James Bradley escapes death penalty in third murder conviction

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A New Hanover County jury could not come to a decision as to whether James Bradley should be sentenced to death or spend life in prison for the murder of Elisha Tucker.

Instead, the judge declared a mistrial, which means Bradley will receive an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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“A serial killer is off the streets of southeastern North Carolina and will never walk among us again,” New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David said.

“Three strikes and you’re out” were the words of David to three-time convicted killer.

Bradley has had two murder trials in two years along with his 1988 murder conviction of his eight-year-old stepdaughter.



“I can tell you that it’s mercifully rare to see pure evil,” David said. “With Bradley, he’s pure evil.”

Bradley killed Ivy Gibson, Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk and Elisha Tucker.

“If there’s going to be a death penalty in this state, there are times when it needs to be enforced,” he said. “This was that defendant. This was that case.”

It’s a sentence the district attorney’s office offered Bradley several times during the years and most recently during closing arguments, if he would tell them where Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk‘s body was located. He denied the offer every time.

“Right when we found Elisha Tucker and were still looking for Shannon Rippy, that if he would just take us to Shannon’s body, we would give him life without parole,” David said.

Bradley was convicted in 2017 of killing Van Newkirk, but her body has never been found. Friday will mark five years since she was reported missing.

While investigators were searching for Van Newkirk, they found Tucker’s body buried in trash bags and wrapped in duct tape in Hampstead in 2014. Bradley was sentenced to between 30-37 years in prison for Van Newkirk’s murder.

Bradley previously spend two decades in prison for killing his 8-year-old stepdaughter.

“I believe personally, that this is one of the few things that he can still control and still be cruel about,” he said.

As David emphasized throughout this trial, it’s not about Bradley, but those whose lives were brutally taken.

“There’s no joy in this,” he said. “There’s justice. There’s no question that justice has been done by this jury, and we thank them for their verdict.”

Bradley was immediately taken to Raleigh following the sentencing, where he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.