[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jul 27 04:35:16 UTC 2006
Face to face with an alleged serial killer----California suspect talked to
reporter about wanting to die
The way his prosecutor recalls it, William Richard Bradford literally
scared jurors into giving him the death penalty 18 years ago.
"He was the scariest defendant I ever prosecuted," said David Conn, a Los
Angeles lawyer who won Bradford's conviction for the 1984 murders of a
young woman and a 15-year-old neighbor.
"We knew all along there were more" victims, added Conn. "It was one case
I knew I couldn't afford to lose. I had to convict this guy or he'd go out
and kill more people."
Even Bradford hinted at other victims after he fired his lawyers and gave
his own closing argument:
"Think of how many you don't even know about," he told jurors.
Nearly 2 decades later, police in Los Angeles, California, are working to
tie Bradford to unsolved missing persons and murder cases dating back to
Earlier this week, homicide detectives released about 50 pictures of women
found years ago among his possessions. They want to know who -- and where
-- some of these women are. (Who are these women?)
Charles Lindner, one of the lawyers who defended Bradford during the
trial, said he had no comment.
Bradford's secrets almost died with him during the summer of 1998 when he
came within five days of execution. He dropped his appeals, said he wanted
to die and then changed his mind.
Face to face
As a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, I met with Bradford at San
Quentin State Prison in August 1998. I wanted to know how a man could give
up on life, even one spent behind bars.
"I am tired of it," he said between rants about the legal system and an
almost obsessive fixation on the minute details of his case.
"What gets to me is the not knowing. The waiting," he told me.
We met in a prison visiting room surrounded by bars and unbreakable glass.
Bradford backed up to a slot in the door where a guard unlocked his
handcuffs. I noticed the tattoos on his arms. They were of women. He told
me three of them were his former wives.
We sat down at a sticky wooden table, joined by his lawyer at the time --
a man Bradford retained to speed his trip to the death chamber.
Bradford was unshackled, and I was allowed to bring in a pen and a legal
pad. During one particularly uncomfortable moment, Bradford talked angrily
about a knife police found during a search of his car, denying it was a
He looked me in the eye, made a stabbing motion, and stated, "I could do
more damage to you right now with this pen." I returned his gaze and said,
As I later wrote, his manner was more joking than menacing but the point
was not lost.
Death row poet
Bradford told me he'd spent hours getting ready for the visit. It appeared
as if he had put black shoe polish in his hair -- cut in a flattop -- to
cover the gray. He carefully pressed his prison-issue jeans, smoothing
them over and over with spit and soap doing the job of starch.
I dressed down, well aware that police and prosecutors believed Bradford
was a serial killer of women. I wore no makeup, and glasses instead of
contact lenses. I hadn't slept the night before the visit, and my stomach
Because he was next in line for the execution chamber, Bradford was able
to use the biggest visiting room. It had a window looking out onto a
verdant carpet of lawn and tidy beds of red and white impatiens.
Bradford said he hadn't seen grass in nine years. His pupils shrunk to the
size of pinpricks as he stared out. "I don't know what grass is anymore,"
he told me. "I don't know what dirt is. It's stuff like that."
He didn't bring it up, but when asked, Bradford insisted he was innocent
of the crimes that brought him to death row. He also denied he was a
He was creepy, but he wrote poetry, and agreed to share some of his poems
about awaiting death. This one was typical:
"Many nights I have dreamed of death
Greeting me with welcome comfort/
Tempered with a searing seduction/
Within these dreams I have discovered a
Serene, extreme place
Which dissolves the last drop of fear ..."
How he was caught
Later, as I researched the details of his case I learned about the
detective work that put Bill Bradford on death row, and the unanswered
questions about 8 other women whose paths might have crossed his.
Bradford was convicted and sentenced to die for strangling Shari Miller, a
21-year-old barmaid he met at a joint called the Meet Market, and his
15-year-old neighbor, Tracey Campbell. He lured both women to a remote
camp site in the desert north of Los Angeles by promising to help them
build modeling portfolios.
Both slayings took place during the 1st 2 weeks of July 1984. Miller's
body turned up first, as Jane Doe No. 60, in an alley near Hollywood.
The corpse was missing some of the flesh on her calf and abdomen, Conn
recalled. Bradford, who was awaiting trial on a rape charge, came under
police scrutiny after Campbell, his neighbor, disappeared.
Police searched Bradford's apartment and found Miller's photo in his
collection of women in modeling poses. A detective noticed that the
woman's tattoos corresponded to the flesh that had been cut from Jane Doe
No. 60. Dental records confirmed the identification.
In the picture, Miller was posed against a seal-shaped rock formation, and
detectives scoured the desert for it, Conn said. When they found it, they
also found Campbell's body, the face covered by a blouse that once had
belonged to Miller, he recalled.
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