Suspect Convicted in ’84 Stranglings of 2 Women in Desert

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Times Staff Writers

An amateur photographer accused of separately strangling two young women in 1984 after luring them to a remote campground in the Mojave Desert was found guilty Friday on two counts of first-degree murder.

Because of the multiple killings, William Bradford, 41, of Palms could face the death penalty. The Los Angeles Superior Court jury that convicted him will reconvene Jan. 5 to consider whether Bradford should die in the gas chamber or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Bradford, dressed in gray slacks and a light shirt, sat with his chin resting in his right hand as the jury was polled, and never looked in its direction.


“I think justice was done,” said Deputy Dist. Atty. David P. Conn, who prosecuted the case with Deputy Dist. Atty. Pamela Ann Ferrero.

‘Evidence . . . Compelling’

While authorities relied exclusively on circumstantial evidence, Conn said, “some circumstances are stronger than others, and in this case, the circumstantial evidence was compelling.”

Charles L. Linder, one of Bradford’s two attorneys, said his reaction was one of “utter despair.” He added: “I very strongly think they’re wrong. . . . They took two weak cases and put them together. . . .” Bradford’s attorneys put on no defense, saying they believed that the prosecution had not proved its case.

Of his client’s reaction, Linder said, “The first words out of his mouth when we walked back there (into the prisoner lockup) were, “God knows I didn’t do it.”

The eight-woman, four-man jury deliberated 12 days after listening to nearly four months of testimony from 60 prosecution witnesses.

‘Jigsaw Puzzle’

Both sides had described the case as a “jigsaw puzzle” because of the absence of evidence such as fingerprints, bloodstains, hair samples or murder weapons linking Bradford to the slayings of Shari Miller, 21, and Tracey Campbell, 15.


Prosecutors believe that Bradford talked both young women into accompanying him to the desert by promising to help them launch careers as models.

Miss Miller’s mother had testified that shortly before the young woman’s body was discovered in West Los Angeles on July 6, 1984, her daughter had said she had an appointment to see Bradford to model for magazine photographs .

In the second incident, Bradford acknowledged that he had been with Tracey Campbell on July 12, 1984, the day she disappeared. In statements to police, Bradford said that the girl had come to his apartment to use the telephone and that he had dropped her off at a local store to buy cigarettes.

Didn’t Need Cigarettes

Conn argued that Bradford’s explanation amounted to a “flimflam.” Conn said witnesses testified that Tracey did not need any cigarettes that morning because her brother had left her a pack of Camels before he went to work.

Tracey’s decomposed body was found in August, 1984, after an acquaintance of Bradford directed police to a barren, bowl-shaped campsite 28 miles east of Lancaster. The acquaintance said that he had introduced Bradford to the site and that Bradford had later asked him for a map of the area.

About 400 feet from the campsite was an unusual rock formation that showed up as a background in photographs of Miss Miller that police had seized in Bradford’s car. Bradford initially told authorities that he had shot the photographs in Topanga Canyon.


Police discovered another piece of evidence draped over Tracey’s face. It was a blouse with a distinctive snail pattern that, according to testimony at the trial, had belonged to Miss Miller.

Bradford has been in custody since Aug. 16, 1984, when he was arrested for the two killings. Shortly after that, he pleaded no contest to an unrelated charge of forcible rape and was sentenced to eight years in state prison. He has been housed in Los Angeles County Jail since his arrest, prosecutors said.