Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Main Line Murders

Where Are the Kids?

The evening of the Monday that Susan Reinert's battered body was discovered in her hatchback, Bill Bradfield and Chris Pappas took a flight to Santa Fe. Joanne Aitken began a 2,000 mile drive there behind the wheel of Bradfield's car.

Jay Smith arrived at the court to be sentenced. He was 20 minutes late. The judge sentenced him to two to five years.

Police inventoried the items found in Reinert's car. As Wambaugh wrote, most of them were ordinary things like "a road map, a hairbrush, some candy wrappers." A dildo was found under the front seat. Underneath the body was something that would come to seem of great significance. It was "a brand-new blue comb and on it was inscribed in white: 79th USARCOM, along with an insignia of the cross of Lorraine." Later they would find that thousands of similar combs were handed out "as a recruiting gimmick."

The next day, a close friendof Susan Reinert's, Sharon Lee, phoned Bill Bradfield at St. John's to tell him of Reinert's death.

 "Do you know what she was doing in Harrisburg?" Lee asked. "Or where she was planning to go that weekend?"

"I have no idea," Bradfield replied in a subdued voice.

"You were supposed to go to England with her this summer," Lee said, repeating what she had been told by her friend.

"No," Bradfield said firmly. "Susan was pursuing me and trying to persuade me to go to England but I told her I wasn't interested."

Shocked but in no mood to argue, Lee asked Bradfield if he knew where the children were or who was caring for them.

"The children?" he said vaguely. "Oh, yes, the children. How old were the children?"

A chill ran up Sharon Lee's spine when she remembered this conversation. Bradfield had spoken of the children in the past tense.

Bradfield got a call a few days later from Vince Valaitis. "I've talked to a priest," Valaitis said. "The priest told me that it's important for you to go directly to the police and tell them everything you know about Smith."

After a tense pause, Bradfield suggested it might not have been Smith after all. Maybe another man she was having an affair with had killed her. "I'll be talking to the police as soon as they submit their questions," Bradfield said.

An autopsy was performed on Reinert. Some half-dozen small red fibers, invisible to the naked eye, were found in her hair. A couple of blue fibers were found. The white substance around her mouth and in her hair was not semen but material that probably came from adhesive tape.

Then the coroner made a bad mistake. Unable to find a needle mark in that hideously wounded body, he described the cause of death as "asphyxiation" rather than the fatal injection that it was. Only after the lab report came back would it be corrected.

Ken Reinert was summoned to identify the body of his ex-wife. Automatically, he was a suspect. Sergeant Joe VanNort and his partner Jack Holtz observed his reaction carefully. He appeared as distraught as one would expect. Later, as he was answering their questions, he asked one of his own, "Who's taking care of the kids?"

"What kids?" one of the officers replied.

Father and officers made their own separate investigations. No one knew where Karen and Michael Reinert were. Or at least no one would say.



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