Parents Push On in Search for Slayer


Jack Reilley figures that nine years and 362 days have passed since the window of opportunity closed on catching his daughter’s killer.

Today will mark a full decade since 23-year-old Robbin Brandley was repeatedly stabbed in the parking lot of Saddleback College, and the crime is just as mysterious now as it was then.

“They say that if police don’t know the killer after 72 hours, they probably never will,” said Reilley, who along with his wife, Genelle Reilley, is using the anniversary to renew a $50,000 reward offer for information leading to the arrest of their daughter’s killer.


“But we will never quit trying to find out who did this to Robbin,” he said Wednesday.

Time has not passed easily for the couple in this real-life murder-mystery.

The years since their daughter’s slaying have been bad dreams, featuring hassles with sheriff’s investigators and tens of thousands of dollars spent on private detectives and psychics. The Reilleys also pushed hard for state legislation, which passed in 1990, requiring more lighting on college campuses.

Genelle Reilley said all their efforts have helped them deal with the indescribable pain of losing Robbin.

“It lets me know that some part of her lives on,” she said. “I really feel that when I die, I’ll be with her again.”

On the night she died, Brandley, a communications major and campus radio station disc jockey who had changed her last name from Reilley for career reasons, was working as an usher at a school concert.

Leaving a post-concert party, she started for the parking lot about 10:30 p.m. and was never again seen alive. She was attacked and bled to death near her car, and no murder weapon was found.

Sheriff’s investigators say the case is still open and active, with a possible witness interviewed last July, but they added that they have had few breaks.



Brandley had no known enemies or angry boyfriends, and no motive has ever been discovered or anyone arrested in connection with her death.

“There has been little forensic evidence or evidence of any other kind,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Ron Wilkerson.

The Reilleys, both 57, say the Sheriff’s Department has been a cause of anguish in the last 10 years, denying them access to information about the case, including the coroner’s report on their daughter’s death.

Wilkerson tells another story, saying the department has offered to sit down with the Reilleys and share information. Case files, including the coroner’s report, are routinely not released while a murder case is remains open, he said.

“Quite the opposite, we know nothing,” said Genelle Reilley. “Nobody has made that kind of offer. I just hope that offer is still good.”

In many ways, the pain and grief of their daughter’s death remains as fresh as the flowers growing around the couple’s Laguna Beach hilltop home.



Genelle Reilley still has nightmares--ugly, vivid dreams of her daughter at the murder scene.

“It makes me feel like my soul was murdered out there that night,” she said, shuddering slightly. “Her death is constantly on my mind. I’ve often thought about how horrible it was for her, how terrified she must have been.”

In the few dreams Jack Reilley remembers, he is hard at work investigating Robbin’s slaying.

“Other people daydream about going to the beach, I dream about solving the mystery,” he said.

Both agree that Robbin’s death could have cost them their minds if not for their work on victims’ rights and public-safety issues.

“You have to put that anger and rage and pain into something better that helps people,” said Genelle Reilley. “It’s the only way to deal with it.”


The couple worked hard on a 1990 state law carried by then-state Sen. Marian Bergeson, now an Orange County supervisor, that required new colleges to install enough lighting to deter violent crime.

They were recently in Sacramento to push for a ban on unsupervised conjugal visits for convicted murderers and rapists.

And where the pain of losing a loved one sometimes drives a stake in the heart of some relationships, the Reilleys say working together on victims’ issues has strengthened their marriage.

“We know other people who couldn’t handle their loss and got divorced,” said Genelle Reilley, who recently celebrated her 36th anniversary with Jack. “It’s brought us closer together.”