NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The jury in the murder trial for James Bradley heard about the discovery of a body on the plot of land accused killer Bradley worked on as a landscaper.
In the search for Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk in late April 2014, investigators found a body wrapped in trash bags in a makeshift grave on a plot of land in Pender County.
Sgt. Lee Odham was part of the search team that discovered the body. He took the stand Wednesday morning in court and told the jury he came across an area of "disturbed earth." When he stepped on it, Odham said oily water leaked out and he recognized the smell of a decomposing body.
Investigators initially believed the body was Van Newkirk's, but an autopsy later identified the remains as Elisha Tucker. Tucker had been missing since August 2013.
Detective Carlos Lamberty said he showed pictures of Tucker's body and crime scene, when they still believed it was Van Newkirk's.
"He put his head down, looked at it and made no reaction to the photo as far as 'Oh thank goodness you found my friend' or anything of that nature,'" Lamberty explained. "He smirked at the photo."
Karen Kelly, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, said the body had tattoos and restored teeth.
Detective Lamberty was in the room and she testified he knew right away the body was not Van Newkirk's.
Kelly, who has performed over 5,000 autopsies, told the jury Tucker was alive when she suffered blunt force trauma to the head and a long list of other injuries.
District Attorney Ben David showed the jury pictures from the discovery of Tucker's body. The graphic images were not shown to the public.
The defense objected to the relevancy of these pictures in the disappearance of Van Newkirk. The judge overruled the objection and will allow the images to be seen in court Wednesday.
Bradley was formally charged in Tucker's killing after a November 2016 test determined a patch of blood found in his car was Tucker's.
Odham also searched the area around Greenfield Lake after Bradley told investigators Van Newkirk had jumped out of his truck and walked away the night she went missing.
Odham says he examined surveillance video from cameras at a nearby radiology lab.
"I remember perfectly what I saw," Odham said, explaining there was no image of Bradley, his truck, or Van Newkirk caught on camera.
The defense argued Van Newkirk could have gone anywhere after jumping out of Bradley's truck.
WECT's Connor DelPrete will be in the courtroom to cover the James Bradley trial. You can follow him on Twitter for live updates and throughout the trial.
Here's a look at what happened in court Tuesday: http://tinyurl.com/ya5xa3ob