1.23.2010

TS - Autopsy set for Sunday in Bradshaw case

Autopsy set for Sunday in Bradshaw case

An autopsy on the remains believed to be those of a missing McKinleyville woman has been scheduled for Sunday, and her husband's manslaughter plea agreement hinges on the results, according to court records.

Monica Bradshaw, 53, was last seen in late summer 2008 by neighbors when she and her husband of 30 years, Robin Stuart Bradshaw, set off to bury a neighbor's dead horse. She was never reported missing.

Robin Bradshaw was arrested June 12 and charged with murder. But in December, Robin Bradshaw entered into a plea agreement, pleading to one count of voluntary manslaughter upon a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion; and one count of making a false insurance claim. As a condition of the plea, Robin Bradshaw agreed to disclose the location of his wife's body.

Earlier this month, a multi-agency team with personnel from the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office and the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office recovered a body in a forested area off of Fieldbrook Road in McKinleyville, less than three miles from the Bradshaws' home. Authorities believe the body is that of Monica Bradshaw.

Under the plea deal, Robin Bradshaw faces a 12-year prison sentence.

A court transcript from Dec. 17 indicates that Robin Bradshaw's plea is contingent on forensic evidence uncovered during the autopsy matching the story he gave to authorities.

”This is a conditional plea,” said Robin Bradshaw's attorney, Peter Martin, according to the transcript. “The condition is as follows: Mr. Bradshaw will lead police to Mrs. Bradshaw's remains. A forensic examination will be performed on the remains. If forensic evidence establishes that Mrs. Bradshaw did not die in the manner described ... by the defendant to polygraph examiner Jim Dawson, it will be considered a breach of the plea bargain, and the people may petition the court to vacate the plea agreement.”

According to the transcript, Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney Allan Dollison then told the court the version of events that Robin Bradshaw told investigators during his polygraph examination.

”Your honor, on or about August 2008, the defendant was assaulted by Monica Bradshaw,” Dollison said. “He took a metal bar and struck her with it, causing her to suffer fatal injuries.”

”I would like to add,” Martin interjects, according to the transcript, “that with regards to (the manslaughter charge), the defendant, in the heat of the moment, after being struck with the metal bar by Mrs. Bradshaw, took the bar from her and struck her in the head with it two or three times about the head and shoulder area, and those blows resulted in her death.”
District Attorney Paul Gallegos said his office decided to enter into the agreement because it was important to Monica Bradshaw's family that her body be recovered, adding that his office discussed the deal with her family.

Humboldt County Coroner Dave Parris said Dr. Mark Super will be coming into town this weekend to perform an autopsy on the remains Sunday morning. But, Parris said he likely won't be able to issue a positive identification on the remains until sometime next week, when he has a forensic odontologist compare the remains' teeth with Monica Bradshaw's dental records.
Additionally, Parris said the remains were X-rayed Friday morning to look for any foreign objects, such as bullets or broken knives, but said he could not release the results.

Already, Parris said his office has devoted a tremendous number of man-hours to the case, estimating that teams of four spent about 40 hours separating the remains from the dirt that encased them, and then thoroughly cleaning the body.
”It was just meticulous work,” he said.

Because the body was found more than seven feet under ground, Parris said it was brought to his office encased in a thick layer of compacted dirt, which had to be painstakingly removed to prevent any damage to the body. Parris said the process started with trowels, and ended with water and toothbrushes.

”It's very, very time-consuming,” Parris said, adding that it was a joint process with the Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney's Office, a Humboldt State University anthropology team, members of the College of the Redwoods Police Academy, the Coroner's Office and members of the office's new volunteer program.
Chief Investigator Mike Hislop of the District Attorney's Office said a member of his office will be on hand to document Sunday's autopsy, but said things are largely on hold until his office receives the results of the autopsy and a positive identification.
Parris said the remains are remarkably well-preserved considering they reportedly spent 18 months in the ground, which he attributed to the body having been buried so deeply in clay-like soil. He said he doesn't anticipate Super having any trouble determining a cause of death.

”I can tell you we will come up with a determination,” Parris said. “The body was in very good condition.”

A message left for Martin was not returned by deadline.

According to a search warrant affidavit, an insurance adjuster for Capital Insurance Group in Ferndale first contacted the Sheriff's Office about Monica Bradshaw's disappearance.

The adjuster became suspicious when a person claiming to be Monica Bradshaw -- but sounding like her husband -- tried to submit a claim on her car, which had been stolen and recovered.

The affidavit said that Robin Bradshaw went to the tow yard with a woman, later identified as his 31-year-old girlfriend, who claimed to be Monica Bradshaw and allegedly signed the vehicle release form with her name.

A follow-up call from the adjuster was answered by a woman who reportedly said that Monica Bradshaw had died.

Neighbors told the Times-Standard that Robin Bradshaw offered conflicting accounts of his wife's disappearance.

When contacted by investigators, Robin Bradshaw was reportedly unable to produce a photograph of his wife, who he said did not like to be photographed.

Court documents also state that two people close to Robin Bradshaw told authorities that he made confessions to them about the crime, and that he said it was an act of self-defense.

One of the individuals told investigators that Robin Bradshaw said his wife attacked him with a crowbar. Robin Bradshaw reportedly told the person that he was able to wrestle the crowbar away from his wife, and then hit her over the head with it, causing her to fall into the bathtub. According to the affidavit, Robin Bradshaw reportedly said he then hit his wife twice more, once in the head and once in the shoulder.

The person further told investigators, according to the affidavit, that Robin Bradshaw confessed to first burying his wife in a shallow grave in the backyard of his home, only to later dig her body up and bury it on an undeveloped Danco subdivision off of Fieldbrook Road in McKinleyville.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com

Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 01/23/2010 01:30:21 AM PST
***
PREVIOUSLY:
DA's office (Paul Gallegos) still undecided in Bradshaw case; Gallegos to talk to pathologist next week May 28, 2010
Bradshaw sentencing postponed, Gallegos "weighing" decision May 5, 2010
...Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos received Super's report last week, but has yet to decide how to proceed with the case. At Tuesday's hearing, Bradshaw's attorney, Peter Martin, said Gallegos had contacted him asking that the sentencing hearing be postponed.

”He wants more time, I believe, to review the medical report and to request supporting materials from the medical examiner,” Martin said....

”It's going to be something Paul's going to have to think about.” April 27, 2010
-- Bradshaw autopsy report with Humboldt County DA; indicates blunt force trauma as cause of death
Autopsy report coming in Bradshaw case; plea agreement hinges on results for McKinleyville man accused of wife's murder APRIL 24, 2010
Bradshaw positively identified; full autopsy report pending more test results FEBRUARY 01, 2010
Autopsy set for Sunday in Bradshaw case JANUARY 23, 2010
ANOTHER PLEA DEAL - Bradshaw agreed to give location of body in plea deal JANUARY 09, 2010
Robin Stuart Bradshaw entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors last month, agreeing to disclose the location of his wife's body and plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, court records show.
Authorities believe they have found the body of missing McKinleyville woman JANUARY 08, 2010
The person further told investigators, according to the affidavit, that Robin Bradshaw confessed to first burying his wife in a shallow grave in the backyard of his home, only to later dig her body up and bury it on an undeveloped Danco subdivision off of Fieldbrook Road in McKinleyville.
Hearing for McKinleyville murder case continued NOVEMBER 05, 2009
Bradshaw Prelim continued to Nov. 5 SEPTEMBER 30, 2009
Prelim for Robin Stuart Bradshaw JULY 07, 2009
Bradshaw pleads not guilty to murdering wife June 16, 2009
Robin Stuart Bradshaw, arrested JUNE 16, 2009
Second search warrant issued in missing woman case - and a request to seal documents January 29, 2009
Monica Bradshaw: MISSING January 27, 2009

1.08.2010

TS - Authorities believe they have found the body of missing McKinleyville woman

Authorities believe they have found the body of missing McKinleyville woman

Click photo to enlarge

Authorities believe they have recovered the body of Monica Bradshaw, a 53-year-old McKinleyville woman whose husband of 30 years stands accused of her murder.

Chief Investigator Mike Hislop of the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office said a joint recovery effort by his office and the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office on Thursday in a wooded area outside McKinleyville was fruitful, and that investigators unearthed a body believed to be Bradshaw.

”I would say that the search was very successful,” Hislop said. “The DA's Office worked hand-in-hand with Sheriff's Office personnel in a coordinated effort. It was a team effort and it went very well.”

Hislop said the Humboldt County Coroner's Office has taken control of the body, and that a positive identification likely won't be made for some time.

Bradshaw was last seen sometime in late summer 2008 by neighbors when she and her husband, Robin Bradshaw, set off to bury a neighbor's dead horse. She was never reported missing. The couple lived in Dow's Prairie.

Robin Bradshaw was arrested June 12, and has pleaded not guilty to the single murder charge he faces. He remains in Humboldt County jail, held on $1 million bail.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos said shortly after Robin Bradshaw's arrest that he believed there was enough evidence to try him even without a body.

”His wife is a missing person, and we believe that the compelling evidence we have indicates that she is missing because she is dead, and that Mr. Bradshaw buried her at some currently undisclosed location,” Gallegos said at the time.

Authorities now believe that location was a forested area on Fieldbrook Road, just outside McKinleyville. Late Thursday, a gate on the north side of the street was marked with police tape, and a number of vehicles were parked by the roadway. The site is less than three miles from where the couple lived.

Hislop declined to discuss the details of the search, but said more information would likely be made available in the coming days.

In the months preceding Robin Bradshaw's arrest, several search warrants were served on the couple's property and other locations. In January 2008, authorities used an excavator to dig up parts of the couple's property, and investigators seized financial records, a computer, medications, receipts, handwritten notes and a can of Campbell's soup from the couple's residence, as well as several items from the backyard.

According to a search warrant affidavit, an insurance adjuster for Capital Insurance Group in Ferndale first contacted the Sheriff's Office about Monica Bradshaw's disappearance.

The adjuster became suspicious when a person claiming to be Monica Bradshaw -- but sounding like her husband -- tried to submit a claim on her car, which had been stolen and recovered.

The affidavit said that Robin Bradshaw went to the tow yard with a woman, later identified as his 31-year-old girlfriend, who claimed to be Monica Bradshaw and allegedly signed the vehicle release form with her name.

A follow-up call from the adjuster was answered by a woman who reportedly said that Monica Bradshaw had died.

Neighbors have told the Times-Standard that Robin Bradshaw offered conflicting accounts of his wife's disappearance.
When contacted by investigators, Robin Bradshaw was reportedly unable to produce a photograph of his wife, whom he said did not like to be photographed.

Court documents also state that two people close to Robin Bradshaw have told authorities that he made confessions to them about the crime, and that he said it was an act of self-defense.

One of the individuals told investigators that Robin Bradshaw said his wife attacked him with a crowbar. Robin Bradshaw reportedly then told the person that he was able to wrestle the crowbar away from his wife, and then hit her over the head with it, causing her to fall into the bathtub. According to the affidavit, Robin Bradshaw reportedly said he then hit his wife twice more, once in the head and once in the shoulder.

The person further told investigators, according to the affidavit, that Robin Bradshaw confessed to first burying his wife in a shallow grave in the backyard of his home, only to later dig her body up and bury it on an undeveloped Danco subdivision off of Fieldbrook Road in McKinleyville.


Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com.
Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 01/08/2010 01:30:18 AM PST
***
PREVIOUSLY:
DA's office (Paul Gallegos) still undecided in Bradshaw case; Gallegos to talk to pathologist next week May 28, 2010
Bradshaw sentencing postponed, Gallegos "weighing" decision May 5, 2010
...Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos received Super's report last week, but has yet to decide how to proceed with the case. At Tuesday's hearing, Bradshaw's attorney, Peter Martin, said Gallegos had contacted him asking that the sentencing hearing be postponed.

”He wants more time, I believe, to review the medical report and to request supporting materials from the medical examiner,” Martin said....

”It's going to be something Paul's going to have to think about.” April 27, 2010
-- Bradshaw autopsy report with Humboldt County DA; indicates blunt force trauma as cause of death
Autopsy report coming in Bradshaw case; plea agreement hinges on results for McKinleyville man accused of wife's murder APRIL 24, 2010
Bradshaw positively identified; full autopsy report pending more test results FEBRUARY 01, 2010
Autopsy set for Sunday in Bradshaw case JANUARY 23, 2010
ANOTHER PLEA DEAL - Bradshaw agreed to give location of body in plea deal JANUARY 09, 2010
Robin Stuart Bradshaw entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors last month, agreeing to disclose the location of his wife's body and plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, court records show.
Authorities believe they have found the body of missing McKinleyville woman JANUARY 08, 2010
The person further told investigators, according to the affidavit, that Robin Bradshaw confessed to first burying his wife in a shallow grave in the backyard of his home, only to later dig her body up and bury it on an undeveloped Danco subdivision off of Fieldbrook Road in McKinleyville.
Hearing for McKinleyville murder case continued NOVEMBER 05, 2009
Bradshaw Prelim continued to Nov. 5 SEPTEMBER 30, 2009
Prelim for Robin Stuart Bradshaw JULY 07, 2009
Bradshaw pleads not guilty to murdering wife June 16, 2009
Robin Stuart Bradshaw, arrested JUNE 16, 2009
Second search warrant issued in missing woman case - and a request to seal documents January 29, 2009
Monica Bradshaw: MISSING January 27, 2009

One man sentenced for Cutten man's death, other contests his plea

One man sentenced for Cutten man's death, other contests his plea

The family and friends of shooting victim Garrett Benson filled a Humboldt County courtroom Friday to witness the sentencing of one man for his death while a second defendant in the case moved to contest his plea.

Jason Leon Belles, 31, and Jonathan Henry Watson, 30, were scheduled to be sentenced after each pleaded no contest to charges related to the death of Benson during a home invasion robbery on Dec. 3, 2008.

Belles was sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison, minus time already served, with a three year parole term upon release, as agreed to in his plea deal. He will also have to pay a $1,400 restitution fine. With good behavior, he could be released in about six and a half years.

Watson initially accepted a plea deal Aug. 11 from Deputy District Attorney Max Cardoza for first-degree murder with a firearm enhancement and an agreed-upon prison term of 50 years to life. On Friday, he contested his previous plea.

According to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office, Benson was in his Cutten home when one man forced his way into the residence. The two struggled, and Benson was shot three times and died hours later in a hospital. Officials said there was a significant amount of marijuana being grown and processed in the home.

Benson's family and his girlfriend appeared at the sentencing and spoke to the defendants and the court before the judge announced Belles' sentence.

Randy Benson, the victim's father, told the court that he and his family were devastated by the loss of his son.

”My world is changed. My beliefs aren't the same anymore ...,” he said. “I've been silenced by disgust and have been since the murder of my son Garrett.”

He fought back tears as he told the court that Garrett Benson was a “man of integrity.” He had worked in the National Guard for nine years and then with UPS for seven. He described his son as motivated, hilarious, responsible, loyal, intelligent, kind and patriotic.

Addressing Belles and Watson directly, Randy Benson said he could never forgive them, although others had advised him to try.
”My God and I will have to wrestle with this one,” he said.

Belles appeared to be visibly upset and crying while the victim's family addressed the court, often closing his eyes and looking down. Watson watched the speakers but remained expressionless.

Garrett Benson's mother described him as a caring son that was the head of his own household and also hers, often coming over to chop firewood for her and sending her bouquets of flowers when she was distressed over the death of a pet.

Garrett Benson also was a bit of a prankster.

”If you ever saw a vehicle covered in UPS Post-its, you knew Garrett had struck again,” she said.

Rachel Wold, Benson's girlfriend, also had a short statement for the court. Wold was with Benson when he was shot in their home.

”Garrett saved my life,” she said. “I sat with him and had to watch the life fade from his eyes.”

She told the defendants that she hoped one day they would understand the gravity of what they had done.
Watson is scheduled to contest his plea on Monday in a closed hearing.


Allison White/The Times-Standard
Posted: 08/22/2009 01:27:15 AM PDT

Alleged bank robber pleads not guilty

Alleged bank robber pleads not guilty

EUREKA -- The Oregon man charged with robbing a bank here earlier this week entered a plea of not guilty in Humboldt County Superior Court on Friday.

John Adelbert Reeves, 44, also pleaded not guilty to being drunk in public, impersonating another person and giving false identification to a peace officer. That stems from a Wednesday arrest. When Reeves was booked on those charges, he reportedly told police he'd been staying at a motel.

A motel clerk told police that Reeves had shaved his mustache and paid for everything in cash. Police found clothing in his motel room consistent with the clothes the suspected bank robber wore during the Monday hold-up. Investigators were reportedly able to recognize Reeves from surveillance photos taken at the bank and arrested him on suspicion of robbery Thursday.

Officials have not said whether they recovered any of the money.

Reeves allegedly entered the Bank of America on Fourth Street around 1:20 p.m. Monday, handed a teller a note, claimed he had a gun and walked out with an undisclosed amount of cash. No one was injured and it is unknown if the suspect was carrying a weapon. Several witnesses told the Times-Standard that they didn't know anything was going on until it was over.

Judge Marilyn Miles set Reeves' bail at $70,000 and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Dec. 24.


John Driscoll/The Times-Standard
Posted: 12/12/2009 01:24:19 AM PST

Burgess pleads guilty to robbery, faces 30 years

Burgess pleads guilty to robbery, faces 30 years

Another defendant in the killing of Ezra Sanders entered a guilty plea in Superior Court on Monday and is looking at a sentence of 30 years in prison.

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office said Jeffrey Alan Burgess, 39, of Eureka, entered the plea to first degree robbery with special allegations that include acting in concert with two or more persons and personally discharging a firearm during the commission of a felony. Burgess' murder trial was in the jury selection process when he changed his plea.

He will have to serve 25 years of the sentence before being eligible for release, Deputy District Attorney Ben McLaughlin said, adding that 30 years is the largest determinant sentence possible.

McLaughlin said that, throughout settlement talks, he was in close contact with the victim's father, Charles Sanders.

”Every substantive discussion I had with defense counsel, I always checked with Mr. Sanders,” McLaughlin said. “We had an idea of where Mr. Sanders wanted to see the case resolved in terms of years of incarceration, and that's what we tried to accommodate. ... I had always thought that 30 years sounded appropriate for Mr. Burgess, given his age.”

Ruben Anthony Peredia, 32, of Eureka and Lukus Larry Mace, 31, of Orleans, entered guilty pleas in August to voluntary manslaughter. Mace and Peredia face up to six years in prison, but part of Mace's plea agreement requires him to testify against the others.

A fourth defendant, Tracey Joleen Williams, 35, of Eureka, is scheduled to stand trial Jan. 4.
Burgess' sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 12.

Sanders was found lying in front of his trailer in the Widow White Creek RV Park in McKinleyville shortly after 1 a.m. Feb. 24. He was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the chest.

Mace's testimony at a preliminary hearing in the case indicated that he and the other three drove to McKinleyville to rob Sanders. Sanders resisted and appeared to be reaching for something inside his trailer. That is when Burgess shot him, Mace testified.

McLaughlin said there were some concerns regarding the admissibility of a confession Burgess gave law enforcement officers before his arrest, as Burgess' defense attorney, Neal Sanders, had argued that Burgess wasn't properly Mirandized during the interview. Much of the confession was thrown out during Burgess' preliminary hearing, and McLaughlin said there was a concern that ruling would have been upheld, or even extended, at trial.

”It would have been tough going,” he said of trying the case without Burgess' confession.

Neal Sanders said his client ultimately opted to take the plea deal because he, one day, hopes to walk out of prison a free man.

”It is a determinant term for him, which means he will actually be able to get out of custody,” said Neal Sanders, adding that would not have been the case if Burgess had been convicted of any degree of murder charges. “Nowadays, people with life sentences don't walk out of prison, ever.”

Staff writer Thadeus Greenson contributed to this report.

Chris Durant/The Times-Standard
Posted: 12/16/2009 01:21:20 AM PST

Former correctional officer enters guilty plea to smuggling charge

Former correctional officer enters guilty plea to smuggling charge

A Humboldt County correctional facility officer who was caught trying to smuggle heroin into the jail in July entered a guilty plea to a charge of smuggling contraband into jail in Superior Court on Monday.

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office said Benjamen Edward Jentry-Rakestraw, 20, of Fortuna, had two charges -- possession of a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit a crime -- dropped after he entered the guilty plea.

Deputy District Attorney Max Cardoza said Jentry-Rakestraw faces up to four years in prison when he's sentenced, which is scheduled for Dec. 21.

Cardoza said that Jentry-Rakestraw could also get probation, which is what the Probation Department recommended to the court.

”We are hopeful that the court accepts the recommendations of probation,” said Jentry-Rakestraw's attorney Michael Robinson.

Robinson mentioned that his client may still see some jail time even if the court follows the department's recommendation.

”It can be zero days to 365 days,” Robinson said. “It's up to the judge to make that decision.

Jentry-Rakestraw was taken into custody while he was on duty in early July. According to court documents, Jentry-Rakestraw was arrested after he was searched while returning to the jail from a break in the parking lot, where he picked up a bag that was dropped into his pickup truck.

The bag reportedly contained 4.3 grams of heroin and small amounts of tobacco and marijuana.

A tip about a month before the arrest led to the investigation of Jentry-Rakestraw.

”It's my opinion that he was played and conned and used,” Robinson said, indicating inmates took advantage of his client. “He threw his career away by being manipulated by fairly sophisticated cons.”

Humboldt County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Brenda Godsey said that stopping drugs from entering the building is a priority and definitely not a unique problem for the local jail.

”It's an ongoing struggle for any correctional facility,” Godsey said. “People are always coming up with new ways to try and bring it (illegal drugs) in.”

One of the most common ways, according to Godsey, is through the mail.

And the most common substance discovered may not be your first guess.

”Tobacco is what we see most of,” Godsey said.

Chris Durant/The Times-Standard
Posted: 12/02/2009 01:15:19 AM PST

1.05.2010

Local attorney throws hat in the ring for DA



Local attorney throws hat in the ring for DA
A local defense attorney who worked for District Attorney Paul Gallegos for nearly a year and a half announced her candidacy for the position today.

”You can complain or you can try to do something to change things,” Kathleen Bryson said in an interview.

Her decision to run came after she and other local attorneys had discussions on who was going to run against Gallegos.
”And no one came forward,” Bryson said.

She said issues like the treatment of victims, prosecuting big cases and the office's relationship with police were a few of her motivating factors.

”Law enforcement has about had it with Paul,” Bryson said.

Bryson grew up in the Palo Alto area, went to the University of California at Santa Cruz and graduated from Tulane University in 1992.

She practiced corporate law for an English firm and lived in England and Ireland.

She's married to the St. Bernard's School Director of Facilities Gary Bryson and lives in Cutten. Her two daughters are 16 and almost 10.

After time at the DA's office as a deputy district attorney, she worked for the law office of Manny Daskal before recently starting her own practice.

At Daskal's office she defended a number of marijuana cases, which, she said, has given her experience with the one of the county's top issues.

”We keep it criminal and we keep it dangerous,” Bryson said. “We have to be very careful on how we regulate it.”


Photo: Josh Jackson/The Times-Standard Kathleen Bryson announced her run for Humboldt County District Attorney during an interview at the Mity Nice Bakery in Eureka on Tuesday. (Allison White)