Capital murder trial to begin for twice-convicted killer

James Bradley (Source: NHCSO)
James Bradley (Source: NHCSO)
Published: Jan. 22, 2019 at 5:39 AM EST
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NEW HANOVER/PENDER COUNTIES, NC (WECT) - Nearly five years after Elisha Tucker’s body was discovered bound with duct tape and wrapped in trash bags in a shallow grave in a Hampstead field, the twice-convicted killer accused in her death is scheduled to go on trial.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Tuesday in the capital murder trial of James Opelton Bradley, 56, of Wilmington. Bradley, who spent nearly 25 years in prison in the 1988 killing of his 8-year-old stepdaughter, is serving a 30-year sentence on a second-degree murder conviction in the presumed death of his coworker and love interest, Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk, who has not been seen or heard from since April 5, 2014.

Elisha Tucker's body was found on April 29, 2014. (Source: Facebook)
Elisha Tucker's body was found on April 29, 2014. (Source: Facebook)

Tucker was reported missing by her family on Oct. 21, 2013, though it had been months since they had last 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 searching for 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 was immediately 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.

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.

On Monday, David said 400 potential jurors have been summoned to the courthouse in Pender County, where jury selection will take place.

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