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No DNA Links Man Accused of Killing Torrance Nurse in 1979 to Crime, His Attorney Says

Douglas Gordon Bradford's attorney claims he was sailing off the coast of Long Beach at the time of the mutilation-murder.

Opening statements are underway at the trial of a man accused of killing a nurse in Torrance in 1979. Patch file photo.
Opening statements are underway at the trial of a man accused of killing a nurse in Torrance in 1979. Patch file photo.

A defense attorney said today that there is no DNA evidence linking an Orange County engineer to the August 1979 murder of a Torrance nurse he had dated earlier that year.

Douglas Gordon Bradford's attorney, Robert Shapiro, told jurors there was "no match" between his client and forensic evidence collected in connection with the Aug. 29, 1979, killing of 28-year-old Lynne Knight, and that authorities had to try to put together a circumstantial case against his client.

Knight, who worked as a neonatal nurse at Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance, was stabbed more than 15 times and strangled with a homemade wire garrote that was found near her body in her small Anza Avenue apartment, according to prosecutors.

She was garroted first, but died from a stab wound to her femoral artery, according to the medical examiner. One of her breasts was mutilated by a knife post-mortem.

In his opening statement Monday, Deputy District Attorney John Lewin told jurors that Bradford, now 62, was not willing to accept his break-up with Knight.

"The defendant was in love with Lynne Knight ... he was jealous of competitors," the prosecutor said.

Knight was the one who wanted to break it off in June, the defendant confirmed in a taped 1979 interview with detectives that was played for the jury.

"The reason we broke up was because she wanted to date a lot of different guys," Bradford could be heard saying.

After the split, Bradford stalked Knight, cruising through her neighborhood up to three times a week, Lewin alleged.

Bradford told detectives that he hadn't seen Knight for nearly three months and that he was sailing off the coast of Long Beach the night she was killed. He said he headed out about 10:30 p.m. and returned about 3 a.m., forced to paddle a racing sloop back because of lack of wind.

"The alibi that he gave ... did not happen," Lewin said, telling the jurors they would hear testimony from several skippers that reaching the ocean under sail without wind and paddling back were impossible and night sailing was banned by the local sailing association.

Bradford's attorney countered that jurors would hear testimony from an expert sailor that would prove that one person could paddle back.

"We're going to prove to you that Mr. Doug Bradford told the truth," Shapiro told the panel.

The defense lawyer noted that Bradford's car was searched about a week after Knight's killing, and that no traces of dried blood were found in the vehicle. He also said possible evidence had been destroyed, including a crumpled wedding invitation that police failed to retrieve from a trash can.

"Potential forensic evidence is lost forever," Shapiro said.

Shapiro said the prosecution's case was built in part on "two false premises" -- that Bradford's alibi was bogus and that Bradford knew Knight was dead when he didn't.

Though detectives interviewing Bradford told him that Knight was simply missing, Lewin said it was telling that the defendant still referred to her in the past tense.

"He knew she was dead because he'd done it," Lewin said.

Bradford was living in Costa Mesa at the time of his May 13, 2009, arrest, with prosecutors crediting "old-fashioned police work" by detectives from the Torrance Police Department's Cold Case Unit for breaking the case.

Searches of Bradford's home and his mother's residence turned up wire and wood similar to that used to make the garrote, Lewin told the jury.

In his opening statement, Shapiro countered that the wire used in the crime was described as common, and said that there will not be any evidence to show that wire even existed in 1979 that was taken years later from the back of paintings belonging to Bradford's mother.

"After 35 years, this case still remains unsolved because justice delayed is justice denied," the defense lawyer told jurors.

The trial is expected to last more than a month.

--City News Service


Dawn Artinger July 10, 2014 at 02:23 PM
I knew Lynne well, we used to go to Catalina a lot. She was an amazing person, Neo-Natal Nurse, and Diver. This was such a heinous crime. It haunts me to this day! The world lost a truly wonderful person. She had a lot to offer the world. RIP Lynne.

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