Just a Random Female

Robbin Brandley’s confessed killer sits on death row. So why don’t her parents consider the case closed?

"She was holding this ring and looked like she was going to pass out," Genelle recalls. "She said this person was in uniform, in camouflage, and Robbin knocked the knife over his left eyebrow. She said the man works as a security guard." After the show, Genelle says the psychic's husband approached her and said his wife would offer her services free of charge in the hope of solving the crime. "I was going to do that," she says. "But then she died not long after the show. She was a big, heavy woman."

By then, the couple had hired a private detective to track down Prehm and confront her about the crime. In 1992, Genelle drove to rural Washington, where Prehm was living with a boyfriend, and convinced her to take a polygraph test in exchange for $10,000.

Wanting to clear her name, Prehm took the test and passed. Genelle believes the test was improperly administered. She provided the Weekly with a videotape of Prehm answering questions about Brandley's murder. In the tape, recorded on June 25, 1992, Prehm denied having any knowledge of the crime and stated that while she may have argued with Brandley a few weeks before her death, she certainly wasn't angry enough to kill anyone. She also claimed that she last saw Brandley at the party and left by herself that night.

Jack and Genelle Reilley hold a portrait of their daughter, murder victim Robbin Brandley. Photo by John GIlhooley.
Jack and Genelle Reilley hold a portrait of their daughter, murder victim Robbin Brandley. Photo by John GIlhooley.

Asked if she had seen anyone suspicious that night, however, Prehm stated that while she was working as an usher, a man with curly hair and glasses wearing an olive-drab hunting jacket had approached her and asked if Robbin Brandley were in the building. He didn't look dressed for the concert.

"I almost asked for his ticket, but I was too busy, and unfortunately, I just turned and pointed her out," Prehm said on the videotape, adding that she told police about the mysterious stranger at the concert, but that they didn't believe her because nobody else had seen anyone matching that description. It probably didn't help her case, Prehm added, that she prefaced her statement to police by mentioning that the mother of one of her friends had also told her she'd seen a similar man in a dream.

"The police saw me twice, and they never wrote it down," Prehm continued. "I don't remember his nose, but I remember his hair and glasses, and he was wearing a dark-green jacket, kind of a backwoods jacket. It was an olive green with long sleeves, like an army jacket."

*     *     *

Three months later, on the evening of Sept. 27, 1992, Jennifer Asbenson, a 19-year-old nursing assistant, had just bought a snack at Palm Canyon Liquor in Palm Springs. She was on her way to work at a home for handicapped children in Desert Hot Springs, several miles away. As she waited for her bus outside the liquor store, a young man in a blue car pulled up to the curb and asked her if she needed a ride.

"No, it's okay," Asbenson replied.

The man smiled. "Are you sure? I'm going to Desert Hot Springs."

Because the driver seemed friendly and didn't care if she accepted his invitation, but mostly because she did need a ride, Asbenson got in the car. For some reason, she took note of his license-plate number, and as they rode together, she kept repeating it to herself. But after several minutes, she figured she was being paranoid. "'Why do I keep memorizing his license plate?'" she wondered. "'This guy is totally nice.' . . . He was just a really friendly guy, and I thought I was lucky to get a ride with such a nice guy."

As the man drove through the desert, he asked Asbenson what she did for a living. She told him she wanted to be an actress. "He asked me if I was interested in pornos," Asbenson later testified. "I said, 'No, that's sick.'" She inquired as to what he did for a living and the man replied that he was a detective. She didn't believe him. She thought it was a little odd that he kept staring out at the desert. Then, halfway through the trip, she got "creeped out" when she told him to make a left turn. He seemed to be ignoring her, but he finally pulled over at the last moment and made the turn.

When the man dropped her off at her job, he asked for her telephone number and invited her to breakfast the next morning. Asbenson, who had a boyfriend, gave him a phony number, hoping to let him down easy. But when she left the building the next morning at 6, she saw the blue car idling down the block. "He just pulled over and rolled the window down and said, 'Good morning,'" she recalled. "And he was nice. I didn't feel threatened at all."

Asbenson accepted his offer for a ride back to Palm Springs. Almost immediately, the driver became angry about the phony telephone number, and Asbenson realized she was in trouble. "He was being persistent, but then all of a sudden, he just flipped out, and he had a knife, and he just held it up to my throat and started screaming at me, calling me a bitch and telling me to shut up." The man pulled over on the side of the road, pushed Asbenson's head into the dashboard and grabbed a ball of twine from under his seat.

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