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Ex-Stepfather Found Guilty of Murder : Youth Shot, Buried in Desert by Mother’s Estranged Husband

Times Staff Writer

A Newport Beach man who shot his 18-year-old former stepson was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday, after the jury deliberated four days.

The prosecution contended that Bruce Bradley Ralph, 58, shot the teen-ager, Bradley Kaye, on Aug. 1, 1984, as an act of revenge against his ex-wife, with whom he had been seeking reconciliation.

Ralph, a British-born photographer, testified he shot the youth by accident when the young man tried to stop him from committing suicide. Ralph said he was going to kill himself because he was despondent over the breakup of his marriage, and was loading a gun while riding in a car with the youth driving.

He said Kaye suddenly pulled over, they got out of the car, and the gun went off when Kaye grabbed it, he said.

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But the jurors didn’t believe Ralph. They said it took four days to reach a verdict because they disagreed over whether the crime was first-degree or second-degree murder.

Five prosecution witnesses who had stopped along the road when they saw Kaye’s body covered by a plastic sheet testified that Ralph told them the young man was merely ill. Ralph later buried Kaye near a deserted stretch of Bonita Canyon Road, in Irvine, and the body was discovered by construction workers six days later.

Jurors expressed hostility toward Ralph after the verdict. One of them praised the defense attorney, Jack Earley of Santa Ana, but told him, “It’s not your fault you got a bummer.”

Another juror wanted to know if Ralph could be sent to prison in his native England so Americans would not have to pay for his keep. All the jurors said they noted that, although Ralph cried during his testimony, he showed no remorse when he described how he buried the young man’s body.

Ralph faces a term of 27 years to life in prison. Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Owen set sentencing for May 17.


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