    NewsOK: Orbach Slaying Probe Continues
    Bill Crum
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Sat July 3, 1982
    Leads stacking up in Orbach slaying
    NewsOK: Leads stacking up in Orbach slaying
    Tue July 6, 1982
    Michael Crowden
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Orbach Rites held Saturday
    NewsOK: Orbach Rites held Saturday
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Tue July 6, 1982

    Reward posted in Orbach slayings
    NewsOK: Reward posted in Orbach slayings
    Fri July 9, 1982
    The Oklahoman Archives
    No New Leads In Orbach Case
    NewsOK: No New Leads In Orbach Case
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Wed July 21, 1982

    Orbach Slaying Probe Called Frustrating
    NewsOK: Orbach Slaying Probe Called Frustrating
    Kim Stott
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Sun August 22, 1982

    Detectives Working on Six Other Unsolved Killings in City
    NewsOK: Detectives Working on Six Other Unsolved Killings in City
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Sun August 22, 1982
    While the investigation into the July 1 deaths of Syrl and Christine Orbach continues, other detectives are working on six other unsolved killings that have occurred this year in Oklahoma City.

    Witnesses sought in Orbach slaying
    NewsOK: Witnesses sought in Orbach slaying
    Michael Crowden
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Fri November 5, 1982
    Police Get Orbach Case Information
    NewsOK: Police Get Orbach Case Information
    Kim Stott
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Fri November 5, 1982
    Orbach murder leads fade Probe efforts still fizzling
    NewsOK: Orbach murder leads fade Probe efforts still fizzling
    Michael Crowden
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Tue April 26, 1983
    Police Investigators Say Orbach Slayings Case Will Be Solved Eventually
    NewsOK: Police Investigators Say Orbach Slayings Case Will Be Solved Eventually
    Charles Gaylor
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Sun June 26, 1983

    Enid Link Sought To Orbach Deaths
    NewsOK: Enid Link Sought To Orbach Deaths
    Chris Casteel
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Wed June 19, 1985

    Two Years Later: Mystery of Orbach Killings Still Unsolved
    NewsOK: Two Years Later: Mystery of Orbach Killings Still Unsolved
    Tim O'Herin
    The Oklahoman Archives
    Sun July 1, 1984
    From his office at 50 Penn Place, Robert Orbach can look out over the city where his father began a career in retail clothing 66 years ago and established the reputation of the Orbach name that continues today.

    But in that same city two years ago today, Syrl Orbach, 87, and his second wife, Christine, 68, were slain by a stranger or strangers who took a few valuable possessions and left even fewer clues to the crime.

    Police say the murder case remains open and the investigation continues.

    Orbach, who oversees the clothing store chain as president since the death of his father and stepmother, would prefer not to talk about the tragedy that made newspaper headlines two years ago.

    "I don't want to call attention to myself," said Orbach, breaking a two-year silence regarding the murders on July 1, 1982.

    Orbach said his father came to Oklahoma from Indiana about the time of statehood to join an aunt and uncle here. He lived in Okmulgee and worked in McAlester before settling in Oklahoma City.

    The elder Orbach was gifted in graphics and was a "very talented display person" who could do the lettering for show cards in clothing displays.

    In 1918, he was employed as a window trimmer at the Barth & Meyer Clothing store and later became an advertising and display manager of the store.

    One year later, the Boys' Apparel Co. was formed by Syrl "Sy" Orbach and two associates. It leased space from B&M. The store was purchased by Rothschilds in 1933 and Syrl Orbach stayed with the company until 1975, when he and his son ended their business association and concentrated on their own stores.

    Today, there are several Orbachs stores in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

    The younger Orbach said he began taking over much of the work of the company from his father about 15 years ago. By then, Syrl Orbach was semi-retired, though he was not one to refer to it as such. He still came to work and kept close watch over the company.

    But sometime in late 1981, Orbach decided to officially retire from business and move to the Ozarks, where he and his wife were building a home in an Arkansas resort area.

    He was "in excellent health," and continued to play golf, his son said.

    The senior Orbach also decided to sell his house at 2200 NW 56. It was a fateful decision.

    Robert Orbach and police investigators theorize the couple were killed by someone who used the pretense of seeing the home for a possible purchase to gain entry.

    Mr. and Mrs. Orbach were found with their throats slashed about 3 p.m., July 1, 1982. They also had suffered blows to the head.

    Robbery was the apparent motive. Police reported a fur coat, $50,000 in jewelry and a small amount of cash was missing.

    The family's Toyota station wagon was also taken, but it turned up several hours later in the parking lot of nearby Penn Square Shopping Center.

    "It was very unusual to have a killing as brutal as this was," and to a prominent citizen, said Sgt. Larry Baldwin, a supervisor in Oklahoma City Police Department's Homicide Division.

    There were few clues to the crime, although one witness recalled seeing a man driving the Orbach's vehicle the morning of the murders. A composite drawing was made, but it never led to any suspects.

    Behind his desk chair, Baldwin keeps a huge file on the crime, to which he can quickly turn when new leads come in.

    He said none of the stolen items has ever been found and today there still are few leads to the crime.

    Orbach said the robbery/slaying was "so professional" that he is surprised a similar crime didn't happen again elsewhere.

    Baldwin said crimes involving wealthy people in similar circumstances are about the only leads police can follow.

    "We don't consider any case unsolvable," Baldwin said. There is no statute of limitation for murder.

    Baldwin said there is a "trend toward stranger-crimes," or crimes where the victim and criminal do not know each other.

    Without a link between the killer and the victims, as is apparently the case in the Orbach murders, it is especially difficult to solve the crime.

    Nevertheless, Orbach said he is satisfied with police efforts.

    "I'm convinced the Oklahoma City Police Department worked the thing well" and "with as much talent as could be devoted to it."

    He said it was a "hard, long" investigation and "a lot of money was spent on it."

    "They did as good a job as they could," he said.

    Orbach said he is hopeful the tragedy will be forgotten by others so he and his family can live a normal life.

    "Our roots are here," he said. BIOG: NAME:

    Archive ID: 192566
    3 Tulsa Orbach's Stores To Close at Year's End
    NewsOK: 3 Tulsa Orbach's Stores To Close at Year's End

    Tulsa Froug's, Orbach's Join Retail Exodus
    NewsOK: Tulsa Froug's, Orbach's Join Retail Exodus

    Orbach's Turns Attention to Men's Wear
    NewsOK: Orbach's Turns Attention to Men's Wear

    Downtown Store Closing
    NewsOK: Downtown Store Closing

    Veteran Menswear Salesmen Strike Out on Their Own
    NewsOK: Veteran Menswear Salesmen Strike Out on Their Own


  12. #12

    Default Orbach deaths

    I just realized that the anniversary of the Orbach murders was yesterday. I was five when it happened and lived around the corner on N. Barnes ave.

    I read a "cold-case" article in the Oklahoman about a year back, and haven't seen much else online. Does anyone have any info or memories?

    I got my first suit at the store in 50 Penn, and my cousin worked at the one @ "The Farm" location in Tulsa.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    I worked there all through college...

    Here's a thread on this from a couple of years ago:


  14. #14
    Prunepicker Guest

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    There was an Orbach's in Tulsa at the mall on 41st and S. Yale. Was it

    I don't remember the murder.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    The Orbach murders happened four days prior to the Penn Square Bank collapse, once that happened it kind of became yesterdays news.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    Sue Ellen Orbach was around my age and the daughter of the murdered couple. She married Richard Singer of Enid, who I knew pretty well.

    Here's the ironic kicker. A few years after Sue Ellen and Richard settled in Enid, Richard Singer's brother or uncle was murdered in Enid by a break-in killer.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    Here is the link to the cold case website from The Oklahoman.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    As I stated in the other thread, I have no doubt this was a professional job.

    I think the investigators know that as well.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    Wow, I just learned of this today. So tragic, and yet not solved.

    Does anyone know if the son and daughter were heavily investigated in this matter?
    The robbery seems like a cover up to me, and these poor folks were snuffed.

    Has any cold case television shows worked on this?

  20. #20

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    I remember this well. My brother and I worked on a house on Barnes, just south of the Orbach's place. That was big news at the time, and is kind of a dark memory for me whenever I'm in that neighborhood.

  21. #21

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    Went by the place today. Interesting architectured home. I wanted to knock on the door to ask the people if they knew what had happened there.

  22. #22

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    Quote Originally Posted by Jettmiester View Post
    Went by the place today. Interesting architectured home. I wanted to knock on the door to ask the people if they knew what had happened there.
    More than likely they do. I have friends who lived in that neighborhood then and still do. When new residents buy in that neighborhood the neighbors are quick to let them in on the events and area history. There are several other interesitng stories for that area that will remain untold here.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    Are there any photos of the Orbachs?

  24. #24

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

  25. #25

    Default Re: Orbach deaths

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    I worked there all through college...

    Here's a thread on this from a couple of years ago:

    Pete, I worked there too in like 80 or 81. Layaway and gift wrap upstairs at 50 Penn.

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