Location

Defendants

Date of Crime

 

Dauphin County, PA Smith & Bradfield June 24, 1979

Dr. Jay C. Smith was sentenced to death in 1985 for the 1979 murders of Susan Reinert and her two children.  Smith was the principal of Upper Merion High School (in Montgomery County) for 12 years and Reinert was a teacher there.  Reinert's fiancÚ, William Bradfield, was also a teacher at the same school as well as president of the Teacher's Union.  Bradfield was convicted in 1983 of conspiracy to murder Reinert and her children as he was named beneficiary of Reinert's life insurance.

Reinert was last seen alive driving away from her Ardmore home with her two children at 9:20 p.m. on Friday, June 22, 1979.  Her dead body was found in her car in a Harrisburg parking lot the following Monday morning.  Her two missing children are presumed dead.  An autopsy revealed she was badly beaten 24 to 36 hours before her death and that she died early Sunday morning from an injection of morphine.  It also revealed that she had sand between her toes implying she could have visited a beach area like Cape May, NJ.  In addition, she had written directions on her to an area just north of Cape May.  Cape May is approximately 100 miles southeast of Reinert's home, while Harrisburg is approximately 100 miles west.

Bradfield had an alibi from 11:15 p.m. Friday on, when he got together with three friends, reputable high school teachers, and left with them, spending the weekend in Cape May, NJ.  The prosecution did not believe that he could have traveled to Harrisburg during this period and it was alleged that Bradfield had employed Smith as Reinert's killer.

Smith was convicted of murdering Reinert and her two children in 1985.  At Smith's trial, the prosecutor did not call Bradfield as a witness, but instead called a series of witnesses who recounted their recollections of what Bradfield said.  The judge allowed this hearsay testimony after the prosecutor assured him that the state attorney general found that such testimony was allowed under the law.  A jailhouse informant, who had been imprisoned for perjury, claimed that Smith had confessed to the crime.  This informant was wired with a hidden recording device, but on every recording in which the informant brought up the subject with Smith, Smith stated that he had nothing to do with the Reinert murders.

The PA Supreme Court overturned Smith's conviction in 1992 because the judge permitted hearsay testimony, the police withheld evidence that sand was found between Reinert's toes, and five state troopers perjured themselves on this point.  The troopers did not want Smith's jury to hear about the sand as it allowed the defense to argue that Reinert had been in Cape May and that Bradfield had personally killed her.  The Court found the prosecution's conduct so egregious that it broke new legal ground and barred a retrial.

The chief case investigator, Trooper John J. Holtz, was later found to have accepted $50,000 from author Joseph Wambaugh for information on the Reinert investigation.  The money was provided on the condition that suspect Jay Smith be arrested.

Smith's exoneration should have undermined Bradfield's conspiracy conviction on the basis of insufficient evidence.  At Bradfield's trial, there was no direct evidence that he conspired with Smith, but without Smith, there is not even circumstantial evidence that he conspired with anyone.

Despite his excellent alibi, evidence suggests that Bradfield orchestrated Reinert's murder and tried to frame Smith for it.  Bradfield had warned associates that the evil Dr. Smith planned to kill Reinert for some time before the murder.  Smith was previously convicted of robbing a Sears store by posing as an armored car driver to collect the day's receipts.  Smith was due to be sentenced and imprisoned the same day and in the same city that Reinert's body was found, so it seemed that Bradfield used his last opportunity to kill Reinert and throw suspicion on Smith.  It seems doubtful that Smith, who had no motive for killing Reinert, would drive her car with her dead body to Harrisburg, then return home and drive his own car to his sentencing.

Bradfield died in prison in 1998.  The case is the subject of three books, Echoes in the Darkness by Joseph Wambaugh (1987), Engaged to Murder by a Philadelphia Inquirer editor (1988), and Principal Suspect by Smith's trial and appeal attorney (1996).  The case was also the subject of a TV mini-series.  [1/06]

 

www.victimsofthestate.org

Individual Case Summaries

Main Menu