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Jury Convicts Man in 1988 Killing of His Estranged Wife


A former Redondo Beach engineer was convicted Wednesday in Torrance Superior Court of murdering his wife more than 13 years ago in the midst of a bitter divorce dispute.

William Terry Bradford, 69, a retired TRW employee, was found guilty of the shooting death of Barbara Joan Bradford, 52, on Sept. 16, 1988. The verdict came after a six-week trial and two days of jury deliberations.

He faces a term of 27 years to life. Sentencing is scheduled for May 29 before Judge James Ideman. Bradford's attorney, Mark Overland, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

After court, Shaun Rickerl, 35, Bradford's daughter, told reporters that until Torrance police and Los Angeles County prosecutors reopened the case in late 2000, she had practically given up hope that the murder would be solved.

About four years ago, Rickerl, one of four Bradford children, said she had concluded that "our father was going to get away with murder."

Rickerl and her then 16-year-old brother found her mother's bullet-riddled body in their home less than 30 minutes after she was shot, said Deputy Dist. Atty. John Lewin, a prosecutor who specializes in cold cases. Rickerl said the case has been especially painful.

"Because the defendant happens to be your father, it's hard to go from suspecting your father committed murder to hearing a jury say he is guilty of this crime," Rickerl said.

Lewin said in an interview that he decided to reopen the investigation after reviewing about 30 old homicide files at the Torrance Police Department.

Bradford was living in La Quinta near Palm Springs when the district attorney's office filed the case in May.

At the time of the killing, Bradford and his wife of 23 years were in the middle of a dispute over a divorce settlement, Lewin said. They had been separated for about five years, and Bradford had fallen behind in alimony and child support payments, he said.

Lewin said Bradford shot his wife because she had garnisheed $40,000 from his share of the proceeds from the impending sale of their home.

He learned about the garnishment the day before she was killed, he said.

Lewin said Bradford shot her twice in the back, once in the neck and two more times after she fell to the floor in her home in an upscale south Torrance neighborhood.

He said Bradford admitted owning a .357 magnum handgun loaded with the same kind of hollow-point, silver-tipped bullets that were found in his wife's body.

One week after her death, Bradford turned himself in but denied any guilt. Bradford told detectives he "felt betrayed and deceived" by his wife, the prosecutor said.

Four days after he was arrested in 1988, prosecutors declined to file charges, saying the evidence against him was insufficient.

Lewin said the evidence he presented was no different from what was available in 1988.

"It was prosecutable 14 years ago," he said. "People just have differences of opinion," he added, referring to prosecutors.

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