John Orr Obituary, Death – In the annals of true crime, there are tales that defy explanation, and the story of John Orr, a former Glendale arson investigator, is one such enigma. It is a narrative that blurs the line between investigator and perpetrator, leaving a trail of destruction and questions in its wake.
During the 1980s, Southern California was plagued by a wave of fires, seemingly sparked by the so-called Pillow Pyro, an arsonist with a penchant for targeting linen shops. It was during this tumultuous time that John Orr, a fellow investigator, earned a reputation among his colleagues for an uncanny ability to predict fire origins, almost as if he possessed a sixth sense. Orr’s method was peculiar yet eerily accurate.
He would arrive at fire scenes, survey the area, stroke his mustache, and, with a precision that baffled others, declare, “I believe the point of origin is… there.” Time and again, he would prove to be right, leaving investigators astounded. One particularly tragic incident that drew attention to Orr occurred on October 10, 1984, when a devastating blaze ravaged Ole’s Home Center hardware store in South Pasadena.
The inferno claimed four lives, including that of a 2-year-old boy. Initially ruled as an accident, Orr adamantly insisted that the fire had been deliberately set, a claim that would prove true as similar fires followed, all ignited with a distinct delay device using cigarettes, matches, and yellow paper.
As investigators began to discern a pattern of fires near arson investigator conferences in Central California, a chilling suspicion arose—could the Pillow Pyro be one of their own? The focus shifted to Orr, an unassuming figure with an uncanny intuition. The turning point came when a fingerprint from a partially burned incendiary device matched Orr’s left ring finger.
It was the moment that shattered the illusion, exposing Orr as the arsonist he had been pursuing all along. In 1992, a jury found Orr guilty of setting fire to three stores in the San Joaquin Valley. Subsequent convictions followed, including the Ole’s tragedy and a blaze in the Glendale hills that consumed over 60 homes.
Astonishingly, Orr was suspected in over 1,000 fires, earning him the dubious title of “probably the most prolific American arsonist of the 20th century.” What motivated Orr to embark on this destructive path remained a mystery. His novel, “Points of Origin,” hinted at a disturbing fascination with fire.
The book depicted a firefighter-turned-arsonist who found arousal in watching flames consume everything in their path. While Orr’s lawyers dismissed the work as fiction, journalist Frank C. Girardot Jr., who conducted jailhouse interviews with Orr for his book “Burned,” concluded that Orr derived immense satisfaction from setting fires and being in control of their destructive force.
Over time, Orr’s supporters faded away, including his own daughter, who came to regard him as a sociopath and manipulator. She cut ties with him in 2004. Yet, another question lingered—what about the victims, like Kim Troidl, who lost her son and mother in the Ole’s hardware store fire?
Recently, Orr’s daughter reached out to Troidl on Facebook, expressing her condolences. Troidl’s response was one of resilience and forgiveness, emphasizing that Orr’s crimes were not for her to apologize for. John Orr remains imprisoned, serving a life sentence without parole, all the while maintaining his innocence.
His refusal to admit guilt keeps the story shrouded in uncertainty, a tactic that, as one observer noted, grants him a semblance of power and control over those who continue to wonder and doubt. The tale of John Orr is a chilling reminder of the darkness that can lurk within the most unexpected places, leaving us with unanswered questions and the haunting specter of a man who may never reveal the truth.