INDIO – A 54-year-old transient was convicted of murder today for stabbing a homeless woman in Palm Springs two years ago.
Jurors reached the verdict on their second day of deliberations in the trial of Verne Raymond Orlop Jr., who is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 13 for killing 48-year-old Denee Salisbury on Feb. 21, 2015.
The victim’s body was found about 8 that night in a lot northwest of East Mesquite Road and South Palm Canyon Drive. She had been stabbed once in the chest and once in the throat. A police search of the area that lasted into the following morning turned up Orlop, who was found near the scene of the killing with two knives and a garrote.
After officers briefly mentioned that they were investigating a stabbing, Orlop admitted to killing Salisbury and provided details that only the killer would know, including the number and locations of the stab wounds she suffered, according to Deputy District Attorney Jacob Silva.
Orlop had called a Palm Springs police dispatcher about two weeks prior to Salisbury’s death and said that if police did not take her off the streets, he would kill her, the prosecutor said. Silva said Orlop was “fixated” on ridding himself of Salisbury, who he said had threatened and robbed him, his girlfriend and other members of the city’s homeless community.
“After the 911 call didn’t accomplish his goal, he took matters into his own hands,” Silva told jurors in his closing argument on Monday.
Orlop’s attorney, Dennette McIntyre, described Salisbury as “extremely violent” and frequently under the influence. Toxicology tests showed she had a 0.25 blood-alcohol content at the time of her death, the defense attorney said.
Both attorneys agreed that Salisbury and Orlop each suffered from mental illnesses and addiction.
McIntyre said her client had valid reasons to be afraid for his safety, citing past assaults on Orlop with knives and rocks, robberies and verbal threats.
“All these contributed to his legitimate fear of Ms. Salisbury,” said McIntyre, who described Orlop’s 911 call as more of a plea for help then a threat toward Salisbury.
Silva alleged that Orlop changed his story at trial with “convenient” new facts to try to sway jurors toward the lesser charge of manslaughter. Orlop testified that Salisbury reached into a bag for what he thought might be a screwdriver or a knife, and also said that he intended to stab her in the leg, but his knees buckled, causing him to fall and inadvertently plunge the knife
into her chest.
But McIntyre said Orlop was always upfront with police in saying that he felt threatened by Salisbury.
“This isn’t a plot to kill,” McIntyre said. “This is a man who is afraid.”
Orlop was previously convicted of making criminal threats stemming from a 2011 altercation with a man at the Palm Canyon Roadhouse in Palm Springs. Orlop told a bar patron that he would kill him, then thrusted a knife at the man several times, according to a prosecutor’s trial brief. The victim shielded himself with a barstool and was able to flee after the knife fell out of
Orlop pleaded guilty to the charge in 2012 and was sentenced to three years probation. He was still on probation for that incident at the time of Salisbury’s death.