WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It took two days and testimony from several witnesses, but a judge says there is enough probable cause to continue the murder case against James Bradley.
He’s charged with killing Shannon Rippy Vannewkirk, who disappeared from downtown Wilmington April 5 and hasn’t been seen since.
“There’s more than enough probable cause at this stage to sustain his continued incarceration and to have this case move forward,” District Attorney Ben David said.
But without a body, proving probable cause was no easy task for David.
“This is an unusual position we find ourselves in to have to put this much evidence forward in the first two weeks,” David said.
During day two of the hearing, Judge Sandra Ray listened to a 19-minute recorded conversation between Bradley and a police detective during a search of Bradley’s home. David said detectives caught Bradley in lies about Vannewkirk and his previous murder conviction in 1990 for the 1988 death of his 8-year-old stepdaughter. A detective testified Bradley told officers twice, unsolicited, that he was the last person to see Vannewkirk alive.
Wilmington Police say Bbradley is also a suspect in the death of Elisha Tucker, who went missing last summer. Tucker’s remains were found on a property off Hoover Road in Hampstead that Bradley had access to. Investigators initially thought the remains might be Vannewkirk’s.
“This is not the end of the investigation,” David said. “In many ways, it’s only the beginning. We still have a lot of work to do with respect to Elisha Tucker’s case, and we might want to expedite testing in that. We have a lot more to do with bringing justice to Shannon Rippy’s case including trying to locate where she is.”
Meanwhile the search for Vannewkirk continues.
“We’ve just got to keep looking for my sister,” Vannewkirk’s brother Shawn Dayton said. “We’ve got to find Shannon.”
Even though they still haven’t found her, family and friends say they have faith in the system.
“I’m very, very happy with the outcome today,” Vannewkirk’s friend Joyce Fernando said. “I think everything went very well.”
Dayton says the next step is to expand the search grid for his sister.