Real Name: Sandra Lorena Orellana
Nicknames: No Known Nicknames
Location: Industry, California
Date: November 13, 1996
Details: Twenty-seven-year-old Sandra Orellana was an employee of thirty-three-year-old Robert Lee Salazar; they both worked for Skillmaster, a national employment agency based in Houston, Texas. Sandra was a workers compensation claim specialist and was engaged to be married. Salazar was the general manager of operations and was married with two children. She had accompanied him on a business trip to California. On November 12, 1996, they arrived at the Sheraton Hotel in the city of Industry; they stayed in adjacent hotel rooms. Sometime that night, Sandra inexplicably fell ten stories to her death from her balcony. Her body was found at 6:30am on November 13.
When questioned, Salazar initially told authorities that he had escorted Sandra to her room around midnight, and then went to his room. However, detectives were suspicious when they found some of Salazar's clothing in her room, including his underwear. When confronted, he changed his story, saying that he went to her room and had consensual sex with her. He claimed that while out on the balcony, she put her leg up on the balcony railing, but somehow fell off accidentally. Surprisingly, according to his story, he did not call 911 or notify anyone of the fall. Instead, he went back to his room. Even more incredibly, he acted as if she was still alive. He went to the hotel lobby and "waited" for her. He also left a message on her room's voicemail, asking where she was.
Detectives again did not believe Salazar's story. Sandra's family stated that she was in love with her fiancée, and would not have had sex with Salazar. Their co-workers also did not believe this. However, witnesses at the hotel bar claimed to have seen the two together drinking, holding hands, and kissing. Detectives used a fire-hose dummy to try and re-enact Salazar's story. When the dummy fell off the balcony, it did not land close to where Sandra's body was found. In fact, it would only land in that position when the detectives literally threw the dummy. Also, they discovered that Sandra was only eighteen inches taller than the railing, making it unlikely for her to have fallen off of it accidentally. Despite this and other evidence, they were unable to charge Salazar in Sandra's death.
Suspects: Robert Salazar is the prime suspect in Sandra's death. According to her friends, she was planning to file sexual harassment charges against him shortly before she died. His actions before and following her death, along with his changing stories, have put him under suspicion.
Extra Notes: This segment originally aired on the January 3, 1997 episode of Unsolved Mysteries. Sandra's case was also shown on 48 Hours in 2003.
Results: Unresolved. In January 1997, shortly after the broadcast, Sandra's death was ruled a homicide. An autopsy determined that she had suffered bruises, scratches, and other injuries which were not the result of the fall or hitting the railing.
In March 2001, Salazar was arrested and charged with Sandra's murder. Authorities noted that new DNA evidence and witness statements helped to solidify their case. Key pieces of evidence include: Sandra's blood found on a shirt belonging to Salazar, her blood on her bed sheet, and Salazar's skin cells underneath her fingernails.
Authorities believed that Salazar tried to sexually assault Sandra. They believe he killed her to prevent her from revealing the attack. In October 2002, Salazar went on trial. One month later, however, he was acquitted of the charges. Jurors claimed that there was not enough evidence of a struggle to say it was a homicide. Officially, investigators consider the case closed.
- Woman Having Sex On Balcony Falls, Dies - November 15, 1996
- No charges filed in balcony death - November 17, 1996
- Police look into facts of balcony death - November 20, 1996
- Investigation Intensifies Into Woman's Fatal Fall Case - November 21, 1996
- Case is not closed on boss who said woman fell to death during sex - November 21, 1996
- Woman's Death from Hotel Fall Ruled a Homicide - January 17, 1997
- Houston woman's fall from balcony ruled a homicide - January 18, 1997
- A Deadly Passion - September 7, 2000
- Murder charge for boss in woman's balcony fall - March 3, 2001
- DNA Led to Charges in '96 Case of Fatal Fall - March 13, 2001
- Tape in California balcony death trial shows conflicting accounts - October 22, 2002
- Baytown man's trial continues - October 31, 2002
- Defendant Testifies in Woman’s Fatal Fall From Balcony - October 31, 2002
- Defendant: Mistress' fall from balcony an accident - November 1, 2002
- Defendant in balcony death case admits initial lies to investigators - November 1, 2002
- Prosecutor makes final argument in balcony death case (Page 1) (Page 2) - November 2, 2002
- Texas man found innocent of murder in woman's balcony plunge - November 4, 2002
- Businessman Found Not Guilty in Fatal Fall Off Hotel Balcony - November 6, 2002
- Baytown businessman found innocent of murder in woman's balcony plunge - November 6, 2002
- Mystery in Room 813 - February 10, 2003
- A drunken night, a hotel room, and a murder trial - February 12, 2003
- Room 813, Part 2: The Trial - July 29, 2003
- Sandra Orellana at Find a Grave