A 55-year-old transient convicted of murder for stabbing a homeless woman in Palm Springs two years ago was sentenced to 56 years to life Friday.
Verne Raymond Orlop Jr., was convicted by a jury in August for killing 48-year-old Denee Salisbury on Feb. 21, 2015 after claiming that she was threatening him and other members of the Palm Springs homeless community.
Her 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 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 during closing arguments Monday morning. 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, she 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 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.''
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