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The Unsolved Murder of Dana Bradley

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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

Source: CBC News

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

David Somerton 

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.

Tom Carey

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.

Source: The Telegram

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.

Anyone with information about Dana’s murder should contact the RCMP at 709-772-5400 or call the anonymous Crime Stoppers tip line at 1-800-222-8477.

“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 BradleyTrace Evidence podcast episode

Interested in unsolved murder cases? Check out the murder of Joey Ross and the slaying of Jillian Fuller.

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Published inUnsolved Murder Files

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14 Comments

  1. michael schneider michael schneider

    The usual questions, what about dna, dna genealogy thing, dna under fingernails?

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Michael. You are very right; DNA is playing a big role in Dana’s case. In May 2016, thanks to advances in DNA technology, investigators attained the DNA of an unknown male suspect from crime scene evidence. Now I bet they are waiting for a DNA match pop up in the system. I love your suggestion, though, about putting the DNA through the ancestry DNA databanks. If the person has never committed another crime, it might be the only way to find them!

  2. Todd Todd

    Exactly, ancestory is becoming a key to solving these crimes… fingers crossed!

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Todd. It sure is. Here’s hoping!

  3. DARREN LAY DARREN LAY

    Christine, just found your blog, very interesting. I am a Cold Case Crime buff and will be following your posts…

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Darren. Thanks for reading and for your kind words! Have a great weekend.

  4. cold be a man form florda or down the states what im thinking is a man there served at us navil bace argenita nfld or a person that was mermoral stadium event at st johns

  5. Craig Craig

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this case again and did a little research. Perhaps they were looking for the wrong car. The body types of a Plymouth Valiant and a Dodge Dart are practically unchanged from 1962 up to 1980 and beyond. Given this crime occurred in 1981, it’s unlikely the car was any newer than 1977 as it was described as rusted and a bit rough. Ford and Chevrolet cars of that time frame were also very similar in body style and to differentiate the exact make and model would have required a lot more than a passing glance from a relative distance. Shouldn’t there be motor registration records from this time? Vehicles had to be inspected every year in NL until the mid 80’s and a new plate issued. I know it provides a huge pool of vehicles and owners but NL is relatively small and was more so in 1981. If this guy was a passing through stranger, could he have taken the ferry out of NL after? There has to be records of people and vehicles passing through the ferry terminal. How accessible is Maddox Cove road? Would it be right off the main drag where an opportunistic stranger would leave a victim or would it be harder to find unless a person was from the area? I know all of this is wild speculation but it’s still at least slightly relevant. If the two witnesses are still alive, I think they should be interviewed again. With the advances in police sketching and computer technology, a more detailed and more reliable composite could be produced.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Craig – thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your insights. That’s some intriguing research you did on the vehicle and how maybe the police were looking for the wrong car! You convinced me anyways that more time should be spent on it. It could help explain why the police have come up empty so far. All it could take is one tip to break Dana’s case open and we never know what that will be. Let’s hope her loved ones get some answers soon. And please consider emailing your thoughts to the police. It can’t hurt!

  6. Craig Craig

    Thank you for posting my comment. I’d send my theories to appropriate individuals if I could but not sure if they would even taking it serious. I strongly believe the car is the key to cracking this case. NL presents a unique dynamic with its small provincial population which was even more tight net at the time of this crime. Not every one or even every family owned a vehicle at that time. Re-interviewing the two witnesses and using modern computer software to compile a more realistic composite sketch should also be explored. Time is passing and soon there will be no one to interview and this case will become that much harder to solve. It’s a shame that someone with a vested interest is unable to have access to the files and evidence and devote time from a fresh prospective into moving it forward. If you look at the map, Maddox Cove is not a simple and readily accessible area and in 1981 urbanization was much less prevalent. This indicates the killer knew the area and possibly knew Dana. It’s not a place someone passing through the city would have intimate knowledge of. I believe that expanding the criteria of suspected vehicles, though time consuming, is certainly plausible and should be revisited. The huge advantage here is the sparse population and relatively lower standard of living that comes with living in NL in the early 80’s. Winters were also much more intense at those times and even the idea of studded tires was either unheard of or not common practice. Thus, the individual unlikely travelled greater distances in the second week of November. If this guy did show some remorse to what he had done, it’s likely he was already at least a petty criminal who stole or was inappropriate around young girls. It’s hard to imagine he was a morally proficient person who all of a sudden kidnapped and then killed a young girl in a violent fashion. There has to be files and records of people who tick all the boxes. Again, I know all I’ve said may be just wild speculation and may have touched on areas already investigated, I really don’t know. I do know that 40 years have passed already and time is not something that’s limitless. That girl and her family have gone far too long without justice and that guy either lived or is still living a full life. The lack of forensic evidence can be offset by process of elimination and old fashioned investigation. Thank you once again for allowing me to share my thoughts on this matter.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Craig – I agree on all counts! And after 40 years creativity and widening the net is required to solve this case. I’m grateful you shared all this here as I know police often review sites on the internet for tips. You never know what your ideas will spark! I sure hope more is happening with this case by police than is publicly shared. Dana’s loved ones and the community deserve answers. Take care ~ Christine

  7. Gary kennedy Gary kennedy

    Was Malcom cuff from corner Brook, nl. Ever interviewed by the RCMP for dana’murder. The drawing of the suspect sure bares a resemblance of cuff. He was convicted of the murder of Marilyn Ann Newman. Years later confessed to the murder of his then girlfriend Janet louvelle. Both murders a year or two apart from Dana Bradley’s murder. Janet’s before and Marilyn’s after.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Gary. Thanks for reading. I’m not sure but this definitely sounds like something that should be looked into. Thanks for sharing it here! I hope the authorities are already on it.

    • Gena Montgomery Gena Montgomery

      It’s May 25, 2022 and I just read The Telegram article about Malcolm Cuff. Immediately, as a teen myself in 1981, my mind also jumped to a possible connection to Dana Bradley .

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