Just a Random Female

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

In 1991, Prehm's twin, Melanie, was brutally murdered in a Dana Point motel room. Although the police determined she'd been killed by an ex-boyfriend, Prehm says that shortly before Genelle Reilley came to her home and demanded she take a polygraph test, someone sent her a death threat. The message, sent with no return address, was assembled with letters cut out of magazines and newspapers and contained just five words. The first two—"Robbin" and "Melanie"—were crossed out. Beneath those words were "Valerie" and "You're Next."

Robbin Brandley's murder caused Prehm to experience severe depression and alcoholism. She is currently unemployed. "[Genelle] hired a private investigator and followed me for six years," she says. "At a time when I should have been getting jobs, I wasn't because she was placing reasonable doubt."

Echoing her videotaped polygraph statement in 1992—five years before Urdiales was arrested—Prehm still insists that, while the man doesn't match the description of Andrew Urdiales, a mysterious stranger did in fact approach her at the piano concert, asking about Brandley. "When Robbin and I were seating people, some guy tapped me on the shoulder," she says. "He had dark curly hair and thick glasses and an olive-green hunting jacket. It didn't match [Urdiales'] description, so I guess it's insignificant."

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.

She vigorously denies playing any role in Brandley's murder, even as a witness. "I didn't leave the party with her," she says. "I wish I did."

Although Jack Reilley testified in the penalty phase of Urdiales' first trial, both he and Genelle refused to do so the second time around. They have cut off all contact with the Orange County Sheriff's Department and the DA's office. They believe their telephones have been tapped, that someone has repeatedly broken into their home and that these events have something to do with their daughter's murder 21 years ago.

"Our home has been broken into," Genelle says. "And guess what they're taking: hairbrushes, frequently worn clothing. Things with DNA are being stolen out of our house, and that freaks me out. [Jack] has a nice camera. Why didn't they take that?"

A decade after Urdiales confessed to murdering their daughter, the Reilleys still believe that while Urdiales may have been present at the crime scene, he didn't act alone. Because Brandley was the only victim who wasn't a prostitute and who wasn't shot with a gun, they're still haunted with doubts about his culpability.

"The question to us is, why was Robbin murdered one way and all the others another way?" Jack asks. "For all these other victims, he used a gun. There's no passion in a gun. How could a total stranger come up and stab her 40 times? You have to have a lot of anger."

Genelle, for her part, is convinced someone hired Urdiales to rob their daughter and didn't intend for him to murder her, only scare her into leaving the campus. "Brad Gates came to our house and told us this was robbery gone wrong," she says. "If you want money, you aren't going to go to a community college at 10 o'clock at night and maybe there's a rich student walking around. It's so stupid. It doesn't make any sense at all. And it's not the way it happened."


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