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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Richard Bradford: California Murder Parole Violator Lived 32 Years Under Fake ID

     In 1970, 18-year-old Richard Bradford, a student at San Jose State College, belonged to a hold-up gang that robbed several grocery stores in the San Jose area. On November 2 of that year, during the hold-up of the Spartan Market, Bradford shot and killed Robert Burgess III. The following year a San Jose jury found Bradford guilt of first degree murder and first degree robbery. The judge sentenced the defendant to life in prison.

     In 1978, after serving seven years of his "life" sentence, the authorities released Richard Bradford on parole. While in prison, in anticipation of his early release, Bradford had acquired a birth certificate and Social Security card under the name James Edward Heard.

     Less than two years after he walked out of prison, Bradford skipped out of his parole supervision. He took up the identity of James Edward Heard and moved to Pasadena, California. The convicted armed robber and murderer got married, and became a prominent member of the community.

     By 2010, the parole violator, under his fake identity, owned a home and several other pieces of real estate. He operated the Eston Canyon Treatment Center, a Pasadena drug rehabilitation facility for wealthy addicts. No one in the community had any idea that Mr. Heard was a convicted murderer named Richard Bradford.

     A parole apprehension team, in 2010, began an investigation to find and arrest Bradford for breaking the terms of his murder parole. Investigators caught a break in 2011 when two sets of fingerprints under the names Richard Bradford and James Edward Heard were found to have come from the same person.

     In March 2013, police officers arrested Bradford at a Home Depot store in the town of Monrovia just east of Pasadena. When taken into custody, he was accompanied by his wife. (I don't know if she knew who he really was.) The 60-year-old parole violator is being held without bail at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles.

     While I see this case as a gross failure of the state's criminal justice system, prison bureaucrats will probably credit Bradford's successful life after his incarceration as evidence of how well California's corrections department rehabilitates its inmates. Because of Bradford's age, his status in the community, and the fact California's jails are overcrowded, Richard Bradford will probably not be sent back to prison.

     Given the seriousness of Bradford's original crime, I don't believe he should have been paroled in the first place. The question of what to do with him now is more difficult. Should he be rewarded for his crime-free life after his parole, or be punished with jail time for breaking his parole for 32 years? 

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