Arkansas Business' 25 Cases of Mystery & Mayhem (25th Anniversary)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

12. Ron Orsini
Ron Orsini, owner of a North Little Rock heating and air-conditioning business, had been dead for three years when Arkansas Business launched in 1984. But it wasn't until 2003 that his widow, Mary "Lee" Orsini, confessed to his murder, just a couple of weeks before she died in prison of a heart attack.

Lee Orsini's conviction for Ron's murder had been overturned, but she was serving life without parole for hiring two blundering hit men to commit the infinitely more sensational murder of Alice McArthur of Little Rock, wife of her defense attorney, Bill McArthur.

There are still a lot of people who suspect McArthur was involved in his wife's murder in July 1982, but a grand jury refused to indict him. After all, no evidence beyond the word of a murderess ever connected him to a crime that created a media circus the likes of which Arkansas has not seen since.

13. Carter Elliott
Conway police think they know who committed the execution-style murders of business owner Carter Elliott, 49, and his 26-year-old employee, Timmy Wayne Robertson, on May 18, 2002. They just haven't been able to prove their theory.

The bodies of Elliott, a founder of chemical manufacturer Detco Industries Inc., and Robertson were found in Elliott's home at 6 Shady Valley the next day. It was Conway's first double murder in memory, and the last until two students were gunned down on the University of Central Arkansas campus in 2008.

The murder of a well-liked businessman was destined to be unsolved until, a month later, a Salt Lake City woman was rescued from the Nevada home of her estranged husband, Richard Conte, an emergency room physician. As it happened, Conte's wife was also the ex-wife of Carter Elliott.

Conte was convicted of drugging and kidnapping Lark Gathright-Elliott, whom he kept chained to a bed at his home near Carson City for two days before family members persuaded him to release her. After his arrest, police found an online map to Carter Elliott's house on Conte's computer and a list of Conway police scanner frequencies.

Conte was denied parole in Nevada last year and won't be eligible for another hearing until 2011.

14.­ Melanie Steele
In April 2000, a headline in Arkansas Business asked, "Who Is Melanie Steele and Why Is She Buying This Stuff?"

Between February 2000 and July 2001, a North Little Rock woman completely unknown in money circles paid more than $4 million in cash for 12 houses in Pulaski County. She dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars on Cadillacs, Mercedes and Range Rovers. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that she left tips of $10,000 each for three servers at a Little Rock restaurant. She struck a deal – never consummated – to buy the Continental Building in downtown Little Rock for more than $5 million in cash, and she opened two short-lived businesses in the River Market District.

An interior designer called her the best thing that ever happened to the home-decorating business in Little Rock, although neighbors cringed at the sphinxes she installed in front of a $1 million home in Chenal Valley.

Steele, a 1980 graduate of Ole Main High School, never granted an interview to Arkansas Business, but she told the Democrat-Gazette that she had been romantically involved with bookstore mogul Louis Borders and that he gave her stock in Webvan, a dot-com company he founded in San Francisco. She said she cashed in to the tune of $14 million before Webvan crashed on the information superhighway.



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