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Bob Arrotta and his wife love Western art and decided to go to the C.M. Russell Museum's annual art auction on March 15.

In a remarkable coincidence, that same day, at that same auction, a man was arrested for the 37-year-old murder of Arrotta's oldest brother, Jim, and his sister-in-law, Lois.

"We just happened to be there this weekend," Arrotta, who has lived in Bozeman for 22 years, said last week. "We love Western art and wildlife so every other year or so we try to make it up and go through the stuff up there.

"It's kind of interesting that we were there, at the place, just a few hours before the actual arrest," he said.

Police arrested Alan J. Reavley, who was helping with the auction, on two counts of first-degree murder.

Bob Arrotta said he was aware police had reopened the investigation to the case that has remained a mystery for decades.

Even after 37 years, Arrotta said the unsolved murder still haunts him and his family. He is the youngest of 10 children, Jim was his oldest brother.

But of course, the day he attended the auction, he had no idea he was in the same room as the man accused of fatally stabbing his brother.

"Of course, I wouldn't have known the man if I had seen him," he said.

Jim and Lois Arrotta were stabbed early in the morning on Sept. 4, 1964, in the East Side Super Save grocery store in Great Falls where Jim was manager, according to the Associated Press.

The couple was tied up, bludgeoned and repeatedly stabbed in what police believe to be a botched robbery. Only $32 was taken from the store.

Reavley was a suspect at the time because he had recently been fired from the store for stealing $1,135.

"They had the store opened again by noon on the same day," said Bob Arrotta, who was 21 at the time of the murders. "It wasn't handled very professionally. I guess that was the times we were in."

Jim and Lois Arrotta had seven children of their own at the time of their deaths.

The case was reopened by Great Falls Police Lt. Jere Carpenter and Sgt. John Cameron last fall. Tape-recorded conversations with Reavley's high school girlfriend in September 2001 aided in his arrest.

"I certainly do appreciate the effort of the two detectives," Arrotta said. "Those gentlemen have certainly done a lot of work getting back into this.

"Obviously, they've got a pretty good case or they would not have arrested him. I wouldn't be qualified to second guess it. I just assume that they know what they are doing," he said.

Arrotta said he anticipates the case will go to trial sometime in September.

"We just are guardedly excited about seeing some closure and knowing what happened," he said. "And we thoroughly hope that in the process, the gentleman they have arrested right now, that his family doesn't have to suffer. It certainly wasn't their fault."

Reavley, director of the Great Falls Community Food Bank, is being held in the Cascade County jail in lieu of $2 million bail.

Kayley Mendenhall is at

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