Loved Ones Struggle With Unanswered Questions In Double Homicide Of Teen Best Friends
Christopher Bissey fatally shot Jennifer Grider and Mary Orlando as the girls ate dinner together in June 1995.
Two Pennsylvania teenagers were brutally gunned down while enjoying dinner together at a popular local hangout, and nearly 30 years later their families continue to wonder why.
On June 29, 1995, best friends Jennifer Grider, 17, and Mary Orlando, 15, were at a scenic overlook in Bethlehem known as the Lookout.
The high school students were found shot to death around 10 p. m. that evening.
Grider and Orlando’s murders shocked the Lehigh Valley as police searched for whoever committed the coldblooded shootings.
“It created quite the feeling of fear in that area because no one really knew what was going on,” recalled former Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio, who worked on the murder investigation. “There were so many rumors and theories floating around. Some were unbelievable.”
One potential witness claimed to authorities that Grider owed money for cocaine — allegations authorities never found evidence to substantiate and the victim’s family always adamantly denied.
“We never really established any of that,” John Morganelli, the then-district attorney who prosecuted the case, said of the drug rumors. “They were pretty much average high school kids … we came up with nothing, nothing to suggest that they were involved in anything other than normal teenage activities.”
“Those girls were never in trouble,” Grider’s mother, Joan, told The Morning Call, insisting, “My daughter did not use drugs; Mary did not use drugs.”
Six months after the girls’ deaths, police got a lead that tied a suspect, Christopher Bissey, then 18, to the fatal shootings, and he was taken into custody and charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
After Bissey’s arrest, a detective called Grider’s parents to tell them who they believed killed their daughter.
“I said, ‘I don’t know who that is; I don’t know where he came from,” Joan recalled. “He didn’t date Jennifer. He didn’t date Mary. He didn’t hang around with them.”
“He looked like an Average Joe,” Carl Grider said of first seeing his daughter’s murderer. “He looked young and innocent, but I guess he wasn’t.”
Bissey refused to cooperate with police during the investigation and he never took the stand at his trial in November 1996.
Despite prosecutors failing to provide a possible motive for the brutal slayings, a Northampton County jury convicted Bissey of the double homicide, and a judge sentenced the teenager to serve two consecutive life terms behind bars without the possibility of parole.
Though justice was served, the victims’ families continue to grapple with questions concerning the case.
“It bothers me still, every day,” Joan said in a 2016 interview, The Morning Call reported. “Everybody and his brother has a theory, but we still don't know why.”
In an attempt to get answers, Joan said she visited the convicted killer behind bars in 2003 and they spoke for seven hours.
“He never once said he was sorry … he just didn’t care,” she noted. “Everything was denial. He didn’t know the girls. He had no idea what happened. He just lied.”
Mary Orlando’s mother, who is also named Mary, has said she can’t fathom the crime committed against her daughter who had a beautiful smile and everyone liked.
“I still don't understand why anyone would want to hurt her,” she said, adding, “Whatever the reason is, I'll never be satisfied.”
Former D.A. Morganelli, who is now a Northampton County judge, told The Morning Call he had his own theory about the convicted killer: “Christopher Bissey is a sociopath. I don't think he even knows why he did it.”
To learn more about this case, tune into Evil Lives Here: Shadows of Death May 15 at 9/8c. or stream on discovery+.