Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Main Line Murders

A Tangled Web

In August the Philadelphia area newspapers were filled with stories saying police thought the Reinert murder was connected with a sex club or a satanic cult or both. Smith was tied to Satanism through a devil costume supposedly recovered from his home.

As might be expected, parents of teenagers attending Upper Merion were outraged and the school board and school superintendent felt the full force of their fury. One harried administrator commented, "It's a real bitch! They don't teach you how to handle these things in graduate school!"

Investigators began taking a very close look at Susan Reinert's bank transactions when she had withdrawn money over a period of just a few days that added up to $25,000. A form was found among her belongings that said she had a $100,000 certificate that would draw 12% interest. It had been sold by E. S. Perritt, Jr. and approved by M. E. McEvey for Bache and Company.

Officials at Bache and Company had never heard of Perritt, McEvey or Reinert.

The FBI entered the case and named the investigation they pursued with the Pennsylvania police SUMUR for Susan Murder.

When the new school session rolled around, administrators at Upper Merion did not want to further antagonize parents by putting teachers suspected of involvement in murder into classrooms. They could not legally be fired. Bill Bradfield, Sue Myers, Chris Pappas and Vince Valaitis were all assigned to do paperwork in rooms in which they would have little contact with others. Pappas decided this was not for him and left teaching to work in construction

Bradfield and Valaitis were assigned to work together but they were soon screaming at each other. "I'm not going to jail with you!" Valaitis shouted.

The men were allowed to work apart from each other.

Investigators began to probe the connection, if any, between Bradfield and Smith and between Smith and Reinert. They went to the prison where Smith was serving time for theft by deception. He agreed to talk to them and gave them a rundown of his activities on the days and nights in question.

Nothing checked out. They couldn't prove where he was but they could show he was not with the people he claimed to have seen.

A letter Smith wrote to his wife on the day after he was incarcerated interested VanNort and Holtz. He emphasized that the elder Stephanie must clean their car "thoroughly"(his emphasis) and throw out their downstairs rug.

On July 28, 1980, frustrated investigators got the break they had been hoping for. It was given to them by none other than William Bradfield who tried to probate Reinert's will and filed claims on her insurance policies.

Both Reinert's ex-husband and her brother challenged the will. Deputy District Attorney John Reilly was appointed administrator of the estate for the missing children. The proceedings were held in the aptly named Orphans Court.

Bradfield showed up looking dapper in a three-piece blue pinstripe with a freshly trimmed beard and haircut. He took the witness stand.

John Reilly appeared amazed as he questioned Bradfield. "Did she ever discuss an investment with you?" he asked.

"What investment?" Bradfield asked.

"You didn't know she had money in the bank?" Reilly prodded.

"No, sir."

"Did Mrs. Reinert give you sums of money for an investment or any other purpose prior to her death?"

"No, sir. I would often give money to her. To make ends meet. As did Mr. Valaitis."

"Were you aware that she took out insurance policies naming you as beneficiary?"

"No, sir."

"Were you aware prior to her death that she named you as a beneficiary in her will?"

"No, sir."

The Philadelphia Daily News commented on this extraordinary courtroom performance as follows:

"Putting it gently, Susan Reinert had an impressive amount of life insurance. Spectacular Bid is insured for more. So, presumably, is Streisand. But for a schoolteacher the figure's a bit high.

What Bradfield is suggesting has a charm all its own. Susan Reinert, under the mistaken impression that she was going to marry Bill Bradfield, tiptoes out, purchases three quarters of a million dollars worth of insurance, didn't tell him a thing about it, didn't tell him about her estate, didn't tell him she changed her will, didn't tell him she had made him sole beneficiary of the estate and the insurance."



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