Hello, my loyal true crime readers! I wanted to mention that this article first appeared on the Considering Cold Cases blog as a guest post. I thought I would share it here as well in case you missed it. Head on over there and check out some of their cases. ~ Christine
Case File Overview
On December 14th, 1981 fourteen-year-old Dana Bradley disappeared from St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
Dana decided to hitchhike home from a friend’s house along Topsail Road around 5 pm, reportedly so she could get home for her mother’s birthday celebration. A pair of brothers saw her entering a vehicle described as a four-door 1973 to 1976 Dodge Dart or Plymouth Valiant. Witnesses also provided authorities with a description of the driver.
Composite sketch of the suspect
When Dana never made it home, her parents reported her missing.
Less than a week before Christmas, on Friday December 18th at approximately 3 pm, Dale Smith stumbled upon Dana’s body while searching for a Christmas tree in a wooded area in Maddox Cove, a small community just south of St. John’s.
The autopsy revealed that Dana died from a skull fracture as a result of repeated blows to her head with a blunt instrument. Her time of death is thought to be consistent with the day of her disappearance. The RCMP have not revealed if Dana was sexually assaulted.
Dana’s murder remains unsolved.
Case File Theories
Was Dana murdered by David Somerton? In 1986, Somerton, a Mount Pearl resident, confessed to Dana’s murder. He was subsequently charged but later recanted his confession. The police found absolutely no evidence of his involvement in the crime, and I think that it is unlikely he was involved. As punishment for his false confession, Somerton was convicted of mischief and received a jail sentence of two years for wasting police time and resources.
Did Tom Carey murder Dana? Some people believe that Dana was murdered by Carey, a convicted pedophile who lived in the area. A neighbour of Carey’s, “Robert”, claimed that he had recovered memories and had been sexually abused by Carey. Even more, in 2014 he said that he witnessed Carey murder Dana and place her in the trunk of a vehicle. The police, however, investigated and cleared Carey. Authorities say “Robert’s” story did not align with the evidence. Ultimately, Carey’s DNA reportedly eliminated him as a suspect.
There was, however, still much contention over buried vehicles linked to Carey. Concerned citizens who operate the Justice for Dana Bradley Facebook page fought to have the vehicles excavated and tested. When the RCMP refused, the administrators of the Facebook page went ahead and hired their own forensic team in 2016. Unfortunately, any forensic evidence located in the vehicles had deteriorated and offered no evidentiary value. Was Carey involved? If, as the police say, Carey has been cleared through the use of DNA evidence, I find it doubtful he played a role in Dana’s murder.
Murdered By Someone Known To Dana
Was Dana murdered by someone she knew? Someone Dana knew could have driven by and offered her a ride. Moreover, Dana’s body was laid out with care. She was wearing her school clothes and her books were neatly tucked under her arm. At the time of her murder, authorities mentioned that they thought the care taken with Dana’s body was a sign of remorse. This makes me wonder if Dana knew her killer. If she did, though, you would think that the RCMP would have been able to quickly home in on the killer given the vehicle and suspect description provided by witnesses. If, of course, they were accurate descriptions. Eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable, and I believe that it is a possibility that Dana was murdered by someone she knew.
Murdered By A Stranger
Did a stranger happen upon Dana and murder her? Although stranger killings are rare, they do happen. They are typically crimes of opportunity, and a young teenager hitchhiking alone on a darkening street sadly presents the perfect opportunity. If an opportunistic killer did murder Dana, perhaps it was his first murder since he laid out her body with such care. Or, conversely, the displaying of her body could be the killer’s signature, an act that fulfills some sort of psychological need of the killer and is typically repeated during other similar crimes. Either way, I think it is possible that a stranger took advantage of the situation and murdered Dana.
Who do you think murdered Dana?
Dana’s unsolved murder haunts her loved ones and the St. John’s community.
Sergeant Kent Osmond, head of the RCMP’s Major Crime Unit, has explained, “No one wants this case solved more, aside from Dana’s family, than the members of this team.”
Osmond told the media that “The Dana Bradley investigation has never been cold. We work on the file every day and are following up on many leads.” The police are still conducting interviews, gathering and testing DNA samples, forensically testing evidence, and performing polygraphs. In May 2016, due to advances in DNA testing, investigators were able to attain the DNA of an unknown male suspect from crime scene evidence. They continue to seek justice for Dana and her loved ones.
Related Reading and Listening
“New DNA evidence ‘breakthrough’ in Dana Bradley murder case” – CBC News article
“Civilians dig up Dana Bradley cars, no evidence inside say RCMP” – CBC News article
“Some Dana Bradley suspects cleared with new DNA” – The Telegram article
“David Somerton maintains innocence in Dana Bradley murder” – VOCM Local News Now article
Justice for Dana Bradley – Facebook page
Hitching a Ride: The Unsolved Murder of Dana Bradley – true crime book by Darrin McGrath
The Murder of Dana Bradley – Trace Evidence podcast episode