Engineer Sentenced in 30-Year-Old Cold-Case Murder of His Girlfriend
Lynn Knight was a neonatal nurse in Torrance, California. She was outgoing and physically fit. She loved skiing, dancing and dating. She was looking forward to going back to her native Canada and being the maid of honor at her sister’s wedding.
She never made it. Two weeks before her sister’s wedding, Knight, 28, was found dead in her Torrance apartment on Aug. 30, 1979. Over two decades later, a man she dated has been sentenced to 25 years to life for her murder.
Her killer used a homemade garrote out of pieces of wood and picture-hanging wire to strangle her. He also stabbed her more than 15 times with something sharp.
“She was coming home,” her sister Donna Knight Wigmore said at the sentencing of Douglas Bradford in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom Dec. 12. “Lynn was excited to wear that special dress I chose for her. It was going to be amazing.”
Instead, Knight was buried in the dress.
Back in 1979, there were plenty of suspects but none had a motive like Bradford, a Cal State Long Beach engineering student.
Bradford and Knight met while skiing. They dated for about two months, and then Knight broke up with him. She told her sister he was much more serious about the relationship than she was.
After they split, Bradford was seen driving by her apartment and on one occasion burst into her home while she was with another man.
Infuriated, he threw a lamp at her and called her a whore. A neighbor even saw Bradford s orange 280Z speed away from her apartment that same night and later saw him driving along her street, apparently stalking her prior to slashing her throat and femoral artery.
Police also found her sister’s wedding invitation crumpled in the garbage can.
“My sister never would have thrown out my wedding invitation in a million years,” testified Knight Wigmore during Bradford’s trial. “Lynn said she was going to take Doug Bradford.”
Knight Wigmore said she later learned that Lynn decided not to take him.
“He wasn’t going to be in the picture,” she said.
Early on, police set their sights on Bradford as the killer. He denied any wrongdoing and told investigators he was sailing in Long Beach when the murder occurred.
So, with scant evidence, the case remained cold for close to three decades. Bradford became a successful engineer in Costa Mesa, California, and eventually married, split from his wife and had a 13-year relationship with another woman.
Although no DNA was found in the case, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney John Lewin and Torrance investigators reopened the case in 1997.
They hit pay dirt in 2009, when they discovered the same type of wire used to kill Knight in Bradford’s elderly mother’s garage. Bradford was arrested in 2009.
During sentencing, Bradford’s defense attorney, Robert Shapiro of O.J. Simpson case fame, said his client never got a fair trial. “This was not a fair proceeding,” he said. “Thirty years later he had no chance of defending himself.”
Bradford, now 62, spoke of his innocence. “I did not murder Lynn Knight,” he loudly proclaimed. “I am an innocent man wrongfully convicted. I am mad as hell. I am paying for someone else’s crime.”
“He lived a life he shouldn’t have,” said District Attorney Lewin. “It took a long time. He earned his conviction. It is 30 years too late but it is the best we could do.”