Model Mystery

Steve Huff and his readers have taken on the project of trying to identify the fifty (or so) women depicted in photographs taken by convicted murderer William Richard Bradford. It should be noted that up to 27 of the women have already been identified, and a few of the photographs appear to be of the same individuals. In my opinion, some matches have already been made. I’ve posted a little on his two entries there, but I’ve made some additional matches that I’d like to go a little more in-depth on. I can’t post images in his comments section — only links to images elsewhere — and that’s just not good enough to satisfy me. No offense intended to Steve. Also, I think that the more people working on something like this, the better. That’s why I decided to do an entry on it. Not that my readership is vast, but every little bit helps, right?

I realize the image I’ve posted is too small for making detailed comparisons, but it’s the best that blogger would allow. For larger images, you can use this .pdf file posted at LA County Murders website. Huff also has a good .jpg image posted at his blog and is updating it regularly as the women are identified.

The MSNBC article that was originally at this link has since been altered. Thursday morning, it included the following paragraphs, which I thought were significant:

The case could lead outside California. Bradford has spent time in Illinois, Texas, Florida, Michigan, Oregon and elsewhere.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Bradford, now 60, posed as a freelance photographer in the West Los Angeles area, taking photos of women he met at bars and car races, according to information on the department Web site. He worked as a handyman and sometimes hung out with a motorcycle gang, officers said.

I posted the above excerpts at Huff’s Crime Blog Thursday morning after coming across the file on Rosario Gonzales at The Charley Project, and Steve was kind enough to credit me in his subsequent entry.

The reason I thought it significant is because, during the same time frame as Bradford’s alleged crimes, there was a known serial killer named Christopher Wilder who was responsible for the deaths of several young women across the country from Florida to California. Wilder had an MO much the same as Bradford’s — posing as a photographer in order to entice young women with promises of modeling careers. He liked the same venues for potential victims — bars and car races. Clicking his name will take you to a Crime Library article for a thorough history of his crimes. It includes photos of many of Wilder’s victims. There are, however, a few unaccounted-for young women whose disappearances have been attributed to Christopher Wilder. Their names are Mary Opitz, Colleen Orsborn, Rosario Gonzales, Tammy (or Tammi) Leppert, and Elizabeth Kenyon, all of whom disappeared in Florida under suspicious circumstances. The following is part of a comment I posted under Huff’s first entry on this mystery:

Anyway, it caused me to wonder if there was any connection between the two men or their supposed victims. Is it just a coincidence that they were playing at the same game during the same time frame and possibly the same geographic locations?

The similarities bothered me enough that I’ve stared at the photos of Wilder’s alleged victims, trying to determine if any of them match the photographs found in William Richard Bradford’s home in 1984. I think I’ve looked at them too long; I see similarities, but I can’t tell if any of them are the same women. For instance, I see similarities between Tammy Leppert and photo #9.

I’m interested in knowing if any of you see resemblances between these women and those in Bradford’s collection of photographs.

Continuing to search through files on women who went missing in the 1970s, I took notice of the page dedicated to Robin Ann Graham, who disappeared after accepting a ride from an unidentified man when her car broke down along a California highway. From The Charley Project:

An unidentified Caucasian male in his mid-twenties was seen talking to Graham just before she vanished. He was wearing bellbottom trousers and a white turtleneck and was about 5’8 tall. A 1957-1960, primed light blue Corvette hardtop was parked behind her boyfriend’s vehicle. He helped her get the car started, then they rode off together in his car. The patrolman said she appeared to get into the man’s car willingly.

After the Los Angeles Times did a story on Graham’s disappearance, a woman wrote a letter to Graham’s parents and said she, too, had stalled on the road and a man driving a Corvette, who claimed to be an off-duty police detective, offered her a ride. The woman refused his offer. It is not known if this man is the same person as the man last seen with Graham.The woman identified Bruce Davis as the man she saw. Davis is one of numerous people suspected of possibly being the Zodiac Killer, a serial killer who terrorized California in the late 1970s.

 

As the article continues, another missing woman, Donna Ann Lass, is referred to as someone once believed to be a possible victim of the Zodiac. Lass disappeared from her job as a nurse at The Sahara Hotel-Casino in South Lake Tahoe, California, on September 6, 1971.

A postcard purportedly from the serial killer nicknamed the Zodiac implied that he had killed Lass. The Zodiac sent many written messages to newspapers and police claiming responsibility for disappearances and murders, but Lass’s abduction does not fit his profile and the postcard was later found to have been forged by a police investigator.

Possible matches for Robin Graham and Donna Lass are numbers 34 and 43, respectively. Not only are there similarities of features and hairstyles, but the photos are both taken in black and white, and the women don’t look all that enthusiastic about being photographed — not the typical model poses seen in many of Bradford’s other photos. In fact, you might say that these two women look uncertain, if not frightened, of whomever is behind the camera. That would fit with the circumstances. After all, these women were abducted rather than enticed with promises of modeling careers.

And as a last comparison in the cases of Donna Lass and Robin Graham, consider these images of William Richard Bradford and former Manson Family member and possible Zodiac suspect, Bruce McGregor Davis. Perhaps the woman who identified Bruce Davis as the man in the Corvette posing as an undercover detective was mistaken. Could William Richard Bradford have actually been the man who offered her a ride, which she was prudent enough to decline?

I encourage anyone who has the time and an eye for faces to search out the possibilities of other missing women who might be depicted in Bradford’s portfolio. And as I click Publish Post, I’m crossing my fingers in the hope that I haven’t breached any rules of blogging etiquette in compiling this entry.

Note: All images are enlargeable with a click.

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