Appeals court finds convicted killer James Bradley received fair trial
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The man convicted of killing a woman whose body has yet to be found received a fair trial, the North Carolina Appeals Court has ruled.
In June of 2017, a jury convicted James Opleton Bradley of second degree murder in the death of Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk, who was last seen in downtown Wilmington in April of 2014.
“We didn’t have a murder weapon,” District Attorney Ben David said after the trial. “We didn’t have a crime scene. We didn’t have a body. We knew this was going to be very difficult.”
Without a body or a murder weapon, the prosecution relied on circumstantial evidence linking Rippy to Bradley on the day she disappeared. They also introduced details from Bradley’s prior murder conviction in the death of his 8-year-old stepdaughter in 1988, graphic fictional horror stories Bradley wrote while in prison, and details on the death of another missing woman, Elisha Tucker, whose body was found during the search for Van Newkirk.
A judge sentenced Bradley to between 30 and 37 years in prison for Van Newkirk’s murder.
A few months after Bradley’s guilty verdict and sentencing, his attorney filed an appeal, claiming “emotionally charged evidence” of the crimes, including testimony and photographs of a dead child and a decomposing body, violated Bradley’s right to a fair trial.
The appeals court ruled, “In light of the totality of the above evidence, we are unable to conclude that Defendant has established that there is a reasonable possibility that, absent the challenged evidence, Defendant’s trial would have yielded a different result.
Accordingly, we find no prejudicial error in the judgment entered upon Defendant’s
conviction of second-degree murder.’
Van Newkirk’s body has still not been found.
Bradley is awaiting trial for the death of Elisha Tucker.