Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Main Line Murders

'He's Going to Kill Susan'

To the dismay of those in charge of the Upper Merion schools, the press had a field day with the story of the odd high school principal charged with two robberies. He was soon relieved of his duties, but the parents of Upper Merion pupils were upset.

Two months after Upper Merion suffered the disgrace of having its principal arrested for theft, Susan Reinert suffered her own terrible grief. Her mother died October 27, 1978. She left her daughter a modest inheritance of $30,000. She also left Reinert a wedding ring that was worth $15,000 and some property valued at $200,000. The divorced mother of two now had some economic comfort and security.

At about the same time, Bill Bradfield awoke suddenly from a dream that he believed was of extraordinary significance. It had been about an event that had seemed trivial at the time it occurred: running into Jay Smith in Ocean City, Md. The reason this happenstance meeting was important was that it had occurred on the very Saturday in August when authorities alleged that Smith had robbed the Sears store.

Vince Valaitis (CORBIS)
Vince Valaitis

However, Bradfield told Vince Valaitis that he knew something ominous about Smith. "He's a hit man for the Mafia," Bradfield informed his chum.

Valaitis was not sure what to make of this. "Bill," he said, "that is the nuttiest . . . "

But Bradfield seemed utterly convinced. And that was not all. Dr. Smith was planning to kill Susan Reinert! 

Why? Valaitis wanted to know.

As recounted in Echoes in the Darkness:

"He says she knows too much about his trash." [Bradfield]

"What trash?" [Valaitis]

"The trash at school. You know the rumors about the disappearance of his daughter and Eddie Hunsberger. Vince, he's been . . . well, I think he's chopped up some bodies and put them in the trash cans around school!"

"It's insane," Vince said, as calmly as possible.

"Is it? What do you think he was doing with the nitric acid he stole from the school? And how about those homemade silencers the police found? You know Doctor Smith well enough, don't you? You named him the prince of darkness."

"He makes things up, Bill," Vince said reasonably. "Jay Smith always tries to shock."

"He's been having an affair with her, Vince. He told me all about it."

. . . Vince made a concession. "Well, maybe part of it could be true."

"We can't go to the police, Vince. You have to swear to keep this a secret."

"But we've got to go to the police!" Vince Valaitis cried.

"We have no proof," Bill Bradfield informed him. "Not a shred of proof. They'd laugh at us. They wouldn't believe us. And then we'd be in grave danger."

"We," Vince said. "We?"

"The man's diabolical. He'd come for us. He'd come in the night. He'd come for our parents. Or his Mafia friends would. He'd be relentless."

Sue Myers (AP/Wide World)
Sue Myers
(AP/Wide World)

Bradfield told Myers about Smith, including that the former principal wanted to kill Susan Reinert. For Myers, who was jealous of Susan and had once physically attacked her, this wasn't the worst news. Bradfield also warned her that she must not go to the police about Smith's nefarious plans. 

Chris Pappas was also told about the secret career of Dr. Jay Smith and his desire to harm Reinert. Bradfield was in a moral dilemma, he told Chris. Smith was a dangerous criminal. But he also knew Smith did not commit the Sears robbery of which he stood accused since Bradfield and Smith had run into each other at Ocean City. Should Bradfield keep quiet and let Smith go to prison for a crime of which he was not guilty — thus, preventing him from harming other people? Or should he provide the murderous educator with an alibi so that formal justice would prevail in the particular case?

The thoughtful young substitute teacher mulled it over. He concluded that Bradfield had a moral obligation to tell the truth at Smith's trial regardless of what type of person Smith was.

As that trial approached, Bradfield's friends found themselves hearing an increasingly distraught Bradfield fret over the murderous Smith and the harm he might do Susan Reinert while at the same time expressing concern that the monstrous former principal might be convicted of thefts he did not commit. He never explained why it was that Smith's friends on the police force, who would supposedly cover him from murder charges, did not protect him from being persecuted for robberies of which he was innocent.

According to the tales Bradfield's friends were hearing, Bill Bradfield had appointed himself Susan Reinert's personal protector, often driving by her residence and following Smith's car to prevent an assault. He and Pappas supposedly discussed plans to murder Smith in case that was necessary to protect Reinert. At the same time, Bradfield portrayed himself as Smith's salvation from false charges.

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