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Slaying Suspect Had Vowed, 'My Days of Crime Are Over' : Crime: Roger Brady served time for bank robbery. Now he is believed to have killed two people, including a Manhattan Beach police officer.

August 22, 1994|GORDON DILLOW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When he was awaiting sentencing for bank robberies in 1989, the man known to FBI agents as the Clark Kent Bandit sent the judge in the case an apology and a promise.

"I would just like to say how sorry I am. . . ," Roger Hoan Brady, now 28, wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real. "My days of crime are over."

But if what authorities in Los Angeles County and Oregon allege is true, Brady's words proved to be a terrible lie.

Brady, a child of two cultures, the son of a respected but troubled Vietnamese and American family who friends say squandered three years of college in an addiction to crack cocaine, is suspected of murdering two people.

One was 29-year-old Manhattan Beach Police Officer Martin Ganz, a popular, about-to-be-married cop shot down in December during a routine traffic stop while his 13-year-old nephew looked on. The other was Catalina Correa, a 55-year-old Portland, Ore., registered nurse who was slain Aug. 3 in what Oregon police believe was a coldblooded "witness elimination" killing.

Brady has not been charged with Ganz's murder; he is being held without bail in Oregon in the Correa case. He has not entered a plea and his attorney declined to comment on either case.

People who knew Brady now wonder if there was any way he might have wound up differently. Other people wonder why Brady was walking the streets after serving less than three years in prison for bank robbery.

"If he (Brady) had gotten the sentence he should have gotten the first time, Martin and that poor lady would be alive today," said Pamela Ham, 29, Ganz's fiancee. "This shouldn't have happened."

Brady was born in 1965 in Hong Kong, friends say, but until age 5 he lived in Vietnam with his parents. His father is Philip O. Brady, 55, a former NBC television correspondent there. His mother, Diep N. Brady, 52, comes from a wealthy Vietnamese family.

In the mid-1970s the Bradys and their two children, Roger and older sister Linda, moved into a house on Observation Drive in the Fernwood section of Topanga Canyon, now a kind of millionaires-and-bohemians neighborhood featuring winding roads, spectacular views and hillside homes ranging from lavish to rustic. Phil Brady worked for a variety of TV news organizations, including NBC, CNN and KTTV Channel 11. Phil and Diep Brady declined to be interviewed for this article.

Family friends describe Roger Brady as a bright but extremely quiet, reclusive child who never made serious trouble--his worst childhood offense was shooting at birds with a pellet gun.

"That child was always a loner," said Fernwood neighbor Marguerite Cook. "The only people he seemed to feel at home with were his Vietnamese relatives. He was of mixed race, and I think it must have been a problem for him."

Roger Brady also became a young man with a drug problem.

"For a good measure of his life, (Roger) has been quite unhappy and dissatisfied with himself," Phil Brady wrote of his son in a 1989 letter to Judge Real.

"He is Amerasian and . . . from his earliest years in Vietnam onward, he was subject to a good deal of racial discrimination. . . . He has always been inhibited from making friends. . . . He sought to combat the deep personal pain he felt . . . first by sniffing glue, later smoking marijuana and finally ingesting cocaine."

In the same letter, Phil Brady described himself as an "overbearing," frequently absent father who himself "had bouts with alcohol and drugs."

According to college records, Roger Brady attended Santa Monica College and Loyola-Marymount University for a total of three years. He also worked at a variety of sales jobs.

But family friends say Brady fell in with a bad crowd and started smoking crack cocaine--a strongly addictive drug that one drug-counseling expert says "makes you hostile, aggressive and feel no fear."

One afternoon in October, 1989, neighbors saw Brady speeding up the street in his yellow Volkswagen, with cops in a patrol car and a helicopter hot on his tail.

According to court documents, the bank robberies had started in August, when a young Asian man wearing horn-rimmed glasses as a disguise walked into American Savings in Santa Monica, pointed a handgun at a teller and robbed him of $680. Because of the glasses, FBI agents who viewed surveillance photographs dubbed him the Clark Kent Bandit after Superman's alter ego, the bespectacled newspaperman Clark Kent.

Five more bank robberies followed, a week or two apart, in Los Angeles, Calabasas, Woodland Hills, Tarzana and Agoura Hills: The total take was about $8,600. But at the Home Federal Savings in Agoura Hills the robbed teller got a description of the getaway car; a sheriff's deputy spotted it on the Ventura Freeway and chased Brady to his home, where he was arrested with the bank's $2,053 in his pocket. An unloaded pellet pistol was found in his car.

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