Woman’s Death Means Husband’s Killer Finally Will Inherit Estate
Her mother’s peaceful death at age 92 finally got Frances Berenice Schreuder what the murder of her father could not: his money.
Or at least what’s left of it.
Schreuder, a onetime Manhattan socialite and former member of the board of directors of the New York City Ballet, is less than six months from parole after serving 12 years of a life term in Utah State Prison for ordering her son to kill her multimillionaire father, Franklin Bradshaw.
Her motive was to inherit the fortune of the oil and auto-parts magnate. Now, finally, she is poised to do just that.
“Frances is the big winner,” sighed her sister, Elaine Drukman of Emeryville, Calif. Nobody who ever met Frances Schreuder can truly believe that crime doesn’t pay, she added. Sometimes, it just takes time.
“It’s not a very good moral lesson, is it?” Drukman said.
Schreuder, 58, is the main beneficiary in the will left by Bradshaw’s widow, Berenice Jewett Bradshaw, who died Feb. 24.
According to Berenice Bradshaw’s will, recently filed probate documents and interviews with family members, Schreuder will receive lifelong income from half the remaining estate, as well as her ritzy condominium in Salt Lake’s Avenues district, a safe-deposit box full of jewelry and her mother’s full-length fur coat.
The condo, jewelry and coat were all bought with Franklin Bradshaw’s wealth after his 1978 murder, family members said.
“It’s just not right,” said Ernie Jones, the Salt Lake County prosecutor who convicted Schreuder of capital homicide in 1983 and tried unsuccessfully to put her on death row. “She shouldn’t collect a dime.”
But those familiar with the case never had any doubt that Schreuder would someday collect, given the mutually manipulative relationship between Schreuder and her aging mother.
And it also demonstrates, for family members and observers, that Berenice Bradshaw, often perceived as a tragic figure and generous philanthropist, was not altogether blameless in the death of her husband.
“What in my mind underscores the role Berenice played in the murder was the fact that she, to the extent that she was able, made sure that Frances was provided for with what still amounts to blood money,” said Jonathan Coleman, author of a best-selling book on the Bradshaw murder, “At Mother’s Request.”
“Nobody fanned the flames more than Berenice,” Coleman said.
The anecdote told by both of Bradshaw’s other surviving daughters is that only Frances cried at the news of her enfeebled mother’s death.
“The rest of us were relieved that she passed so peacefully,” said her eldest daughter, Marilyn Reagan. “But Frances wept” because she had been pestering her mother for a car.
Frances Schreuder did not return messages left at the Northern Utah Community Correctional Facility in Ogden.
Reagan--who along with Drukman were beneficiaries of their father’s will--finds deep irony in Schreuder receiving anything at all.
But she was consoled that Schreuder probably would be greatly disappointed by the final trust document.
“She’s got the jewelry and the fur,” Reagan said. “But where is she going to wear them?”
There just isn’t very much money left, Reagan said. In the 18 years since Bradshaw’s death, her mother traveled extensively, lived lavishly and gave millions to Westminster College and the arts. She even funded a state prison college education program for $110,000. Schreuder was its first graduate last year.
Berenice Bradshaw also spent at least $2 million on attorneys for her daughter and grandson.
Moreover, in the last three years of her life, she was mostly bedridden and her round-the-clock medical costs sometimes exceeded $7,000 a week.
Susan Speer, the trust officer at First Interstate Bank, said details of the trust were confidential. But Reagan and Drukman estimate that their mother’s estate can’t be much more than a couple of million dollars, and that it probably is less.
Of that, Schreuder gets half, less inheritance taxes. The money is set up in a “charitable remainder trust,” from which she will receive only a percentage of its worth as income each year. She cannot, however, raid the principal.
“Whoever set that trust up knew my sister,” said Reagan, who lives in New York City.
Upon Schreuder’s death, Berenice Bradshaw willed that the remaining money go to the Utah Opera, Ballet West and Westminster College. Drukman’s two sons get the other half of Mrs. Bradshaw’s estate.
It was Schreuder’s lavish lifestyle, paid for by her increasingly reluctant father, that led to his murder in 1978.
Bradshaw was 76 when he was shot in the back and head behind the counter of his tiny westside Salt Lake auto parts store. His pockets were turned out and the cash till rifled. The police suspected that it was a robbery, and leads in the case quickly dwindled.
But two years later, the murder weapon turned up in New York, given to Marilyn Reagan by a man to whom Schreuder owed $3,700. He said Schreuder’s son Marc had given him the gun for safekeeping.
What then unraveled was a twisted and sordid tale of greed, manipulation and betrayal.
Marc Schreuder was convicted and sent to prison in 1982. A year later, he testified against his mother, who was arrested in her luxury Upper East Side Manhattan apartment after police forced their way past her French maid.
At the time, Schreuder was a member of the New York City Ballet board. The ballet’s co-founder, Lincoln Kirstein, testified at her trial. She and her mother established the ballet’s George Balanchine Memorial Scholarship in 1983 with a $400,000 endowment.
In a 1991 interview, Berenice Bradshaw said the tightfisted Franklin Bradshaw “would die a second death if he saw I was giving his money away.”
Indeed, Franklin Bradshaw was an eccentric of almost superhuman work ethic and flinty frugality. Worth at least $20 million, he had used an empty beer carton as a briefcase, lunched on homemade meat loaf and drove a ratty, rusting pickup truck. He died with a stained $10 bill tucked into his shoe.
In the months before his murder, Bradshaw wearied of his youngest daughter’s harping from New York for more and more money, and demanded that she get a job. He also threatened to cut her out of his will. His wife, who often surreptitiously slipped Frances cash, shared her daughter’s longing for the lifestyle that her husband’s wealth could afford.
Schreuder’s response to her father’s implacability was to send her young sons, Marc and Larry, to live with her parents in Utah in the summer of 1977. The boys later confessed to lacing Grandpa’s oatmeal with amphetamines--supplied by Mom--in hopes that he’d have a heart attack. When he didn’t, they stole upward of $200,000 in stocks and cash.
There were other plots: To set the warehouse on fire, to drop a toaster in Bradshaw’s bath. Schreuder was even bilked by a “hit man” who skipped town with $5,000.
That’s when Schreuder bore down on 16-year-old Marc.
Testimony at both their trials showed an impressionable, devious youth ruthlessly devoted to a mother who held him in Svengali-like sway.
During her 1983 trial, Marc testified that she told him he would have no home to return to if he didn’t kill his grandfather. Arriving in New York with the deed done, Marc--for the first time in his life--was smothered in his mother’s hugs and kisses.
“If she wanted you to do something, it was very difficult to say no,” he told the jury. “You didn’t say no to Mom.”
Marc has been on parole since 1994, after serving 12 years in prison.