Woman in Killer’s Photos Was Strangled in 1980
The search for 50 women who were photographed two decades ago by a convicted murderer took a grim turn Thursday with the discovery that one of them had been strangled and dumped in the high desert in 1980.
Detectives said the woman’s slaying was never solved but had similarities to a killing William Bradford was convicted of committing in the early 1980s.
This marks the second woman identified as being one of Bill Bradford’s 50 photo subjects to have been found slain. Detectives also have identified a third possible victim: a 14-year-old runaway in the late 1970s.
“We have potentially two homicide victims here,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Ray Peavy said. “We are making progress.”
The Sheriff’s Department has received more than 1,000 phone calls since it took the unusual step of publicly releasing the photos of the women Tuesday. Detectives did not know whether they were dead or alive and asked the public to help identify them.
As of Thursday, they had confirmed that 28 are alive.
One who came forward was Tina Teets, who said Thursday that she was Photo No. 8. Teets said Bradford photographed her in 1984 when she competed in modeling contests. She had forgotten about him until this week.
“I realized how lucky I was,” she said. “I fit his demographic perfectly.”
The 54 photographs were found by police when they originally arrested Bradford in the early 1980s. They sat untouched for years until a cold-case detective decided to take a second look.
Bradford frequented popular Westside bars and offered to take photos of female models and actresses. That was how he met Shari Miller, a 21-year-old barmaid. At his trial, prosecutors said Bradford took photos for her portfolio as a way of gaining her trust. Then he drove her to the Mojave Desert for a photo shoot and strangled her.
Days later, on July 12, 1984, Tracey Campbell disappeared. Authorities alleged that Bradford killed the 15-year-old after another fashion shoot and left her body in the Mojave Desert.
Peavy said he was concerned about the seeming similarity between Campbell’s death and that of the new homicide victim. Like Campbell, she was found strangled in the high desert. Officials declined to provide either her name or photo number.
But Peavy said her family had contacted investigators, who spent the day comparing photos and looked through the homicide file on her. She was in her 20s and lived in Southern California.
Bradford is now on San Quentin’s death row. His attorney said Bradford has denied killing anyone. Authorities, however, said they believe that he killed at least five people, including an aspiring model who was found decapitated in Malibu.
Teets said she remembered Bradford from her days at South Bay and Westside modeling events.
She was about 17 and modeled for photographers at car-show bikini contests, she said. Bradford was one of several amateur photographers who frequented the events and usually paid fees for photo sessions, she said.
She agreed to model for Bradford and several other photographers at some shows. One of those shots became Photo No. 8.
Teets said the photos were taken only months before Bradford was arrested in the deaths of Campbell and Miller.
She had forgotten about the man until detectives released the photos. She never knew of Bradford’s arrest and subsequent conviction.
“I was speechless when I learned I was No. 8,” she said. “Why did he keep my photo out of all those he took?”
But she said she knew even then that he was not someone to go anywhere with alone.
“My first reaction was I’m not surprised,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent of the photographers are on the up-and-up. But for some reason he was not normal.”
Teets, 39, lives in Riverside and runs a pet grooming business. She has talked to detectives, but investigators plan to interview her more fully in the next few days.
She said she spent Wednesday evening going through old boxes of photos from her modeling days, looking for possible clues for detectives. There are images of some of the other models.
Teets said she recognized Photo No. 9 as someone she might have worked with on the photo circuit but was not sure.
“Her name may have been Bridget,” she recalled. “I just hope they’re all safe.”