Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Main Line Murders

Just Plain Joanne

Joanne Aitken made a far more self-confident witness than Chris Pappas. She was not cooperating with the police. She visited Bradfield regularly in prison and was still loyal to him.

A petite woman in her mid-30s, she looked nothing like the classic femme fatale. She strode to the witness stand on flat, sensible shoes, wearing a black skirt, pale blouse and small black necktie. She wore neither jewelry nor make-up. Her straight, chestnut-colored hair flowed to her shoulders.

"I'm going to refer you to the spring of 1979," Guida said. "Did you visit the city of Philadelphia?"

"I was down twice," she replied. Her voice was clipped and cold.

"Did you see Mr. Bradfield on that first occasion?"

"Yes."

"When was the second visit?"

"I came down after the end of the school term that semester," she said. "Sometime at the end of May."

"How did you register at the hotel on that occasion?"

"Mr. and Mrs. Bradfield."

"And who made the reservation for that particular room?"

"Mr. Bradfield did."

"When did you leave the hotel?"

"It was on a Tuesday morning. I'm sure you could fill me in on the date."

"Was this when you drove to New Mexico with Mr. Bradfield's car to meet him there in Santa Fe?"

"Yes, it was."

"Did he ever mention to you a man by the name of Jay C. Smith?" Guida asked.

"Yes, I knew the name."

"Did he ever mention any threats that Mr. Smith may have made against Susan Reinert?"

"No."

"The testimony up until this time has been that Mr. Bradfield was in Cape May for the entire weekend. What were you doing over the weekend when Mr. Bradfield was away?"

"I was looking at architecture in Philadelphia."

"Did you do anything with anybody or do anything in terms of registering to verify your whereabouts for that weekend?"

"Aside from the hotel, I can't think of anything offhand."

"Were you in any way upset that you had to drive alone across the country while your friend, Mr. Bradfield, flew?" the prosecutor inquired.

"Well, it would have been nicer to have him in the car but I wasn't worried about the drive across the country alone."

Guida asked a couple of questions to establish that she was still having a romance with Bradfield, then let Costopoulos cross-examine.

Costopoulos asked, "When did you first learn that Bradfield was having a romantic relationship with Susan Reinert?"

"I don't believe he was having a romantic relationship with Susan Reinert."

"When did you find out that he was having a romantic relationship with Sue Myers?"

"Since I've known him, he hasn't had a romantic relationship with Sue Myers."

"All right, just so I'm clear," Costopoulos said, "we're not having a definition problem about a romantic relationship, are we?"

"I don't think so."

Aitken denied being told anything by Bradfield concerning wills or life insurance. He also brought out that she could not recall where she was on June 22, 1979. Then he questioned her about the 2,000 mile drive to Santa Fe.

"So when [Bradfield] told you to drive two thousand miles in his car with his belongings, you really didn't even question that, did you?"

"Question it in what way?"

"Would you consider your act of driving that car 2,000 miles an act of obedience?"

"I consider it an act of common sense."

"Would you consider it an act of loyalty?" Costopoulos pressed.

"No. We had to have the belongings and the car taken to New Mexico."

He brought out that investigators had been interested in a typewriter that Bradfield had left with her and, after consulting her attorney, allowed them to remove the ribbon and element or ball from it.

Costopoulos asked, "Did you and Bill Bradfield develop a code system for communications?"

"No," she replied.

The attorney felt sure he had caught her in a lie. Authorities had in their possession coded exchanges she and Bradfield had written to each other. She kept denying knowing anything about codes even after Costopoulos reminded her that she was under oath and could be charged with perjury.

He again brought out that she was unable to account for her whereabouts on the murder weekend. When he ended cross, he felt he had at least pointed to someone besides his client who might have helped Bradfield do his dirty work. Indeed, Wambaugh wrote that one juror asked if they had power to convict her of a crime!

To refute Aitken's testimony, Costopoulos called FBI cryptologist Jacquelyn Tachner to the stand. She decoded and read a letter from Bradfield that the attorney was certain the jury would conclude had been meant for Aitken.

Experts on both sides battled over hair and fiber evidence. Guida contended that a single brown hair recovered from Smith's basement came from Susan's head. Costopoulos put on experts who said it could have been that of any brunette. Fibers found on Susan's body were also likely to have come from Smith's home, prosecution witnesses said while defense witnesses countered that they could come from any red polyester surface.

White-haired and ruggedly built Raymond Martray, police officer turned criminal turned snitch, sauntered to the stand. His perjury conviction had been overturned and he was able to testify to what Smith had allegedly told him. Martray told the tense courtroom that Smith had twice confessed the killings.

Martray's presence on the stand meant that the tapes and films of conversations he had with Smith could be played. On virtually every one, Smith denied killing the Reinerts. However, the two discussed escape plans. Smith suggested ways his supposed friend could "help." "I guess if they were to arrest me with Reinert," Smith said, "the best thing for you to do is to go kill Bradfield and make him disappear. . . . Nobody should know where his body is but you. . . . Now, do you see the advantage of that?"

Charles Montione appeared for the prosecution to tell of Smith's discussing escape plans, "smirking" when Montione asked if he'd murdered the Reinerts, and wanting a nude photograph of a woman in a fetal position. In his shades, goatee and pinkie ring, he looked every inch the stereotypical gangster.

A small pin with a "P" had been found under the front seat of Smith's car. The prosecution believed that Karen Reinert had gotten the pin on a class field trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum and had been wearing it on the day she went to meet her killers. Karen Reinert's former classmates testified to the field trip to the museum years ago and that pins with "Ps" on them had been given out. A special sadness filled the room because these young people, in high school now, were a reminder of what 11-year-old Karen and 10-year-old Michael might have become if they had been allowed to grow up.

In his summation, Costopoulos reminded the jurors of the sand on Susan's feet as well as a note on which "Cape May" was written indicating that she might have been on the shore. He hit hard at the absence of a strong motive. Bradfield had been an alibi witness at Smith's robbery trial so, he said, "According to the commonwealth's theory, Bradfield committed perjury for him. Well, that's Bradfield's problem, not Jay Smith's." A man gives an alibi testimony that has not even done any good and "in payment Jay Smith savagely and brutally assassinates a woman and two children on the weekend he's to report for sentencing? . . . Why in God's name would Jay Smith want the body to be left outside the Host Inn? In the very city within a mile or so of where he was to appear for sentencing?"

Martray's testimony ought not to be worth much, Costopoulos argued. The man became more vague when authorities tried to pin him down to specific statements. Moreover, Smith repeatedly denied killing anyone on the tapes. Bradfield was "the biggest liar that ever walked the face of this earth." They have a comb and pin "clean" of fingerprints pointing to a "professional" job not a principal who dabbled in theft.

Guida indicated that Bradfield's alibi testimony was the "first quid pro quo" for the murder. Smith must have expected that Bradfield would divide up the insurance money with him. Martray's testimony was damning. There was no reason for him to perjure himself. "What did Martray get?" Guida asked. "Nothing. Martray served his time. He got out on schedule." He ended by talking about the "P" pin and how "the force that looks after little children left something for us. Not so Karen could find her way back home, but to tell us where she went and who sent her there."

Jay Smith was convicted of three counts of murder by the next day. Soon after that, he was sentenced to death. He showed almost no emotion as the sentence was pronounced. Costopoulos said in Principal Suspect that Smith leaned over and told the attorney who had lost his case, "You flunk."

 

 

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