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Skinhead ‘Groupie’ Guilty of Murder for Role in Girl’s Slaying

Times Staff Writer

A 30-year-old Ventura woman whose statements to police cracked open an unsolved 1998 homicide was found guilty of first-degree murder Tuesday after jurors concluded that she participated in the crime she helped solve.

Bridget Callahan, who faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison, wept silently as the verdict was announced in Ventura County Superior Court after two days of jury deliberations.

The ruling capped a five-day trial in which Callahan’s lawyer portrayed her as a naive girl who was only a witness to the brutal slaying of Ventura teenager Nichole Hendrix by two skinhead gang members.

But it was the prosecution portrayal of Callahan as a racist gang groupie who stood guard as skinheads David Ziesmer and Michael Bridgeford stabbed Hendrix to death that the jury apparently found believable.

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“We are very pleased with the verdict,” said Deputy Atty. Gen. Michael Katz, whose office took over the case last year amid allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.

“The jurors did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Katz said.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Ron Bamieh, the former prosecutor on the case, expressed disappointment at the verdict.

Bamieh said Callahan should have been given some consideration for her cooperation in the case and should have faced no more than a second-degree murder sentence.

“She was the reason we were able to solve this case,” Bamieh said.

Defense attorney Joseph O’Neill met with jurors after the verdicts were returned and could not be reached for comment. But a motion for a new trial or reduction of sentence is likely to be filed.

Among the evidence presented at Callahan’s trial was her own statement to police that she stood guard over Hendrix at the City Center Motel in Ventura on Oct. 15, 1998, as Ziesmer and Bridgeford searched for weapons to kill the girl.

The pair mistakenly suspected Hendrix of reporting them to police after they had kidnapped and drugged her to get at stolen property in her possession, according to testimony.

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Hendrix was forced to undress, then stabbed and beaten to death in the motel bathtub, according to testimony. Her body, found months later, was packed in cement and dumped in the Ventura County back country.

Prosecutors offered to let Callahan plead guilty to second-degree murder based on her cooperation, but she refused.

That plea would have allowed a chance for parole after 15 years.


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