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tv   Dateline Extra  MSNBC  December 26, 2020 10:00pm-11:00pm PST

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i caught something out of the corner of my eye. it was my mom. she was laying on the ground. i went over expecting her to get up or to say something. i put my hand on her shoulder. i kind of turned her. and i could see blood everywhere. >> reporter: their family always made the best of bad times. >> my mom always looked for the good in everything. >> reporter: but no one could fix this. >> an autopsy showed a total of five shots. >> she didn't deserve to die that way. >> reporter: detectives had a suspect but not much of a case.
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>> i was told, unless they can find the proverbial smoking gun, they will not take this case to trial. >> this case did not have a lot. >> everything just kind of, like, went cold case. >> reporter: blow off the dust. fan the ashes. and even an ice-cold case can heat up again. >> when i read the file, my response was, oh, my gosh. how's this guy walking around? how is he not in custody? >> reporter: some worried answering that question could cost this d.a. his life. >> they tell me that he is making plans to murder you and your family. >> this is a guy who is on a mission. >> reporter: he killed once. would he kill again? when will he stop being dangerous to you? >> when he's dead. >> reporter: on a southern bank, tucked away in a corner of this little cemetery is the final
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resting place of a woman called joan. barbara joan lockwood. she wasn't a famous woman, joan, wasn't rich or celebrated. she lived a quiet life in a quiet place. and was buried here more than three decades ago. but oh, if ghosts could rise from their graves, if joan could speak to us now, what questions could she answer? what advice for this man, this tough, aggressive prosecutor who now fears for his life -- >> this man is a threat to me. he's a threat, more importantly, to my family. >> reporter: in the annals of criminal justice, some cases refuse to lie down and die. they fester. >> here we are now, and all that's happened -- i hate to say this, but i think we have to take this seriously. >> reporter: yes, but it begins with her. joan. she lived when she lived 1,000 miles south from that cemetery, a few miles from the beach in
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l.a. in a suburb called torrence. this is joan's only daughter, shawn. >> people described her as the most caring person they ever met. >> reporter: they were three boys. >> my mom loved her kids. we were first and foremost most important to her. >> reporter: whole neighborhood knew that. >> neighbors loved my mom. they'll flat out say, we didn't even know your dad. >> reporter: maybe that was partly because of bill bradford's job. he worked as an aerospace engineer. high security, top clearance. top of the top if you're an engineer. his reputation at work, did you know much of that?
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>> i knew he was good at what he did, but he was always very secretive about it. >> reporter: you just don't talk about it. >> you just don't talk about it. >> reporter: in fact, bill bradford didn't talk much about anything to anybody, even his own family. >> it was very much, here's my role. i work, i come home, i eat dinner. then he went to his bedroom. >> reporter: just to be alone? >> to work on his stamp collection. >> reporter: exacting, organized, introverted. joan's polar opposite. eventually that disconnect took its toll, bill moved out, joan moved on, filed for divorce. the kids grew up, moved away. in the fall of 1988, joan sold the house on sharon lane. >> my mom was trying to finish up the sale and the move from torrance to start her life over again. >> reporter: it was a friday
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evening. joan was packing, getting ready. sean and a younger brother told her, we're coming over. it was just getting dark as they arrived. >> we opened up the door, went in. calling for her. nothing. went downstairs where we expected to see her. her purse was still on the counter. but there was no sign of her. about that time, my brother and i separated, and he went tout see maybe she's in the dwrgarag maybe she's in the backyard. as i went through the front living room, i caught something out of the corner of my eye. it was my mom. and she was laying on the ground and i could see blood, everywhere. >> reporter: in a panic, sean called 911 and then called her brother brett. >> she says mom's been hurt. she's got a hole in her neck.
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she was frantic. >> reporter: then the police and paramedics arrived. cordoned off where they lived. >> i could see numerous bullet holes in the back of her neck. >> reporter: keith mason was a detective. >> in all my years i saw people shot in homicide. but never this many times. >> reporter: this was an execution. >> definitely. >> reporter: what sean had seen, her mother on the floor, was so confusing. now she saw nothing because they kept her away. >> one of the paramedics, i looked at him and said, will she be okay? >> reporter: you thought she was still alive? >> i wasn't processing. he finally looked at me and shook his head no. that's when i realized she was dead. >> reporter: did she see who was coming? did she know life was over? >> they ended up taking the body out. someone had taken a carpet
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cleaner to clean up the blood, and basically my last memory is a carpet cleaner of my mom's blood, which she didn't deserve to die that way. >> reporter: sweet kindhearted joan bradford was 52. who did it? why? next to her body was a clue. >> i saw a bullet lying on the floor by her foot from a .38-caliber or .357 handgun. they both fire the same bullet. >> when the detective asked me if i knew anybody who owned a gun, my initial response was no. my brother turned around and nodded and looked at me and said, dad has one. and i stopped and went, you're right. >> reporter: coming up -- >> we did find a box in his bedroom that was supposed to contain a smith and wesson, but
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it was empty. >> reporter: and a peak inside that failed marriage. >> at one point when i was 16, my dad looked me in the face and said, life's a -- and then you mary one. the real honey you love... plus, the powerful cough relief you need. mind if i root through your trash? new robitussin honey severe. strong relief for your severe symptoms. strong relief ♪ may your holidays glow bright and all your dreams take flight.
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>> reporter: it looked like a mob hit. whoever murdered joan bradford clearly wanted to -- >> it was brutal. it was closeup. it was a very vengeful type of shooting. >> reporter: there was no sign of a break-in. her purse was untouched. no one in the neighborhood saw anything. so detectives turned their investigation to joan's inner circle. they asked her children about their mother, their father, and the marriage. shawn didn't hold back. >> it wasn't a good marriage. >> reporter: how long have you known that? >> i probably ignored it and didn't know any different as a
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young child. it was obvious when i was a teenager. i would start hearing more. i also understood that the way they lived together they were more like roommates, not as husband and wife. they never hugged, they never kissed, they rarely spoke. >> reporter: when they did speak, bill was controlling, condescending. >> at one point when i was 16, my father looked me in the eye and said, life's a bitch and then you marry one. >> my parents got into a fight, then he pushed her down. her head hit a rocking chair and shattered it. i mean, that's what i grew up in. >> i came home one evening and was going up to my bedroom and i overheard them fighting and my mom said, do you want to file the papers, or you do want me to? >> reporter: what was that like to you? >> i think i stormed in and pretty much yelled at both of
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them at that point. i'm sure it was along the lines of, why are you doing this? and pretty much left. and went up to my room. a few minutes later, my father walked into the room. >> reporter: what did he say? >> he turned around and said he wished he hadn't heard it the way i did, but yes, they hadn't been happy for a long time. i had asked how long, and he pretty much said, well, if i had gotten a divorce when i wanted one, you wouldn't be alive today. >> reporter: when they finally separated, well, the divorce was nasty. >> my father refused child support, refused spousal support. everything he did was to extend the divorce. >> reporter: it took five years to get divorced. as a part of the settlement, bill was ordered to pay alimony and child support. but he did not make the payments as required. joan and her attorney were able
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to garnish all that unpaid support from bill's share of the house proceeds. >> the total amount that was garnished was $40,000. it really wasn't that much. >> reporter: but it bothered him. >> because she won. >> to lose $40,000, he lost control. my father does in the like losing control of anything. >> reporter: bill never saw it coming. suddenly he was almost $40,000 poorer. and the day after bradford had all that money garnished, his ex wife was dead. so the cops went looking for bradford. the problem was, he seemed to disappear. the detective went back to the headquarters. inserted the name bill bradford
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into his data base, and -- >> he did, in fact own a model 56 smith and wesson handgun .357 magnum. >> reporter: which happened to fire the bullets found at the crime scene. detective mason went back to the apartment. there was no sign of him, but -- >> we did find a box in his bedroom that was supposed to contain a smith and wesson, but it was empty. >> reporter: saturday passed. still no sign of bill bradford. police everyone put up posters, hoping for leads. then own sunday, two days after the murder -- >> he came into the police department. >> reporter: well, well, well. >> myself and another detective asked him if he was aware of the fact that his ex-wife was dead. >> i'm sorry to see her dead, but, um, we never had a very good relationship. >> this guy sat there and looked at me like i'm looking at you. you are a cold calculated guy,
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cold, nonchalantly, like, who cares? >> reporter: bradford confirm what his children said that he was very upset to lose that $40,000 so much so he left his apartment for almost who whole days. >> i went to the redondo pier. >> you spent the night at the pier? >> i spent all the time at the peer from then until this morning at 6:00. >> reporter: what was he doing in his car at the peer? >> he said he wanted to be alone. i said, you live alone. he said i didn't want to talk to people. i just wanted to to be alone. >> reporter: alone at redondo beach pier for nearly two days? the police asked him about his .357 magnum. joan had been shot with hollow-point bullets. bradford admitted he once bought ammo like that. but as for the gun itself? >> i put my stuff in storage. i have been unable locate it.
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>> where do you think you left it? >> i haven't the slightest idea. >> did it strike you odd this fellow who's so well organized would misplace a gun? >> struck me odd. i knew right away he didn't misplace it, the type of fella he was. >> reporter: but bradford did have an alibi, a parking stub. sure enough, he entered to peer parking lot the day of the murder, so he said he could not have killed joan. unless -- the defense put together a time line. joan answered a phone call at 7:00 p.m., but by 7:15 when shawn arrived, she's dead. >> we figure that's the time line, 7:00, 7:15. >> reporter: pretty narrow. >> right. >> reporter: could bill have shot her and made his way to the
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pier is this they made the drive. eight minutes. it all fits. >> one of the defense said, your father's a suspect. there was no one who could hate my mom so much to want her dead except my father. >> reporter: so just days after interviewing bill bradford, the defense made their move. >> i arrested him. ain't no way in the world i'm going let this guy go. >> reporter: you have to be a dope not to think he did it. >> there was a ton of circumstantial evidence. all leading to him. >> reporter: murder solved. case closed, right? oh, no. it was just getting started. coming up -- >> he spent a number of months looking over my shoulder. >> reporter: a family living in fear. with good reason. >> i was afraid that someone was after me. >> reporte >> reporter: someone? >> my father. >> reporter: when "the threat" continues. eat" continues. - oh. - what's going on?
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there... it's up there. oh, boy. hey joshie... wrinkles send the wrong message. help prevent them before they start with downy wrinkleguard. hey! bud. hey, pop pop! so you won't get caught with wrinkles again. [woman laughs] ♪ on the third day of croodsmas my neighbor gave to me ♪ ♪ three.♪. dun, dun, duns. ♪ 2 shrieking girls ♪ and a... whoa, peanut toe. ♪ in a pack of croodaceous families ♪ go to >> reporter: september 1988. hot and hazy in la.
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beach weather. but bill bradford wasn't at the beach anymore. no view from a jail cell. and while he waited in custody, detective keith mason went over to see the d.a. where he described his case and waited for the go-ahead to charge bradford with murder for killing his ex-wife. didn't quite work out that way. >> the head d.a. right away said, do you have the gun? i said, no, we don't have the gun. he said, do you have anybody who could put him at the house at the time of the homicide? i said no. he says, i don't think we're going to do anything with this case. >> reporter: uh-oh. >> i was mad. i was upset. i knew we just let a murderer out the door. i nigh all a jury had to do was hear the circumstances of the case. there's nobo way anybody could
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think anybody but he did this >> reporter: so bill bradford went home, went back to work at trw, but his children weren't celebrating. in fact they feared their father and worried they just might be his next victims. >> i spent a number of months looking over my shoulder wondering who was following me. i can remember cars following me at various times and just kind of randomly driving places, trying to figure out what was going on, to lose who was tailing me. >> reporter: bret said he too was followed. >> i remember there were times i would be driving home from work and i'd get off at my exit and i'd have this suspicion about someone who got off at the exit at the same time, so i'd take detour around my house instead of going directly to it. >> reporter: so he installed a home security system, started sleeping with the lights on. >> i was jumpy. i would walk into my apartment and i would actually search
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it -- underneath the kitchen sink, all my closets, i would look under my bed. >> reporter: why? >> because i was afraid that someone was after me. >> reporter: someone? >> my father. my father murdered my mother, and i don't know why he did it. so the next question is, would he murder me? >> reporter: the late '80s was a busy time for l.a. homicide detectives. murder rates were headed for their all time peak around then. so detective mason, no choice really, moved on. a year passed, then two. the bradford case got buried. >> i would sit around and wonder, oh, you know, i'm going to grab that bradford case out. i'm going read that again. maybe there's something i missed. maybe there's something i didn't do. maybe there's something i could do. >> reporter: but all those somethings led to a bunch of nothings, not one new lead.
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mason stayed in close contact with shaun, who by this time was engaged to be married. her father wasn't on the guest list, but shaun was worried he'd show up at her wedding. >> we actually had plain clothes cops that were armed at our wedding. >> reporter: you were that nervous? >> yes. he killed once. my belief was my father killed my mom. he's not welcome. i believe he did this. this isn't safe. >> reporter: and she felt nothing but relief when her father missed the wedding. his only daughter's wedding. but he was around, bold as brass. >> i would go out to a big place, there he'd be. he'd be walking around. >> reporter: wow. >> and i would think right away, you know, you're free, you're free, but i hope not for long. i hope not for long. >> reporter: but it was long. very long. the joan bradford case was ice
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cold. the '80s turned to the 90s, and then the millenium. bill bradford remained free, celebrating the new year, the new millenium like everybody else. and then a few months later -- >> i finally retired, and there was no new evidence, everything just kind of, like, went cold case. >> reporter: what feeling goes with having to retire with that one case you just didn't close? >> i'd done everything i thought i could do. i only had one case. so i left and went on. >> reporter: by then bill bradford retired, too, eventually moved to the desert, and by the look of it, had plenty of money. and one day, together, his children faced the facts. >> bret and i were sitting down, and he looked at me and said, so it's real -- our father's
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getting away with murder. >> at that point it was like, okay, you got to -- there was nothing we could do. you know, what do you do in that situation? >> reporter: they didn't know, of course -- how could they -- what was going on in here, in secret. didn't know who else was thinking about their estranged father and what he may have done. coming up -- >> there's one person who would want her dead. >> reporter: closing in. you've got to have some evidence. >> all that stuff hiding in plain sight. >> reporter: and authorities wonder whether others have been at risk. you really think he was going kill a lawyer? >> no question. >> reporter: when "the threat" continues. he threat" continues. powerful relief so you can restore and recover. theraflu hot beats cold.
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buildings. law enforcement officials are searching inside a specific home in antioch, tennessee. a google image search shows a rv parked in the back of the home. there have been no arrests yet made in the investigation. for now, back to "dateline." bill bradford's children were convinced their father had gotten away with murdering their mother, joan. shot her in cold blood and walked away a free man. >> knowing that all the evidence points to, unfortunately, your father, and knowing that he's going to get away with it, it didn't sit right. >> reporter: but something was being done. in 2000, about 12 years after joan's murder, an ambitious prosecutor named john lewin was
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poking through the unsolved files at the torrance pd. >> when i read the file my response was, oh, my gosh. how's this guy walking around? how is he not in custody? >> reporter: it seemed so obvious. >> it seemed so obvious. >> reporter: but so difficult to prove, especially without any new solid evidence. so lewin called in cold case detective jim wallace, who seemed to have a knack for making sense of complicated cases. >> this case did not have a lot. we didn't have anything new. >> reporter: but you've got to have some evidence, so what do you do? >> you are looking for the things hiding in plain sight, trying to read between lines. sometimes, when we do cold cases like this, i always think of it as death by a thousand paper cuts, you know, where we are assembling, big cumulative cases. from a lot of little pieces that don't seem like much. but when you put it all together this is the best inference from evidence. >> reporter: wallace and lewin took a deep dive into all that original evidence, a file of mostly interviews.
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with a theme. >> the first response always, if it's from kids or friends or neighbors, is william bradford. so there's one person who would want her dead. it still doesn't mean he's the killer, but it does mean that, of all the reasonable options, he is the most reasonable option. >> reporter: they learned all about the bradfords' troubled marriage, about bill's apparent need to be in control, about the contentious divorce, the money he was forced to pay joan. >> there was some court orders to pay about $40,000 to my wife's attorney, and i was very depressed from that point on. >> reporter: they microanalyzed bradford's police interview, dissected every word. >> i'm looking at word choices in all the interviews. if he's asked a question, a yes or no answer, he'll say kind of.
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or qualify it. i'm looking for deception indicators. >> reporter: do you remember anything particularly about that process in that interview? >> i do remember a couple of things. they ask him, when did you go home? he would just say it, right? but he said, i probably went home for this reason. at some point the investigators ask him how he felt when he first learned his wife was murdered. >> i'm sorry so see her dead, but, um, we never had a very good relationship. >> that's a very unusual way to answer that, right? >> about your wife. >> yeah. you didn't wanna see her dead. that is, in some ways, a bit of a tacit admission in that you were the one person who could actually say you were the last person who saw her. >> reporter: then there was
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bradford's strange story about spending two nights at the pier in his car. he even had a parking stub to prove it. >> when you talk to his family, and you brought up, um, hey, is your dad, is he that kind of, you know beach, meditation, put on my sandals and relate to the ocean kind of guy? um, no. >> reporter: you doubt him. but it's a reasonable thing for a person to say. >> to sleep in their car for two days? >> reporter: lewin and wallace were both convinced there was another reason bradford stayed at the pier. it just happened to be where joan's attorney had an office, the very same attorney who helped her garnish that $40,000 from her ex-husband. >> by his own statement, he was pacing, walking up and down the pier right in front of the lawyer's office. now, the lawyer, had he been there -- and bradford waited for him for two days -- i have no doubt in my mind this would've been a double murder suicide. >> reporter: you really think that he was going to go and kill a lawyer? >> no question. >> reporter: you're speculating.
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you say no question, but really you have no idea. >> things are logical and reasonable. he's just murdered his wife, and right after he murders her, he drives to a place that he's never known to go and sleeps in his car for two days and it just so happens that the lawyer's office is right there? we don't leave our common sense at the door. in this situation, you know, we'd have to leave our common sense in another zip code. >> bradford had been beaten. this attorney made that happen. he had to die, too. >> reporter: and, wallace thought, he must have intended to use the very same gun with which he killed joan. his 357 magnum bradford said he lost. >> i haven't the slightest idea of where it went. >> reporter: wallace did a little research on the hollow-tip bullets bradford admitted he once had. remember, those were the same kind of bullets that killed joan. and wallace discovered that particular type of hollow point is rare. less than is 1% of all the ammo sold. >> wow, what are the odds? he's either the unluckiest person in the world who just happens to have all of these
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causal factors that happen to align perfectly to make this perfectly innocent person look really guilty or he's really guilty. >> reporter: so with all those circumstantial clues and a clear motive and means, lewin and wallace drove out to the desert and arrested bill bradford. it was may 2001, 13 years after joan was murdered. >> he had just popped open a beer. it's kind of surreal. you don't think in that moment that this is the last time you are ever going lay eyes on anything that is yours, anything that's familiar. i don't think that bill realizes that, you will never see this ever again. this is a guy we're just going to vacuum suck out of his life who has no idea. >> reporter: bradford was charged with first degree murder. one of the detectives phoned shaun. >> my first reaction was "do you know what day today is?" he said, no. i said, it's mother's day. and he stopped and said, oh, my
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gosh, that's sorry. i said, no, that's fitting for the mother that he took away 13 years ago. >> reporter: bradford quickly lawyered up while his family braced themselves for a trial. would their father walk free? or be locked up for life? >> i want to use the word apprehensive because after years, can a case be won? >> reporter: coming up -- >> we felt this burden. we'll never get another case like this filed if we lose this one. >> reporter: a trial. >> getting a little nervous. >> i was. i didn't know how all this would fit together. >> reporter: and a threat. >> his cell mate came forward and said, bradford is very angry with you, and he's making plans to murder you and your family. >> reporter: when "the threat" continues. try hypnosis... or... quit cold turkey. kidding me?!
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>> reporter: bill bradford, former aerospace engineer was coming back to torrance. to be tried for murdering his ex-wife, joan. it was 2002, and though 14 years after the murder, d.a. lewin had a pile of the same old circumstantial evidence, he charged ahead. were you confident going into this trial? >> very confident. i thought that circumstantially it was an absolutely overwhelming case. >> reporter: really? the original d.a. rejected it. weak, he called it. no smoking gun, no dna, no eyewitnesses. >> we felt this burden. we'll never get another case like this ever filed again if we lose this one. >> reporter: getting a little nervous. >> oh, i was -- i was. because i didn't know how this would all fit together. not having done a circumstantial case like this before, i really worried. >> reporter: nevertheless, in the winter of 2002, lewin and wallace took their first cold, circumstantial case to court. >> the way we presented the case was this is a man who was in an
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abusive relationship. he would not accept that his wife wanted her fair share. and when he lost, to him, it was the losing. he couldn't take losing. >> reporter: and so in a violent rage, said lewin, bradford executed his ex-wife. bradford's children testified for the prosecution. what was it like to go through that, trial? >> that was probably almost as hard as finding my mom murdered. >> reporter: why would you say that? >> i had to relive for six weeks every aspect of the murder, including things i didn't know. >> reporter: like what? >> i didn't know until the trial that she had been shot execution-style. >> reporter: her father's defense mostly centered on bradford's sterling reputation as a high security aerospace engineer, loving father, and
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family man. and pointed out the lack of physical evidence connecting him to the crime. and the jury? kept suspense alive. was out for two days. and then on a cool april morning came verdict. guilty. finally, justice for joan bradford. >> i went from suspecting that my father murdered my mom to having it confirmed. because there's always that little point that still wanted to be daddy's little girl and wanted to believe that this was something else. but no, it was confirmed. most people looked at me and said, now you have closure. no. what my heart wanted was my father to be convicted of it, my
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mom to come back. >> reporter: it was shaun's birthday a few weeks later when her father was sentenced to 26 years to life. he'd be 85 by the time he was eligible for parole. >> i remember telling his daughter that, this man's not going to last five years in prison. so i thought it would be a life sentence. >> i was a lot more relaxed. people kept saying, oh, he'll be dead in five years. so, you know, i'm safe, he's never getting out. >> reporter: safe? maybe not everybody. months later, d.a. lewin got a call from the prison about bill bradford. >> they tell me that his cellmate has come forward. and he has said that bradford's very angry at you, and he is talking about making plans to murder you and your family. >> reporter: of course in
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lewin's line of work, idle threats from resentful jailbirds were not exactly new. but this bill bradford guy caught his attention. he seemed as cold blooded as they come. so lewin went to talk to the informant. normally, if somebody comes to you with a story like that, they want a little time off their sentence or something. >> they want something, absolutely. >> reporter: not this guy. >> no. one of the first things i ask him is, why are you coming forward? he said, i hate the guy. i couldn't believe how he would talk about his wife, and how he killed her. and he said, now, he's talking about, you know, killing, somebody else's family. and i just couldn't stay quiet. >> reporter: lewin polygraphed the informant. he passed. and then added a warning. >> that bradford had said that he thought he was going to get out very quickly. >> reporter: on appeal. >> on appeal. and when he got out, he was going to, either himself or
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somebody else, he was going to blow my family's heads off in front of me, so that i could suffer, and then he was going to kill me. so i immediately took it seriously that it was a credible threat. >> reporter: but then bradford lost all his appeals, and gradually lewin stopped looking over his shoulder. he went on to successfully prosecute many more cold, circumstantial cases, including several with jim wallace. the bradford case faded away. until 15 years later, the fall of 2017. >> i come home from work, and my husband says, you have a letter from did department of corrections. and i went, okay, it's one of two things. he died or parole. i open it up. he's still alive. >> reporter: so, option number two. his parole hearing at the prison was coming up, which meant that bill bradford, a convicted killer who once allegedly
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threatened to murder the d.a. and his family could very soon be back on the street. coming up -- >> i made a promise to myself that i would speak for my mom. i want to the parole. >> reporter: a decision. >> i was stunned. >> reporter: but is it final? >> this is a very bright man. he has resources and motivation. >> reporter: when will he stop being dangerous to you? >> when he's dead. >> reporter: when "the threat" continues. continues. ♪ still warm. ♪ thanks, maggie. oh, alice says hi. for some of us, our daily journey is a short one. save 50% when you pay per mile with allstate. pay less when you drive less. you've never been in better hands. allstate. click or call for a quote today.
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but about coming together. santa, santa, you're on mute! just wanted to say thanks. thanks for believing. >> reporter: the california health care facility. but don't be fooled by the name. this is indeed a prison. and home to bill bradford, who by 2018, had been in prison 16 years. which meant he was up for parole. >> reporter: that january, two
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of bradford's children traveled to the prison for his hearing. >> i made a promise to myself that i would speak for my mom. i went to the parole. >> reporter: what was it like to see him there? >> in my head i thought he had not changed. he was still going to be tall, physically fit healthy man. >> reporter: what do you see instead? >> none of that. i saw a man who has not aged well in the last 15 years. needs a walker to get around. they went through a long list of the other health problems he had had. >> reporter: deputy d.a. john lewin went to the hearing, too. memories of death threats all too fresh in his mind. >> i understand the law is the law and they have to look at parole for him. this man is a threat to me. he's a threat, more importantly, to my family. this is not personal in terms of any vendetta or about being
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right. this is about public safety and protecting those of us who sacrifice a lot to do the jobs we do, whether you're police officers or prosecutors or judges. >> reporter: cameras weren't allowed inside the hearing as the commissioners began asking bradford about the brutal murder he committed. >> for the first time in 30 years, i heard my father admit to killing my mom. >> reporter: wow. >> honestly, i think my brother and i were so shocked that he admitted it that we were both just speechless. >> reporter: however, there's a reason for doing such a thing, which is he has a chance to get paroled. >> yes, he did. however, the way he went about admitting it was very unique. the commissioner was asking about where is joan, your ex-wife, now? he stops and goes, wait, is that the woman i shot? and the commissioner stops and said, you tell us. did you kill your ex-wife? yes, i did.
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why? i don't remember. >> reporter: he appears to have dementia of some sort? >> yeah. >> reporter: bradford's attorney, maya emig, told the commissioners that bradford's dementia and a basket of other health problems are getting worse. and that john lewin has nothing to fear from a confused and frail old man. >> nothing has happened in 16 years. mr. bradford isn't connected to the mob or the mexican mafia or any prison gang, right? and quite frankly he didn't even know who john lewin was. >> reporter: in the room that day he didn't recognize him. >> didn't know him. didn't recognize his name. >> reporter: how do you know that? >> it's apparent. he's not a threat at all the way he is. >> the prison's own psychologists examined him, and they came back with a rating. there's low risk, moderate risk, and high risk. he came back with a moderate risk. >> reporter: the issue that the commissioners are trying to focus on and wanted you to focus
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on, but you didn't want to, was he's not capable of harming you anymore. >> but keith -- >> reporter: he's beyond being dangerous. >> his mind is very clear. the man knew, was able to recite numerous different issues. >> reporter: lewin said he thinks what the defense attorney calls dementia is really a severe case of selective memory. >> he denied remembering what he had done, denied remembering anything about me. he just had selective amnesia regarding this whole event. so the idea that he's helpless and doesn't have the capability to harm me or my family, it's absurd. >> when will he stop being dangerous to you? >> when he's dead. >> reporter: bradford's children also spoke at the hearing and urged the commissioners to keep their dad locked up. >> i had to go through and explain what i was concerned about for safety, not only to myself but to the general population. >> reporter: for several hours the commissioners questioned bradford and listened to lewin
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and family and tried to determine if the old man was a risk or releasable. and then they went into their chambers to make up their minds. and later that afternoon, bradford's attorney and lewin were called in and were told. >> the question about whether or not mr. bradford poses a current threat, the answer was no. >> reporter: no threat meant yes to parole. bill bradford would be released. >> i was furious. and i said, if something happens to my family, the blood is on your hands and you will own this. >> reporter: when bradford's children got the news, those old fears about their father suddenly returned. >> i was stunned. i couldn't believe they would turn around and say he's not a risk. >> would i be a fool to say we
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are perfectly safe? no. my father killed once. >> reporter: the commissioner timed bradford's release for february 2019. by then he would be in his mid 80s, more than 30 years removed from when he pulled that trigger. would he really do it again? this is a very bright man. he has resources, motivation. takes very lit toll find out where my family is. all he needs is a gun and a uber. >>s the an 85-year-old who is on a mission. if he's able to still command his wits, we have a problem still. if he's able to command his wits -- here we are now, we have not done something that's lessened his anger. >> reporter: there was one more step before he is release. california's then governor jerry brown would review the decision and could reverse it to keep him in prison.
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the l.a. county d.a.'s office wrote a letter urging him to do just that. so did his children. >> i've contacted the governor's office. i wrote a letter-- my brother wrote a letter, and i had two senators actually co-sign a letter. >> reporter: lewin acted too. through the media, trying to persuade california governor jerry brown to keep bradford locked up. >> he's looking to even up scores before he dies. >> reporter: then a week after memorial day 2018 came this letter from governor brown. the evidence shows that he, meaning bradford, currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison. therefore, i reverse the decision to parole mr. bradford. >> when it came in it was a lot of shock but also a lot of relief. >> reporter: that relief would be temporary. at his next hearing, bill bradford was granted parole. >> i'm not going to have them
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playing russian roulette with the safety of my family. i work every day trying to protect the public. i don't think it's unfair to ask that those individuals who execute their wives and threaten to kill me and my family, that they are incarcerated where they can't do any damage. >> i don't know what that governor is going to do. i'm hopeful he's going undo this really absolutely indefensible grant of parole. >> reporter: newsom agreed and in december 2019 the parole board's decision was reversed so bill bradford remains behind bars. the mighty columbia rolls buy a cemetery where a wonderful woman who loved her children is at peace.
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