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Teen's Killer Given 58 Years

Skinhead who helped slay a 17-year-old girl in a Ventura motel in 1998 is sentenced to what is, effectively, life in prison.

May 28, 2003|Tracy Wilson | Times Staff Writer

A skinhead gang member was ordered Tuesday to serve the equivalent of a life prison sentence for holding down a struggling teenage girl five years ago while a second skinhead slit her throat in a Ventura motel room.

Michael Bridgeford, 26, must serve 58 years in state prison before he is eligible for parole, under the terms of a plea agreement reached last month during his trial.

Bridgeford halted the proceedings on the fourth day of testimony and against the advice of his attorney pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for his role in the October 1998 slaying. He also admitted to a gang allegation and agreed to waive his right to appeal.

In turn, Ventura County prosecutors dropped two special circumstance allegations that if proved at trial would have mandated a life term without possibility of parole.

On Tuesday, Bridgeford offered no explanation for his guilty plea nor words of remorse to the family of slain teenager Nichole Hendrix of Ventura.

Shelly Holland, Hendrix's mother, read a statement in court and clutched a small silver-and-glass vial containing her daughter's ashes.

"You have no idea what you have done to all of us," Holland told Bridgeford.

She described how she frantically searched in roadside ditches and morgues for her 17-year-old daughter, whose skeletal remains were found in the mountains above Ojai six months after Hendrix called from the City Center Motel in Ventura to say she would be home soon.

Moments after Hendrix placed that call, according to court testimony, skinhead David Ziesmer decided to kill her after expressing concern that she would tell police that he, Bridgeford and gang associate Bridget Callahan, a friend of Hendrix's, were using the motel room as a base to sell stolen goods.

Bridgeford later told police that he held Hendrix in the bathroom as Ziesmer cut her throat and stabbed her. He further confessed to helping dispose of the body.

"I hate you for what you have done," Holland told him Tuesday. "I hope that every night you remember what you have done and pay for the rest of your life."

The mandatory punishment for first-degree murder is 25 years to life in prison, which in Bridgeford's case was doubled because he has a prior felony conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. Superior Court Judge Vincent J. O'Neill Jr. added eight more years because the crime was gang-related and a serious felony.

"The court indicated that it agreed with the victim's family that this was an extremely selfish and brutal crime," Deputy Dist. Atty. Kevin Drescher said after the hearing. Bridgeford's attorney could not be reached for comment.

Bridgeford, Ziesmer and Callahan were all indicted for first-degree murder in August 2000. Callahan, the first to stand trial, was convicted of first-degree murder last year but was subsequently granted a new trial. Ziesmer is expected to stand trial before the end of the year.

Bridgeford's plea agreement does not require that he testify against Ziesmer, 30, or Callahan, 31, though he could be called as a witness.

"I think it was a good day for justice," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Haney, a second prosecutor on the case. "Michael Bridgeford deserves to spend every day of his natural life in prison."

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