The Unsolved Murder Of Dana Bradley (1981) - Shreya Sachdev
DISCLAIMER: No disrespect is intended towards anyone that I talk about on this blog post. This blog post is for educational purposes and is being posted on this website in order to raise awareness about this case and to truly hope that the grieving families and friends of these victims find closure and finally find out what happened to their loved one(s). I have gathered all this information on the internet, but unfortunately I do not know how accurate or inaccurate it is. If I have made a mistake somewhere, then I apologize. It is not my intention to spread false information.
Dana Bradley was born in 1967 in St.Johns in Newfoundland and was raised there by her mother. St.Johns was the biggest town in Newfoundland. It wasn't hugely populated and was thus a large down with not many people. There were only 100,000 people living there in the 1980s and that is around the same number today.
When Dana was young, her mother ended up marrying a man named Jeff and Jeff became Dana's stepfather. Jeff acted as if Dana was his true daughter and was a very good father to her. Dana's biological father wasn't really in the picture throughout her life and Dana and Jeff got along really well. Jeff would own a boat and Dana would love going on the boat and pretend as if she was steering it. She had a great relationship with her parents and overall a really happy childhood -- she was also described as being extremely affectionate towards everyone around her with a massive smile and her super big blue eyes.
in 1981, Dana was 14 years old and was in the 9th grade. She was attending Samson's Junior High school. The principal of the school recalls Dana and states that she was a typical 9th grade student and again was extremely affectionate and a happy child. She is also described as being very smart and artistic.
On December 14th in 1981, it began like any other day for Dana's family. She woke up and she got ready for school. This day was slightly more busy for Dana's family than most days because it was Dana's mother's birthday. Usually after school, Dana would go out and hang out with her friends but for this specific day, she decided to only hang out with them for a little bit so she could be back home in time for her mother's birthday.
At around 2:50pm, Dana left school and went to a convenience store that was quite close to the school because that is where her and her friends planned to meet up. She met up with all of her friends and then the group of girls decided to go back to one of the friends' houses and hang out there instead. Just less than two hours after Dana got to her friend's house, she called her mother and told her that she was going to walk to a bus stop just down the road and that she was planning on being home at around 5:30pm. Unfortunately, this was the last time that Dana Bradley would speak to anybody from her family. Nobody actually knows whether or not she made it to the bus stop or got on the bus. The walk from her friend's house to the bus stop was really short but it was a very busy road.
Dana's friend lived just off a road called Topsail Road and there were these two guys named John and Harry Smith. They were working and selling Christmas trees right behind the bus stop at Topsail Road. According to Harry, him and John had an extremely busy day on the 14th of December and were selling Christmas trees each minute. They recall that they decided to take a break and sit at the back of their truck. They basically passed the time by watching the cars and watching people pass by. In this time, they actually saw Dana.
Harry stated that she looked like she was going to the bus stop but that Dana actually had her thumb out so while walking to the bus stop, it looked as if she wasn't actually trying to catch the bus but was rather hitchhiking. Hitchhiking was definitely a lot more common back in the 1900s then it is now. Especially in the area that Dana lived in, hitchhiking was seen as safe just because there was a small population with a tight community. Thus, hitchhiking wasn't seen as a bad thing and nobody really expected anything bad to happen.
While it wasn't too strange, Harry and his brother did make a few remarks about the fact that a young girl shouldn't be hitchhiking all by herself. They claimed that very shortly after that Dana stuck her thumb out, somebody pulled over and picked her up. It was a light color car, either beige or a faded yellow. It had four doors and was either described as a 1973 or 1974 Dodge Dart. It was running slowly, had rust all over, and also had a broken passenger door. Harry and John remember this because they remember seeing Dana and the man that was driving exchange a few words, and then when Dana tried to get in the passenger side door was broken or the handle was broken and so she couldn't get in and the person who was driving the car had to lean back and let her in from his side. Harry and John was very close to this happening and were the primary witnesses in this happening. After Dana got in, the car drove off.
After around 10 minutes of this happening, Dana was expected back home and when she didn't arrive back home on time, her parents did start to get a little worried but didn't take action right away as they wanted to give her some space and assumed that she may have chosen to spend a little more time with her friends. After one or two more hours passed by again, her family became more worried and went out calling for her and her entire family went searching for her before they called the police.
The police was eventually called and on the morning of June 15th 1981, the search for Dana began. Police interviewed many of Dana's friends and family and also put the story out there to the public to see if they knew where Dana was. The search for Dana was on the headline of the newspaper and when Harry saw the headline, he immediately called John and told him about it and John told him that he had already called the police about when they had seen Dana the previous day. The police immediately got the boys in for an interview and the boys clearly told the police what they had witnessed and what they saw had happened. They didn't get a very good look of the driver and were only briefly able to describe him but it was enough for the police to draw a composite sketch of the suspect.
This was all the information that police gathered regarding Dana's disappearance. The next logical step for the police was to try and track down this car that Harry and John described to the police but unfortunately, there were too many cars that matched this description and it was extremely difficult for the police to find the one car that Dana had gotten into especially considering Harry and John didn't have a number plate to tell the police.
On the morning of Friday the 18th of December, a man named Dale Smith and his wife and two children were walking around and were looking for a Christmas tree but then decided that they didn't want to get one from a shop but rather find their own and cut it themselves. They went down to this heavily wooded area to find a tree. It was an isolated road with no houses or anything around. This wooded area was quite disgusting and many people used it as a dump to throw all their garbage away. He said that the reason he picked this spot to cut down a tree was because he knew nobody was going to care if they took it down and because he didn't think many people would be there. When talking to the police, Dale stated that he saw footprints in the snow which means that people had recently been there in the area. He didn't want anybody to see him and so he went straight into the woods with family. When he got deeper into the woods, unfortunately Dale discovered Dana's body.
Dale immediately contacted police and police arrived at the woods shortly after. Police describe Dana's body as extremely strange. This place was a dumping ground but Dana didn't appear to be dumped there but rather posed. She was posed in a burial fashion with her school clothes on and her school books tucked inside her arm as if she was carrying them in the hallway. It appeared to the police as if her face had been cleaned and that the murderer had taken his time out to place her this way in a delicate manner. This led the chief investigator to conclude that whoever committed the crime did feel some remorse for what they did to Dana Bradley. Because of this, police actually made a public plea in the hopes that the killer would feel remorse and out of guilt they would confess what they did. However, nobody did.
Police began examining the area around Dana's body and spend many days cleaning out the entire area in hopes of finding footprints or any other clues that could lead to any hints of who Dana's killer was. Sadly, nothing turned up and there was no new evidence. The only evidence that was found was a little bit of DNA evidence. An autopsy later revealed that she died of blood force trauma to the head and that her skull had been fractured but they couldn't determine what kind of weapon had been used. The autopsy also revealed that she had been sexually assaulted and the coroner confirmed that she died the day that she disappeared.
Police got right to work and worked tirelessly on end for weeks to figure out who had done this. They examined over 1000 cars that matched the description that John and Harry had given them and Dana's family also was extremely cooperative with the police and helped them out a lot despite how heartbroken they were over Dana's murder. Police also conducted over 1000 interviews on the 300 suspects that they had and in some desperate efforts they even tried to use hypnosis on the witnesses but they still didn't get anywhere.
Right after Dana's body was discovered, two new witnesses came forward and said that they saw the matched description of the car in the wooded area the night that Dana disappeared and that they actually saw the suspect himself walking out of the wooded area. These two witnesses were able to give the police a much more detailed description of the suspect but despite this new composite sketch, police still had no new leads and no arrests were made.
Over the next couple of years, the case ended up slowing down quite a bit just because there was no new evidence and no new leads and that police weren't getting anywhere into finding out who Dana's killer was. It wasn't until about five years after the murder in 1986 when a big break happened. The chief inspector of the case received a note and this note basically said that the murderer was a guy named David Somerton who was an ex-con. Police did go and talk to this guy and when they did, he immediately confessed to the murder. They went over the details and they had David explain everything that he had done and everything that had happened. The chief stated that everything David said lined up perfectly with what had happened to Dana and was consist with what they had found with the case. However, he stated that he dug up the murder weapon near where Dana's body was found and when police dug up this area, they did not find the murder weapon despite digging up the entire area. Thus, it appeared to the police as if this guy was lying. It is actually quite common for ex-cons to admit to murders they didn't commit just to show a sense of power and superiority. David was dropped as a suspect because it was clear to the police that he was lying. David Somerton actually stated that the reason he admitted the murders was because in the interrogation room, he was in a suicidal state due to the fact that the police kept on interrogating him and pushing him to tell them what happened. This is common in many criminal investigations when criminals will falsely admit to crimes they haven't committed just to make it stop.
In 2014, a very long time after the murder happened, a man actually came forward with new information. Not only new information, but he actually claimed that he had witnessed the crime. He used another identity (named Robert) as he didn't want to draw any attention to himself or wanted the killer to know what he was saying. He did an interview and gave many details about what he had witnessed and the man that had committed the crime. Robert stated that he had suffered a lot of trauma in his childhood because of this incident and that he became an alcoholic due to the trauma he had witnessed. He said that after he quit drinking and became sober, a lot of the memories came back. Robert said the man that committed the murder was a neighbor and a family friend. He claimed that the man on the night of the murder was driving Robert's father's car which was a 1972 Dodge Dart. He also stated that he himself was sitting in the backseat of the car with his four year old brother. Him and his brother were not in booster seats which is why nobody (Harry and John) didn't see him or his brother the day Dana disappeared. Robert stated that Dana got inside the car and made small talk with him and his brother and then turned around to give the man (the killer) her address. Robert said that the man took the route to Dana's house but then continued to drive and went straight past her house. Of course when this happened, Dana became really scared and wanted to get out of the car. She actually did try and jump out of the car a few times when the car was moving but the guy that was driving would keep on grabbing her and holding her down. He said he eventually pulled over to a wooded area and then started to kiss Dana. Dana was obviously fighting against this but he wouldn't stop. Robert stated that she was crying and kept on trying to fight against him but he would not stop. She eventually scratched him in the face which made him him jump and gave her time to open the door and start running. The killer then got out and start running after her. At this point, Robert stated that he actually got out of the car and watched everything. He watched the sexual assault and watched the murder of Dana Bradley. Robert stated that the man struck Dana on the head with a tire iron which is ultimately what killed her. He then put Dana's body in the trunk and drove to Maddox Cove (which is where Dana's body was found) and the Robert claimed that the reason Dana's body looked care for when police found it was because he actually placed her body like that because he felt so horrible for what had happened.
Robert actually claimed that the vehicle was buried at a property that his family used to own which his family actually confirmed. Another crazy thing about this story is that Robert actually had told the authorities his story in 2011 but the authorities had done nothing about it. Initially, they found Robert's story extremely compelling but authorities conducted a sixteen month investigation and didn't find anything. so they actually believed that the story was false. He said his story dramatically changed from when he first talked to the chief investigator and then to when he talked about the RCMP. They said that it was obvious he had done his research before hand and read many articles, books, and online sources concerning the case and was thus ready to answer any question thrown at him. Authorities also stated that some of the media reportings were false and that Robert had included these false media reportings in his story which made it clear to the police that Robert was lying. He was also incorrect about many details surrounding the murder as well as the fact that nobody saw him and his brother in the car led authorities to confirm that Robert's story was false.
In May of 2016, DNA was retested and forensics scientists were able to confirm that this was the DNA of an unidentified male. This was said to be a large breakthrough in this case as police were now able to use this DNA to eliminate suspects that they already had and used it against any other suspects they may have regarding the case.
1. The first theory is that Dana might have been murdered by a guy named Shannon Murray. He was alleged to have committed multiple murders and multiple sexual assaults through Canada from the 1970s to the 1990s.
2. The second theory is that Dana was murdered by the guy who originally confessed, David Somerton.
3. The third theory is that Thomas Carey (the man in Robert's story) killed Dana.
4. The final theory is that this was done by a complete random and that this was a random attack. In other words, Dana hitchhiked and got into the wrong car with the wrong person.
Which theory do I believe?
I personally believe that this was a random attack on Dana. I think that she simply tried to hitchhike and got into the car of somebody that wasn't a good person. This person saw Dana asking for a car ride as an opportunity to take advantage. I do believe that the killer felt bad for what they had done which is clear in the way Dana's body was positioned. Rest in peace Dana Bradley.
Bibliography & Credit: Fiori, Bella, director. WHAT HAPPENED TO DANA BRADLEY...? YouTube, YouTube, 9 Apr. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=QW9khpk447M.