Police say the accused killer of 19-year-old Bridget Shiel is linked to at least four other deaths

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Credit: Atlanta Police Department

The pursuit of clues in a model’s 2016 shooting death has yielded an arrest exactly two years to the day that her naked, bullet-riddled body turned up in an Atlanta park, police say.

The man who police allege killed 19-year-old Bridget Shiel already is serving a life sentence in prison for one of five killings to which he’s been connected, authorities said in a news conference announcing the arrest on Thursday.

Yet without knowing the suspected killer’s motive, a relative of the victim’s said the warrant issued for Christopher Spencer, 28, still leaves them searching for answers.

“So far it hasn’t helped,” Shiel’s grandmother, Beverly Toole, said at the news conference. “Maybe if we find out how he got her, it could be a chance encounter, we just don’t know. I don’t know that it will help at all.”

Asked if Shiel and her alleged assailant knew each other, Atlanta Police Maj. Michael O’Connor told the media, “I don’t believe so, but I don’t know that definitely, either.”

Spencer told police he’d never seen Shiel and denied any role in her shooting, O’Connor said.

Soda Bottle Led to Arrest

Investigators made the connection to the accused killer in part via DNA on a soda bottle found near the victim’s abandoned car, police revealed.

Shiel had left her residence to go to the store on May 30, 2016, ahead of a planned meeting with friends. Around 11:30 p.m. she was spotted in her car in a gas station convenience store parking lot with two men — one of whom was later identified as Spencer and the other of whom remains unidentified.

She was in a passenger seat and looked “extremely nervous,” according to an eyewitness, police said.

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“We didn’t have the suspects on videotape,” O’Connor said. “At the convenience store they were smart enough to have somebody who was just hanging out at the store go in and buy the items that they wanted. They didn’t even get out of the vehicle they were in, so that wasn’t captured on camera. We didn’t have a lot to work with initially.”

Christopher SpencerCredit: Georgia Department of Corrections
Christopher Spencer
| Credit: Georgia Department of Corrections

The car was seen later that night in the vicinity of Oakland Park, where a 911 caller also later reported hearing shots fired. Police searched the park and discovered Shiel’s body at about 6:50 a.m. the next morning.

Her vehicle was recovered the next day, near two possible clues: a dress and a Sprite bottle.

Five months later, on Oct. 24, 2016, Spencer and another man, Vernon Beamon, abducted, robbed, bound and then shot to death a Stone Mountain couple, police said. The two were arrested and convicted and Spencer’s DNA was entered into a state-maintained database.

That DNA later produced a match with DNA found on Shiel, and also with DNA on the soda bottle, O’Connor said.

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In addition to the Stone Mountain murders of Sylvia Watson and Samuel White, authorities say Spencer is among several men facing charges for the 2016 fatal shooting in Clayton County that killed an 11- and 15-year-old who may have been mistakenly hit in a gang-related attack.

An attorney who could speak for Spencer on the arrest in the Shiel case was not immediately identified, and Spencer has not entered a plea.

Meanwhile, Shiel’s family is still mourning her loss.

“I’d just like to say that we miss her more every day,” said Shiel’s grandmother.