Sentencing in James Bradley case expected Tuesday

James Bradley found guilty in murder of Elisha Tucker

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The jury involved in the James Bradley trial is expected to decide Tuesday if the convicted murder should face the death penalty. According to District Attorney Ben David, the jury will hear closing arguments Tuesday before deliberating on his sentence.

Bradley was found guilty of first-degree murder earlier this week in the death of Elisha Tucker. The jury deliberated for less than three hours Tuesday morning before returning a verdict.

The sentencing phase of the case began Thursday. District Attorney Ben David announced his office would seek the death penalty soon after a grand jury returned an indictment for first-degree murder in the case.

“We will be calling additional witnesses on Thursday,” David said. “This jury, after eight weeks in the making, say they can fairly consider life or death for Bradley."

This marks the third time Bradley has been convicted of murder. He spent nearly 25 years in prison in the 1988 killing of his 8-year-old stepdaughter.

He is serving a 30-year sentence on a second-degree murder conviction in the presumed death of Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk, his coworker and love interest, who has not been seen or heard from since April 5, 2014.

Tucker was reported missing by her family on Oct. 21, 2013, though it had been months since they had heard from her. The Wilmington woman had an extensive drug history and convictions for prostitution, according to court documents.

She remained missing until April 29, 2014, when investigators who were searching for Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk on a plot of land she and Bradley frequented for their landscaping jobs discovered human remains. The remains were initially believed to be Van Newkirk — prompting authorities to charge Bradley with her murder — but were later identified as Tucker.

Though Bradley immediately was named a suspect in Tucker’s killing, he wasn’t formally charged until late 2016 when investigators obtained physical evidence — principally, the test results of blood found on the floorboard of his SUV being a DNA match to Tucker — linking the pair.

Closing arguments wrapped up in the capital murder trial Monday.

David spent several hours Monday presenting what he called the three Bs in the case — body, bindings and blood — that prove Bradley killed Elisha Tucker.

Tucker’s body was discovered in 2014 bound with duct tape and wrapped in trash bags in a shallow grave in a Hampstead field. David said Tucker’s autopsy showed she had blunt force trauma to the head and broken ribs, and that she was struck with some sort of object at least four times.

David also said by the time Tucker’s body arrived for an autopsy, there was no blood left in her body.

“The three Bs in this case are blood, body and bindings," David told the jury. "Elisha was someone’s baby, and this is her day in court. It is time for justice for her.”

The state says Tucker’s DNA and blood were found in Bradley’s truck, although the defense disagrees. David also said duct tape found on Tucker’s body matched duct tape found in Bradley’s apartment on Flint Drive.

“Bradley is an expert cleaner and body concealer," David said. "He cleaned his car three times in one week after the disappearance of Tucker.”

Geoffrey Hosford, Bradley’s defense attorney, stressed during closing arguments that Bradley and Tucker were in a relationship and living together, that Bradley would have no motive to kill Tucker, and there was no previous altercation between the two. Hosford asked for a mistrial multiple times Monday, saying David improperly instructed the jury and made improper references to Rippy Van Newkirk’s murder.

In addition, Hosford stated Bradley was not living in the apartment where the duct tape was found but rather on Dawson Street with Tucker.

One alternative juror was dismissed Monday after she stated she had seen coverage of Bradley’s second murder trial on television over the weekend.

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