Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Main Line Murders

Insured for Death

In 1978 Susan Reinert applied for an exchange teaching position in England on the Fulbright-Hays program. In December of that year, she also attempted to buy a life insurance policy from the USAA Company for $500,000, naming William Bradfield as its beneficiary. As Wambaugh wrote, "The insurance company denied her application on the grounds that such a large policy would overinsure her life."

Reinert confided some exciting news to a close friend in March 1979. Bill had finally asked her to marry him. She had given him her mother's $15,000 wedding ring to have it reset. She also said that Bill had gotten her an investment in a "high-yielding certificate" that would secure her children's education.

A couple of months previously, in January 1979, Reinert had informed her older brother, Pat Gallegher, that she planned to invest $25,000 in a certificate offering 12% interest. Did Pat want in on the deal? He did not.

On a cold day that February, Reinert told a teller in the King of Prussia Continental Bank that she wanted to withdraw $25,000 from her $30,000 bank account. Bankers are alert to the fact that huge cash withdrawals generally signal that a client is the victim of a confidence game. The teller alerted the bank manager who came out to speak to Reinert.

"In a legitimate investment," he explained, "there's no purpose served by handing over cash."

"It's my money," the squeaky-voiced woman retorted. "I'm not a child. I want cash."

"Why not accept a cashier's check?" the manager asked. "It's every bit as negotiable as cash."

No, she insisted. She needed cash.

"How about a wire transfer?" the manager offered. "The money could be moved from our bank to the credit of your person in his bank."

She told him it was her money and she wanted it in cash. The investment she was going to make was for a very high rate of return.

"I haven't heard of anyone offering more than 9%," the bank manager said.

It was for higher than that, she told him. He offered to hand over $1,500 cash. There was a law permitting banks to refuse cash if they felt certain the customer was being victimized.

Reinert took the $1,500. Then she began pulling her money out of the bank in increments of $5,000 until she had taken out $25,000.

Shortly after that, Bradfield informed Chris and Wendy about some $25,000 that he had saved up over the years. It was going to go toward buying a boat, he said. He was afraid that banks might "all go under" so wanted these funds in cash. He also wanted Chris to rent a safety deposit box for him that would include both of their names plus that of Wendy. March 3, 1979, was the day when two important events in this case took place. Dr. Smith was convicted of the attempted theft of the Abington Sears Store. Susan Reinert purchased a $250,000 life insurance policy. It had a $200,000 accidental-death rider and that clause included murder. Its beneficiary was William Bradfield. On the very next day, Susan Reinert changed her will. Her children and brother were no longer its beneficiaries. William Bradfield had that sole distinction.

Later that month, on May 30, Bradfield testified in Smith's trial, providing the ex-principal with an alibi. His testimony was unconvincing. The jury convicted Smith the next day of robbing the St. David's Sears. He was freed on bail pending appeals.

In June, Reinert bought two more life insurance policies, one for $150,000 and another for $100,000. Together with what she had inherited from her mother, Susan Reinert now had an estate worth $1.1 million.

Why did Reinert take out this kind of life insurance? Frustrated police officers investigating the case would say, "That woman's stupidity was a crime." Sometimes they would even add, "She got what she deserved."

Reinert was deeply in love with Bradfield, a man found charming by many. Perhaps he pulled a variation of the "if you really loved me you would" ploy that so many men have used in trying to talk women into risking unwanted pregnancy. Then again, he may have instilled fear in her. Myers, Valaitis and Pappas have all indicated that Bradfield was good at that. Bradfield always denied that he warned her of the alleged danger from Smith but maybe he talked her into believing her life was in danger from another, or unnamed, source. Or maybe he did tell her Smith was stalking her and this was the odd precaution she took. Maybe he somehow got her to think that a trip to England was especially dangerous.

Her children were not insured and had been written out of her will. Despite these facts, and the terrible foolishness with which she put them in harm's way, Reinert appears to have been, in most respects, a very loving and protective mother. 

Karen and Michael Reinert, victims (AP/Wide World)
Karen and Michael
Reinert, victims
(AP/Wide World)

Karen and Michael Reinert are said to have made good impressions on just about everyone who met them. At 11 and 10 years of age respectively, they were happy youngsters.

Karen was a lively blonde with a heartwarming smile. An investigator remarked, "She was meant to be a good-looking woman." The sixth-grader enjoyed swimming and gymnastics. Averse to animals like snakes and frogs, she wrote whimsical poetry about those creatures. Karen cut out a picture of an Egyptian slave bracelet with a snake motif, pasted it to paper, and set her own poem underneath it.

Oh, snake, you so gold.
I wonder if you're ever cold,
Scaly or slimy.
Please don't climb me!

She also wrote a poem about a frog

Froggy, Froggy
Why are you so green?
I wonder. And dream.

Like his older sister, Michael was athletic. He enjoyed playing baseball. Some creative writing of his shows imagination but has also been taken by some as having an eerie element of foreboding to it. Done for his fifth-grade English class, this tale is reprinted here from Echoes in the Darkness.

"One day I took a trip on a rocket into space. I was headed for the moon. But instead, because I was hit with a falling star I came to be on a weird planet.

I couldn't see a soul in sight. All of a sudden, I saw ten people that looked alike. One of them went behind me. One of them went to one side. One went to the other side. One went to the front. Then they put me into a cage. They threw me into a ditch with a bunch of worms. Then came Mr. Hyde (Dr. Jeckyl) to kill me. Then I just remembered that I had a duplication gun. So I shot myself with it and they didn't know which one was the real me. That is how I got away. I was glad when I repaired my rocket ship so that I could leave the weird planet. The press wanted me to tell them about my trip. I said, "No way!" Nobody knew why I wouldn't tell them, but I'll tell you. I never wanted to remember it again."

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