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Convict Denies Killing Teens in '78

San Bernardino County detectives 'got nothing on me,' says a Wisconsin inmate who's serving time for murdering a woman 25 years ago.

June 19, 2003|Louis Sahagun and Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writers

Even as San Bernardino County detectives were trying to connect him to a high-desert killing spree that allegedly took place a quarter-century ago, a Wisconsin inmate on Wednesday insisted "They got nothing on me" and indicated he may fight extradition proceedings.

In a telephone interview, William Floyd Zamastil, 51, expressed surprise and anger that county prosecutors this week charged him with the 1978 bludgeoning deaths of Canoga Park teenage siblings Jacqueline and Malcolm Bradshaw.

The pair were hitchhiking home from Las Vegas and disappeared in the Mojave Desert shortly after calling their mother to say they were getting a ride home from a "nice guy." A month later, their partially clothed, decomposing bodies were discovered just west of Interstate 15 south of Barstow.

Authorities had few clues to follow until a recent review of the so-called cold case revealed new evidence and several new leads, they said. Now they are trying to determine whether Zamastil was involved in five other murder cases in California and Arizona in the late 1970s.

"I don't know how those [Bradshaw] kids were killed or anything else," said Zamastil, who is serving a life term at Waupun State Prison for killing 23-year-old Mary Johnson in Sauk City, Wis., in late 1978.

Zamastil admits killing Johnson shortly after he left his wife and daughter and moved from Barstow to his home state of Wisconsin. Johnson was abducted at gunpoint and taken to August Derleth Park in Sauk City, where she was raped and then shot in the head with a .45-caliber pistol, authorities said.

"Our deputies nailed him," recalled former Sauk County Sheriff Alan B. Shanks after they discovered Zamastil's wallet at the murder scene near the Wisconsin River. "It fell out of his pants."

But Zamastil insisted he is not involved in any of the other unsolved homicide cases now under investigation.

Authorities, he said, "want a fall guy to close the book on cases from years and years ago. I understand that. But don't use me as a fall guy unless you got something, which you'll never have."

"I'm a betting man," he added, "and I'll bet they [authorities] are going to eat their words once we get in court."

The revived investigation into the Bradshaw slayings is based on evidence including tape-recorded interviews with Zamastil in 1978 -- and an alleged telephone confession in 1982 -- in which he allegedly bragged of killing at least half a dozen people.

The interviews were conducted by Ed Borski, now-retired chief of detectives for the Sauk County, Wis., Sheriff's Department. In an interview Wednesday, Borski said Zamastil behaved in a cocky manner during their jailhouse conversations in 1978 and 1979.

"I was surprised he committed so many crimes, but I tried to keep a poker face as he was telling me, and not say anything that would discourage him from talking," Borski recalled.

He did occasionally withhold real specific information -- times, dates, names," he said, "but the information was concrete enough for me to alert the other jurisdictions that we had Zamastil and that I received information of possible homicides."

Following those teletyped and telephoned tips to authorities across the Southwest, J. Allen Chapin, a special agent with the Arizona Drug Control District of Kingman, Ariz., organized a summit in Las Vegas with involved law enforcement agencies on May 1, 1979. During that meeting, Borski played his tape-recorded interviews with Zamastil.

Later, Chapin wrote a letter to Borski that concluded: "This may be the start of something big."

But Zamastil never became a suspect in the Bradshaw slayings until 1982, when in a telephone conversation with a sheriff's detective he confessed to killing the teenagers, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

In 1984, the San Bernardino County district attorney's office filed a murder charge against Zamastil in connection with the death of Jacqueline Bradshaw. Yet no effort was made to extradite him. Zamastil said prosectors dropped the case because of a lack of evidence.

The case languished until April, when a sheriff's homicide team led by Sgt. Robert Dean took another look at the information in the case file. Since then, the Bradshaws' mother and other relatives have positively identified evidence collected in 1978 including her son's brown and yellow suitcase and her daughter's silver-and-turquoise ring.

On Monday, Zamastil was charged with two counts of murder, two counts of second-degree robbery and three special-circumstance allegations including multiple murder, murder with a prior conviction of murder, and murder committed during the commission of robbery.

If convicted, Zamastil could face the death penalty.

Borski said he wasn't surprised to learn that Zamastil had denied making the alleged confessions.

"He's comfortable where he is, he's up for parole [for the 11th time] in 2005, and he's facing the death penalty out there" in San Bernardino, he said. "What would you expect he'd say?"

But Zamastil wouldn't budge.

"If there is any new evidence," he said, "I'll bet you $500 cash it ain't none of mine."

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