Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Main Line Murders

Three Counts of Murder

Bradfield was visiting some friends when he was arrested for the murder of Susan Reinert, Karen Reinert and Michael Reinert on April 6, 1983. On his first night back in jail, a fellow inmate is said to have taunted, "Braaaaadfield, you killed my schoolteacher! Braaaaaadfield, you killed those little babies!"

His murder trial began on October 15, 1983. Presiding over it was Judge Isaac J. Garb, a short man in his mid-50s, given to smoking a corncob pipe, well respected as a jurist and known for running a tight ship. Deputy Attorney General Richard Guida, slender, with a large ego, who loved cross-examination the way a lion loves eating antelope, prosecuted. Joshua Lock was Bill Bradfield's court-appointed defender. Young, handsome, and very intelligent, he was a private attorney who took the case after Bradfield declared bankruptcy. He had a strong liking for his client and defended him with genuine zeal.

The jury heard about Susan's will and her insurance policies. They heard testimony from Bradfield's friends about his supposed concern that the awful Dr. Smith was plotting to kill her and his resistance to calling the police about it. They learned of fibers on Susan's body that matched those in the Smith home, a hair found in Smith's home that microscopically matched Susan's hair, and the 79th USARCOM comb found in the tire well under her corpse. As Schwartz-Nobel wrote, "Guida made no attempt to link Bradfield directly to the hair, comb, or fiber finds. Instead, the testimony was used to suggest that William Bradfield had participated in a conspiracy with Smith."

Neighbors testified to seeing Bradfield's VW parked in front of Susan's house all night.

Florence Reinert, former mother-in-law to Susan and grandmother to Karen and Michael, testified. "She was a great mother and they were real good kids," she told the court. "Michael told us they were going to get a van when they went to Europe with Bill. I asked them who Bill was and Michael said, 'Bill Bradfield, my mother's friend.'"

"Is he here today?" Guida asked.

Florence was crying quietly as she replied, "Right over there. He's the man with the beard."

Jack Holtz testified to the exhaustive but ultimately fruitless efforts to locate the children.

Proctor Nowell, a prisoner who made friends with Bradfield, testified that the latter had told him that Susan and the kids had been killed "because [Bradfield] was in a financial bind." He quoted Bradfield as saying it "wasn't meant for the kids, only for Susan" but he "couldn't leave a stone unturned." Nowell was vulnerable on cross-examination and Lock brought out his extensive criminal record and his own threats against his wife. Nowell would eventually be arrested for killing his own girlfriend.

Christopher Pappas
Christopher Pappas

When Chris Pappas testified, Guida was able to introduce a piece of paper in which Bill Bradfield had written a number of incriminating phrases in his own hand including "fingerprints on money," "I was there, during insurance man's visit," "perjury at St. David's," and "lured and killed kids, taped her."

On the day Pappas took the stand, the court had to be recessed because Bradfield was sick.

However, the next day, a pale and nervous Bradfield took the witness stand. Apparently both he and his attorney decided that the only chance they had to save him was to have the jury hear his denials from his own lips.

Hearing him was a problem, however, for the "inspiring" schoolteacher's voice was uncharacteristically subdued. Lock took him through his relationship with Dr. Smith and Bradfield told how he had pretended to be a close friend of the principal in the hopes that he could curb the man's homicidal tendencies. "I was spending more and more time with Smith by Christmas of 1978. I was also spending more and more time trying to be near Sue Reinert . . . to see if she was O.K. I was at the point of taking Dr. Smith seriously enough that I checked on Susan Reinert almost constantly."

"Why didn't you go to the police at this point?" Lock asked.

"Vince and I especially, and Chris to a lesser extent, talked about what we should do . . . We . . . didn't know whether we really believed it . . . number two, we didn't . . . think we knew enough to be able to trust the police in light of what Dr. Smith said. . . . The more seriously we took him, the more afraid we became to do anything. We were prisoners of our own fear."

Lock then showed Bradfield the piece of paper with various disjointed phrases including "lured and killed kids, taped her."

An uncomfortable Bradfield cleared his throat and said it was "a note that I made at Mr. Curran's, my attorney's, concerning various things that I had heard from Vince, heard from Chris, or that John Curran told me he had heard. . . . we would go over them, [Curran] would say, 'This is a concern.'" Bradfield said "lured and killed kids, taped her" was a reference to "the theory that the authorities were then working on."

"Did you kill Mrs. Reinert?" Lock asked.

"No, I did not," Bradfield firmly replied.

He then went on to state that he never planned to kill Reinert and did not kill her children or plan to.

On cross-examination, Guida mocked Bradfield's supposed efforts to protect Reinert. "If you were so interested in protecting her . . . why did you go away in the time periods which you described as the critical ones, when this man would kill? Why did you go away on those weekends — Christmas, Thanksgiving, and you tried Memorial Day?"

"I couldn't park in front of Susan Reinert's house during the whole holiday weekend without simply moving in," he replied.

He also brought out Bradfield's astonishing assertion that he had never once warned Reinert against Smith.

"Now you indicated on your direct testimony that you didn't want to tell the police because they were corrupt, is that right?" Guida reminded the defendant.

"Correct," Bradfield replied, "and involved with Dr. Smith."

"That would have been the Upper Merion Township police?"

"No, not just them."

"Oh, how many police departments did he control?" Guida asked.

"Well," Bradfield began, "he mentioned that he knew someone who was involved with the West Chester police. He mentioned several people in the Philadelphia police."

"Isn't it a fact, Mr. Bradfield," the prosecutor asked incredulously, "that the Upper Merion Township police arrested Jay C. Smith for some stolen-property violations, and some other things, isn't that right?"

"Correct."

"If they went so far as to arrest this man with all his power, why wouldn't he be in danger if you went to the police department and told them about these threats?"

Bradfield replied tensely, "They were potentially connected to him."

Guida brought out that Smith had never claimed to be connected to either the Pennsylvania State Police or the FBI and that Bradfield had never contacted either of those organizations.

Then Guida went to the subject of the silencer. Why would a silencer be needed for a gun Bradfield wanted to protect himself from Smith?

"I wanted to do more than simply disable him," Bradfield weakly claimed. "I wanted after that to be able to call Chris and for Chris and me to decide where we were going to take Smith." He said that he and Chris had a plan to murder Smith if necessary to protect another.

"So you testify for him as an alibi witness and contemplate actual murder in order to stop him from committing the crime, is that right."

"That's correct," Bradfield replied.

In summing up for the defense, Lock argued, "There is no proof presented that Bradfield carried on an affair with Reinert. There is no objective evidence of murder plans." Why would a man as intelligent as Bradfield confess to a man like Nowell? Why would he have himself named as beneficiary on insurance policies and then murder the woman? His client was simply too smart to commit such a stupid crime.

Prosecutor Guida delivered a powerful and emotional summation. He focused on the fact that the children's remains were never found while Susan's were deliberately displayed to the public. "What were the children worth to the defendant as opposed to the rest of the six billion people in the world? Who benefits from this scenario? Why weren't the three of them in the car? Or in the alternative, if you're talking about Smith, why isn't Susan Reinert in the same place with her children who have never been found?

"Whoever did this, whoever helped in the commission of this crime, was savvy enough to make sure that those children's bodies would never be found, but he took the awful chance of driving a dead body all the way to Harrisburg and parking it in a public parking lot, and walked around behind that car and opened the hatch for the world to see the exposed body of Susan Reinert . . .

"Do you know why the body was exposed? Because this body is worth to one person in the world $7,000 a pound, and it {had} to be found during the alibi weekend so that he can say to the world, 'I couldn't possibly have done it.'

"No one else benefits from this scenario. No one would have taken this chance unless they did it for Bill Bradfield, because nobody collects on insurance unless they have a body. Perhaps that's the final irony. The big mistake was when he killed the children because I couldn't make this argument to you if it was Susan Reinert alone.

"But they panicked. The children weren't worth anything. A real measure of irony, a real measure of justice is that the children's lives were perhaps not sacrificed in vain because their absence at this scene speaks so loudly of the defendant's guilt that I submit to you it is impossible to ignore. No one else benefits in this terrible chance of exposing the body except the defendant.

"Today is October 28, 1983. Five years ago today Susan Reinert's mother died and the plan to kill her began. And today the conspiracy ends and we are going to leave this to you."

Bradfield was convicted on three counts of conspiracy to commit murder on October 28, 1983. The judge sentenced Bradfield to three life sentences to be served consecutively.

 

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