Jurors Monday began deliberating over whether a transient stabbed a homeless woman to death in Palm Springs with deliberate intent to kill, after claiming that she had threatened him on multiple occasions, or whether he was defending himself from what he believed was a legitimate threat to his life.
Verne Raymond Orlop Jr., 54, is charged with first-degree murder and a sentence-enhancing knife-use allegation in the Feb. 21, 2015 death of 48-year- old Denee Salisbury, whose body was found 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.
Her body was found just after 8 p.m. that night. 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.
According to Deputy District Attorney Jacob Silva, 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.
Orlop 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.
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 Monday morning.
Orlop’s attorney, Dennette McIntyre, described Salisbury as “extremely violent” and frequently under the influence. Toxicology tests showed she had a .25 blood alcohol content at the time of her death.
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 and sway jurors toward 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.”
–City News Service
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