Jury hears testimony on discovery of Elisha Tucker in Bradley trial

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Day five of the murder trial for James Bradley is underway today.

Bradley is charged with murder for the death of Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk, but today the jury heard about the death of another woman.

Van Newkirk’s body was never found, but while searching for her body, detectives found another one. Bradley is also charged with the death of Elisha Tucker.

Sgt. Lee Odham with the Wilmington Police Department took the stand this morning. He described searching a property in Pender County in April 2014 after Van Newkirk went missing.

While searching the property, Odham found an area that had been cleared with a misplaced stump on it.
He said when he walked over to the area, the ground looked like it had been disturbed.

Odham said he went over to it and jumped on it to see if it felt different than the rest of the ground. Odham said it felt less firm than the rest of the area and then water started to come up. He said the water was oily. Odham said he immediately noticed the smell of human decomposition.

Odham and other detectives started to dig up the ground. Odham said they found a trash bag. Odham said they felt around and felt a human foot. He said they opened the bag slightly and saw body parts.

District Attorney Ben David then, asked Odham about the cameras they looked at in the area where Bradley said he last saw Van Newkirk. Odham said he rode to Greenfield Lake with Bradley to that area. He said he searched the area and did not find anything.

Defense Attorney Miller then, asked Odham if he looked at surveillance cameras from a radiology parking lot near Medical Center Drive. Odham said he did and he did not see anything on the cameras.

Miller made the point that it would have been dark at that time on April 5, 2014 around 7:00 p.m. and Odham would not have been able to see Bradley or Van Newkirk if they walked past.

Then, Pathologist Karen Kelly took the stand.

On May 1, 2014 Kelly received a bag with a body in it. Kelly said the body was tagged as Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk.

Kelly said they found two tattoos on the body. Kelly said Detective Lamberty immediately knew the body was not Van Newkirk. Kelly said the body on the table was Elisha Tucker.

Kelly said they found several lacerations on the scalp of the head from blunt force trauma. Kelly said they found lacerations in the neck. She said four ribs were fractured and there was hemorage in the chest which indicates Tucker was alive when it happened. A tooth was also fractured. The left side of her head had blunt force trauma.

Kelly said there is a difference between a sharp force injury and blunt force. Tucker had blunt force. Kelly said there was trauma to the neck which could be someone grabbing the neck or blunt force trauma to the neck.

Kelly said the cause of Death for Elisha Tucker was traumatic head injuries, neck and chest injuries. David asked if this could have been an accident. Kelly said it was unlikely.

Miller objected to all of this testimony, because he said it is not relevant to this case. The judge overruled.

Rose Waldren took the stand next. She is Elisha Tucker’s mom. Waldren reported Tucker missing to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office in October 2013.

Waldren said she knew her daughter used heroin. Waldren said she also heard her daughter was a prostitute and frequented the hotels on Market Street.

This afternoon, Detective Carlos Lamberty took the stand. Lamberty was one of the detectives who spoke with Van Newkirk’s family, friends, boss, and Bradley when she went missing.

Lamberty also filed court orders to get phone records for Van Newkirk and Bradley.

Lamberty said Bradley and Van Newkirk shared 17 calls in the three days before she went missing. After 8:00 p.m. on April 5, 2014, the day she went missing, Lamberty said Bradley never called Van Newkirk again. Records show her mom, brother, and boyfriend Steven Mott all continued to call her after that time.

Lamberty said they went to Bradley’s house on April 11, 2014 to see if he could help them find Van Newkirk. During that meeting, Lamberty said they asked him about Van Newkirk and Mott’s relationship. Lamberty said Bradley started crying and said Mott was not good for her. Lamberty said that was strange.

Then, Lamberty said they asked to see Bradley’s phone and he gave it to them. Lamberty said Bradley had deleted his call history, because Bradley said he did not like to clog up his phone.

Lambery said after that interview, Bradley became a suspect in the case.

Testimony continues Thursday morning.

Categories: Local, New Hanover

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