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July 31, 2014

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FBI combs blast ruins

Suicide suspected in LV dynamite deaths

Image

Ken Jones / Las Vegas Sun

Investigators can be seen combing through the debrs of the Orbt Inn hotel January 7, 1967. Richard James Paris, a 28-year-old Army deserter, committed suicide by firing a handgun into a pile of dynamite, also killing his wife Christine, John and Lillian Auwaerter from California and newlyweds George and Arnell Brooks from Arizona. Photo by Ken Jones

From the Archives: Orbit Inn Explosion

Las Vegas police officers look at destruction of the Orbt Inn hotel January 7, 1967. Richard James Paris, a 28-year-old Army deserter, committed suicide by firing a handgun into a pile of dynamite, also killing his wife Christine, John and Lillian Auwaerter from California and newlyweds George and Arnell Brooks from Arizona. Photo by Ken Jones Launch slideshow »

An FBI squad joined local police last night probing the dynamite gutted ruins of the Orbit Inn Motel, seeking evidence and a motive to yesterday's blast which killed six persons and injured eight.

The dead, police said, were: R. J. Parish, 28, and his wife Christine, 22, of 5434 Sierra Vista, Hollywood, Calif.; George Brooks, 68, and his new bride Arnell, 57, of King's Ransom, Sedona, Ariz.; and John Auwaerter, 60, and his wife, Lillian, 58, of 7424 El Centro Way, Buena Park, Calif.

Injured in the explosion and admitted to the Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital were: Jim Mahan, 24, of Allegan, Mich. Cuts and bruises, good condition; his wife, Bobbie, 22, cuts and bruises, good; Steve March, 70, of San Pedro, Calif., cuts and bruise, fair; Lewis Palmer, 60, Preston Idaho amputation of left leg, plus cuts fair; and his wife Laura 65 in fair condition with cuts and bruises.

Treated and released were Charles Pearce, 73, of Bishop, Calif., and his wife Essie, 74.

"It definitely was a bomb, no question about it said Dist. Atty. George Franklin, commenting upon the savage explosion which ripped though the $250,000 downtown motel about 1:30 a.m. yesterday. It was an amateur job though," he said. "A professional doesn't use too much of what he needs." Police and a Nellis Air Force Base demolition expert feel that at least 30 sticks of dynamite were used and the device was triggered in the second story room occupied by Mr. and Mrs. R. J. Paris.

Local and Federal agents alike are searching for a motive and consider revenge or a suspicious husband. "It definitely has to be a suicide or homicide," Franklin said. "If we find anyone registered with the wrong wife or husband we'll have our first clue."

Although classified by authorities as an amateur job, the blast did a job on the motel — collapsing floors to the ground and bringing out part of the roof. Across the motel courtyard windows were knocked out and walls fractured by the blast.

Electric service was disrupted in nearby buildings, including the El Cortez Hotel and casino where an employee said, "the blast felt like it moved the building three inches."

Surviving motel occupants wondered about in shock, rapidly slicing their feet to ribbons on slivers of glass and the debris which littered the area.

Deputy coroner Harvey Schnitzer reported the blast force was fantastic — scattering victims in an unbelievable manner. All of the victims were decapitated and one skull was found lying in an adjoining alley — it had been blown through the roof and over the wall. The leg of a woman was found embedded in a wall.

One of the sights greeting arriving police officers and ambulances was found on a brown paper bag — a woman's mud-spattered hand with wedding and engagement rings still on a finger.

While A A A and Mercy Ambulance firms pressed all available units into action, making possible shuttle runs to the hospital, six black plastic pouches remained on scene for a while.

Late yesterday, Berkeley Bunker of Bunker Brothers Mortuary, commented upon the size of the bags now resting on the mortuary's garage floor, as well as a blanket and mattress cover parcel beside them. "The reason for the odd sizes, " Bunker said, "is due to the fact the bodies are all dismembered and decapitated. The two small parcels contain hands, feet and tissue. We have orders to leave the bodies right where they are until the FBI or pathologist arrives."

Schnitzer said an FBI identification team was requested to assist in victim identification and was expected late last night. In the meantime, police impounded all vehicles registered to motel occupants.

Police Lt. E. C. Carlisle reported a .25-caliber pistol was found outside the demolished building and it might have been used to detonate the explosive charge. Ammunition for the pistol was found in a nearby car registered to Paris.

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