An Orange County engineer, who was sentenced Friday to 26 years to life in prison for the 1979 murder of a Torrance nurse he had briefly dated, maintained that someone else committed the crime.
Douglas Gordon Bradford, who will turn 63 tomorrow, called Lynne Knight’s killing “a terrible tragedy,” but said, “I did not murder Lynne Knight.”
“I’m an innocent man wrongly convicted. I’m mad as hell I’m paying for someone else’s crime,” he said shortly before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe imposed the sentence.
The 28-year-old victim — who worked as a neonatal nurse at Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance — was stabbed more than 15 times and strangled with a homemade wire garrote found near her body in her Anza Avenue apartment on Aug. 29, 1979. One of her breasts was also mutilated post- mortem by her knife-wielding killer.
Bradford was living in Costa Mesa at the time of his May 13, 2009, arrest, but was subsequently freed on bail. He was ordered to be taken into custody immediately after the jury’s Aug. 14 verdict.
Before imposing the sentence, the judge denied a motion for a new trial, along with the defense’s claim that Bradford’s due process rights had been violated by his arrest nearly 30 years after Knight was murdered.
Defense attorney Robert Shapiro told the judge that Bradford would not have been convicted three decades earlier if the case had been brought then.
The defense maintains that Bradford was sailing off the coast of Long Beach the night Knight was killed.
Deputy District Attorney John Lewin said Bradford made the garrote, stalked Knight, snuck into her apartment, attacked her as she slept and then tried to manufacture an alibi that he was out sailing that night.
Bradford was “convicted by his own words, his own actions,” Lewin said, and had “earned” his conviction for first-degree murder.
The victim’s sister, Donna Wigmore, said she has “cried an ocean of tears for decades.”
She called the emotional pain “beyond immense,” saying she had to postpone her own wedding and look at her sister in her coffin. Wigmore said Bradford “robbed” her sister of her life, calling it a “heinous crime” against a beautiful, gentle and loving woman.
Harold Knight said he had been haunted by the “horrible details” of his sister’s death and lost countless hours of sleep.
“She will always be missed …,” he told the judge.
Jurors deliberated less than three days before returning their verdict against Bradford, who was an engineering student at Cal State Long Beach at the time of the crime.
Lewin told jurors the evidence was “overwhelming,” calling the defendant “a murderous monster” who “needs to be held accountable.”
Bradford “stews for almost three months” about the couple’s break-up because “he’s an angry, angry, angry person who decided he was not going to be rejected” by a woman who wanted to date other men, Lewin said.
Bradford had gotten “35 years of walking around” free after an “absolutely animalistic attack” in which the victim fought for her life, the prosecutor said. He said Bradford was “obsessed” with Knight and kept a photo of her in his desk drawer as a “trophy.”
Bradford’s attorney said his client was an innocent man and questioned whether wire found years later in the back of paintings belonging to Bradford’s mother even existed in 1979. The prosecution contended that it was similar to the wire used to make the garrote.
Shapiro told jurors that they had not seen “one real piece of evidence,” asserting that some evidence wasn’t collected while other evidence was destroyed.
Minutes before his sentence was imposed, Bradford called it a “35-year-old circumstantial case.”
“This is a horrendous, horrendous miscarriage of justice,” he said.
—City News Service