Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Main Line Murders

Theft By Deception

William Bradfield in cuffs (AP/Wide World)
William Bradfield in
cuffs (AP/Wide World)

The lies Bradfield had sworn to meant that the state now had enough evidence to bring charges against him — not for murder but for theft by deception of the money she had withdrawn for the bogus investment. Although her death would not be the issue in this trial, the investigators believed this fraud was germane to the killing. Holtz said, "Bradfield was running out of time. On July 15, Susan Reinert's phony 'six-month certificate' would have come due. . . . Susan was expecting marriage. The pressure on Bill Bradfield was building. He either had to kill her, marry her, or break up with her and return the $25,000."

Wendy Zeigler was arrested for she had hidden her part in hiding the $25,000 in a safety-deposit box and She had also taken taking the money out of it on the day Susan and her children disappeared. Most investigators didn't believe Zeigler knowingly conspired in theft. However, she had so far refused to cooperate with the police. Her testimony was badly needed and the real purpose of arresting was to throw a scare into her so that she would give evidence against her mentor.

It worked. The ploy was probably aided by a brazen move on Bradfield's part. Just three days before his theft trial was to begin, he filed suit to collect on Reinert's life insurance policies.

Zeigler offered to testify and was granted immunity.

Judge Robert Wright presided over the trial for theft by deception. He reminded the jury that that was all they were trying. "Susan Reinert's death has nothing to do with this case," he said.

Defense attorney John Paul Curran told the jury that the prosecution wanted them to believe that "because Mr. Bradfield had saved some money over a period of years that he has got to be guilty."

Prosecutors first called bank representatives who told of Reinert's efforts to withdraw $25,000 at one time for a supposed investment and her settling for pulling her funds out in increments.

Chris Pappas testified about how he and Bradfield had wiped fingerprints off cash totaling more than $25,000. "Mr. Bradfield held on to it for a period of about a week to ten days, and then he mentioned he was worried about having it in his apartment. He asked me if I would hold on to the money. I did so." He kept it in his home until Bradfield decided it would be better to put it in a safety-deposit box. Pappas opened a safety-deposit box in a bank close to his home and put the cash there.

Later, Pappas testified that Bradfield told him he had asked Zeigler to take the money out but put $300 back so the box wouldn't be suspiciously empty.

Susan Myers testified to the financial difficulties of their store, shoring up the district attorney's contention that it was unlikely Bradfield had simply saved the cash.

Zeigler testified to her role in the financial finaglings. She told how she had been given several thousand dollars in cash that he put into envelopes. Then he had given her a key to a bank safety deposit box. She took out cash from that box. The next day she had phoned Bradfield, who was then in New Mexico, about Reinert's death. Then he instructed her to put $300 back in the box.

Perhaps the saddest witness was Bill Bradfield's elderly mother, Nona. She had a strong physical resemblance to her son, especially in her intense blue eyes. She testified to gifting her son money over the years, attempting to support the defense argument that he could have saved the cash. On cross-examination, prosecutor Edward Weiss pointed out that the checks were loans that Bradfield had repaid. Nona allowed that he had repaid some but was vague as to how much.

At one point, Weiss asked, "You still love him very much?"

"Yes, I do," Nona Bradfield replied.

"You would do anything for him?"

Nona was alert to the implication. "No," she replied. "I wouldn't do anything. I wouldn't tell an untruth for him."

On the advice of his attorney Bradfield never testified.

The jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before convicting Bradfield on August 3, 1981. On December 22, he was sentenced to up to two years in jail.

In the meantime, the world lost one of the investigators primarily responsible for bringing Bradfield to justice. Joe VanNort, 57, was on the pistol range trying to make his shooting qualifications when he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Bradfield was released from prison on January 28, 1983, when Joanne Aitken posted his bail.

 

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