Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killer Andrew Urdiales

The First Known Victim


At approximately 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 18, 1986, a security guard making rounds at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., spotted a figure lying on one of the student parking lots along the campus's western perimeter, according to the Orange County Weekly. It was dark, and at first he thought perhaps it was a mannequin that a student may have left there as a prank—the poorly-lit parking lot made it difficult to tell for sure. At first he simply drove past, but moments later, having second thoughts, he turned around and headed back to the nearly-deserted area where the whitish figure lay.

Getting out of his car, the security guard noticed that the figure was lying on the pavement next to a Chevrolet Citation. As he approached it, however, he saw that it was lying in a pool of blood and suddenly realized that it wasn't a mannequin at all. It was the dead body of a young woman.

Robbin Brandley
Robbin Brandley
Two students on the way to their cars saw the grisly scene as well. They recognized the young woman as that of Robbin Brandley, 23, a communications major who had left a party in the fine-arts building just minutes earlier. There had been a music recital at which Brandley had volunteered as an usher, and the party had immediately followed the recital. Brandley had been wearing a long print dress with flower designs, but it had been pulled up above her stomach, revealing bikini underwear and knee-high stockings. A purse, later determined to be Brandley's, lay on the pavement nearby. The asphalt around her body was wet with her blood.

Detective Michael Stephany of the Orange County Sheriff's Department was among the first law enforcement officials to arrive at the scene. Stephany observed immediately that Brandley had been stabbed numerous times, mostly in her neck, chest and back. He also noted that she had sustained cuts to her hands, which he theorized were defensive wounds. Other than Brandley's body and her blood, there was little evidence: no other DNA, fingerprints, hair, or clothing fibers were found at the crime scene for Stephany and his colleagues to work with. An autopsy would show that Brandley had been stabbed 41 times, but the brutal murder would remain a mystery for the next 11 years.

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