Blood & Money Never Asked Him About Murders, Longtime Bradfield Flame Says

Posted: April 12, 1986

HARRISBURG — A Philadelphia woman who has maintained a longstanding romance with convicted murderer William S. Bradfield Jr. said yesterday she has never asked him about the deaths of Susan Reinert and her two children.

Joanne Aitken, a well-educated, slightly built woman in her mid-30s, made the disclosure while testifying in Dauphin County Court as a prosecution witness in the murder trial of former Upper Merion High School principal Jay C. Smith.

Aitken said her relationship with Bradfield began in 1977 and continues today despite Bradfield's confinement in the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Montgomery County, where he is serving three consecutive life terms for the Reinert murders.

"I see him maybe twice a month, and twice a month I talk with him on the telephone," Aitken said, her voice soft but steady and her hands folded in front of her on the witness stand. "I spoke with him on the telephone last night or the night before."

William Costopoulos, Smith's court-appointed attorney, has attempted since the trial began Tuesday to suggest that Smith was framed by Bradfield, Aitken and other members of a so-called "cult" that is actually responsible for the Reinert murders.

Bradfield and Reinert were English teachers at Upper Merion High School.

Costopoulos' main target at the trial has been Susan Myers, an Upper Merion High School English teacher and Bradfield's former live-in companion.

Myers, a diminutive middle-aged woman with glasses and curly dark hair, testified briefly yesterday and will return to the stand for cross-examination when testimony resumes in the case Monday.

Neither Aitken nor Myers has been charged in the case, and both have been granted limited immunity in return for their testimony.

Bradfield, 54, was convicted by a Dauphin County Court jury in October 1983 of killing Reinert, a 37-year-old divorcee, and her children, Karen, 11, and Michael, 10, in an attempt to inherit her estate valued at nearly $1 million.

Reinert's nude and battered body was found stuffed in the rear luggage compartment of her compact car in a suburban Harrisburg motel parking lot. She died of an overdose of morphine. The children's bodies have not been recovered.

Smith, 57, is accused of helping Bradfield carry out the killings. He is being tried on three counts of murder.

Aitken testified she had no knowledge Bradfield was listed as the beneficiary of $730,000 in life insurance policies Susan Reinert had taken out shortly before her death. Aitken also said she did not believe Bradfield was romantically involved with Reinert, and denied she and Bradfield had developed a secret code to communicate after Reinert's death.

She said she had planned to drive with Bradfield in late June 1979 to Santa Fe., N.M., where he was to take a summer college course, but ended up making the 2,000-mile trip alone in Bradfield's 1968 Volkswagen Beetle when he abruptly decided to take a plane instead.

Asked by Costopolous if she considered that an "act of obedience," Aitken replied: "I considered it an act of common sense," explaining that someone had to transport their belongings to Santa Fe.

In a surprise development yesterday, Chief Deputy Attorney General Richard L. Guida announced that an aide had found human hair and rug fibers that allegedly link Smith to the Reinert murders. The hair and fibers had been believed to be lost following Bradfield's trial, but were not known to be missing until Costopoulos asked that they be analyzed by defense experts last week.

Costopolous said further examination of the evidence could help prove Smith's innocence.

Guida said the evidence turned up when an assistant was cleaning out an evidence closet in his office.

"It's nice to know the state has such competent custodial service," Costopoulos said when told of the discovery. "They were capable of losing it, they were capable of finding it and they are capable of losing it again."

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