Recently I’ve exchanged letters with John Orr, a man described as the most prolific arsonist of the 20th Century. He is a guest of the state, serving a life sentence at Mule Creek State Prison after being convicted of killing four people in a 1984 fire in South Pasadena and setting a blaze that destroyed upwards of 50 homes in Glendale in 1991.
What’s interesting about the case is that this arsonist is a former Glendale fire captain. At the time of his arrest he was considered among the nation’s top experts on arson.
The letter exchange is part of a larger project – I’m working with Orr’s daughter Lori on a book about how his crimes not only victimized those who lost loved ones and property, but members of Orr’s own family. And, when you think about it, many times family members of violent criminals are often overlooked collateral damage. To this day, nearly 20 years after he was first convicted of the arson murders, Orr maintains his innocence.
Take the family of Stephen Paddock. They are the living representatives of an evil man who callously took 59 lives, injured over 500 people in an Oct. 1, shooting rampage that targeted innocent concert goers in Las Vegas.
Paddock, a onetime resident of Los Angeles who attended John Francis Polytechnic School in Sun Valley, seems to have given his family no indication of how sick and demented he was and after taking the coward’s way out, left them to explain the unimaginable.
“My heart is destroyed, for all these people, but I can’t tell you why Steve did what he did,” Eric Paddock said in an interview last week.
He said he couldn’t understand what drove his brother to fire on thousands of concertgoers through two windows on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel.
How could it be?
After all, Paddock, a retired accountant and avid gambler, was “disturbed and dangerous,” Joseph Lombardo, the Las Vegas sheriff, said at a news briefing three nights after the incident.
Then Lombardo answered the question.
“Stephen Paddock is a man who spent decades acquiring weapons and ammo and living a secret life, much of which will never be fully understood,” the sheriff said.
Let’s hope that in the coming weeks we gain some understanding of what happened and our electeds act, where they can, to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
If you have any questions, story tips or suggestions, feel free to call. You can call our main office at 626-247-2883. Frank C. Girardot is the CEO of Pegasus Communications and publisher of The Hub. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org