Ronald Wilson Reagan Part 76 (1981 Orsini McArthur Murder part1)


No. 6: Wooden goes out with title No. 10

NCAA Championship game, March 31, 1975 — This was the only way to retire. John Wooden made UCLA into a dynasty, leading the Bruins to nine NCAA titles between 1964 and 1973. After a Final Four win against Louisville, and at age 65, he surprisingly announced his retirement during the postgame press conference. Two days later, the Bruins outran Kentucky, 92-85, for his 10th crown. No other coach has more than three.

Picture of Nancy and Ronald Reagan with their children, Ron and Patti.
(Picture from the Ronald Reagan Library)

Ronald Reagan, son Ron, Mrs. Reagan and daughter Patti outside their Pacific Palisades home in California. (1960)

1980 Presidential Debate Reagan v Carter

Governor Reagan, yours is the last word.


Well, my last word is again to say that we were talking about this very simple amendment and women’s rights. And I make it plain again: I am for women’s rights. But I would like to call the attention of the people to the fact that so-called simple amendment could be used by mischievous men to destroy discriminations that properly belong, by law, to women, respecting the physical differences between the two sexes, labor laws that protect them against doing things that would be physically harmful to them. Those could all be challenged by men. And the same would be true with regard to combat service in the military and so forth.

I thought that was the subject we were supposed to be on. But, if we’re talking about how much we think about the working people and so forth, I’m the only fellow that ever ran for this job who was six times president of his own union and still has a lifetime membership in that union.


Japan earthquake: country on brink of massive blackouts

Millions of Japanese people are bracing themselves for massive blackouts as the country’s power system struggles to cope amid the nuclear crisis.

Densely populated Tokyo endured more rolling blackouts Thursday and faces at least six months of power shortages as earthquake 

Densely populated Tokyo endures more blackouts and faces at least six months of power shortages sfter earthquake Photo: AP


Free-lance columnist Rex Nelson is the president of Arkansas’ Independent Colleges and Universities. He’s also the author of the Southern Fried blog at rexnelsonsouthernfried. com.

Rex Nelson wrote in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on April 2, 2011 a great article called “Arkansas Bucket List.” The readers of his blog came up with a list of things you must do at least once in your life to be considered a well-rounded Arkansan. Nelson asked others to add their suggestions at his website. I am going through the list slowly.

1. Drive all the way from Helena to Fayetteville, staying off the interstate highways, in order to get a feel for the state. (That would take a lot of time.)
2. Fish for trout early one morning on the upper White River when the fog is thick. (My grandson who is four rode with me to Memphis the other day and I told him that was the “white river” and he said, “Maybe brown but not white.”)
3. Attend the blues festival in Helena. On the way home, walk into the swamp to see the Louisiana Purchase monument.


Mary Lee Orsini (1947–2003)

On December 22, 1963, when she was sixteen, she married Douglas Sudbury, who was stationed at LRAFB. They moved briefly to Riverside, California. After divorcing, they remarried on July 14, 1966, but divorced again in 1967, the year their daughter was born. After the second divorce, she was living in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) and working as a sales representative for the Arkansas Democrat. In 1971, she married David Raymond May of North Little Rock but left him six months later.

In 1976, she met Ron Orsini, a partner at Central Heating and Air located in the Mabelvale (Pulaski County) area of southwest Little Rock. After the couple’s marriage on September 17, 1976, Orsini, her husband, and her daughter lived in the Indian Hills subdivision of North Little Rock.

On March 13, 1981, a report appeared in the Arkansas Gazette and the Arkansas Democrat stating that Ron Orsini of North Little Rock had been found dead in his bed the previous morning. The cause of death was a gunshot wound to the crown of the head. The case was investigated by the North Little Rock Police Department, who noticed some inconsistencies and curious elements in his wife’s story. They also uncovered financial problems incurred by Orsini, of which her husband had been apparently unaware. As suspicion mounted against her, Orsini enlisted noted Little Rock trial lawyer William Charles (Bill) McArthur to serve as her defense attorney for the grand jury investigation.

Later that year, in the fall of 1981, McArthur became a partner in BJ’s Star Studded Honky Tonk, located at 9515 Interstate 30 in Little Rock, during the height of the “Urban Cowboy” disco craze. The club opened in December 1981. Suspicious fires and other incidents involving the nightclub began. The news media quoted the Pulaski County sheriff as saying that these incidents represented an influx of organized crime into central Arkansas.

Orsini began spending a great deal of time at McArthur’s law office, once organizing a champagne party there for his birthday. Witnesses recall her visiting BJ’s and chatting with McArthur and his wife, Alice.

On May 21, 1982, Alice McArthur suffered cuts and abrasions when a bomb exploded in her car; it had failed to detonate fully. Again, some sources tied it to the nightclub and organized crime, with Orsini making a statement that she and Alice McArthur were on a “hit list.”

On Friday, July 2, 1982, Alice McArthur, in her Pleasant Valley home in west Little Rock, was packing for a holiday weekend trip to Hot Springs (Garland County) with her husband and several other couples. Later testimony indicated that she apparently answered her front door for what appeared to be a deliveryman carrying a bouquet of flowers at about 4:00 p.m. Orsini had requested a late afternoon meeting with Bill McArthur at his office. After determining she had no legal business to discuss, he left for the weekend at about 4:40, arriving home shortly after 5:00. He and a neighbor found his wife on the floor of an upstairs closet, dead of a gunshot wound to the head.

Alice McArthur’s murder generated an ensuing circus of competing law enforcement agencies and breathless media coverage. At one point, Bill McArthur was arrested by Pulaski County sheriff’s officers, marched before news reporters in handcuffs, and later photographed in an orange prison jumpsuit. Evidence against McArthur was presented in two hearings, the second before a grand jury, but he was never indicted.

Orsini was arrested for conspiracy to commit murder, having been implicated in the confession of Eugene “Yankee” Hall, who affirmed that he and Larry Darnell McClendon had killed Alice McArthur. In October 1982, Orsini was convicted of hiring Hall and McClendon to pose as florist deliverymen and kill Alice McArthur. She was again tried in 1983 and convicted of the murder of Ron Orsini, though this conviction was later overturned by the Arkansas Supreme Court. She was one of the first inmates transferred to the McPherson Unit near Newport (Jackson County) when that prison opened in 1998, and she died there of an apparent heart attack on August 11, 2003. Bill McArthur died in Little Rock of natural causes on October 4, 2009.

According to Gene Lyons in his book Widow’s Web, what came to be known as the McArthur case was the most meticulously documented homicide in the history of the Little Rock Police Department. In addition to a torrent of newspaper articles and Lyons’s book, it was also the subject of the book Murder in Little Rock (earlier published under the title Bouquet for Murder) by Jan Meins. A made-for-television filmed dramatization was broadcast during the first season of A&E TV’s City Confidential in 1999, titled “Little Rock: The Politics of Murder.”

There have been various speculations about Orsini’s motives, including mental illness, sociopathic tendencies, imagined romances, money problems, influence of the soap opera–style mentality of the time manifest in such TV shows as Dallas and Dynasty, and addiction to the drama and media spotlight. However, there has been no definitive conclusion to date, despite her confession, shortly before her death, to murdering her husband and being involved in the bombing of Alice McArthur’s car.

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