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Jury finds Bradford guilty of felony murder in slaying of water plant employee

Friday, Feb. 24, 2012 10:38 PM
Last updated Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 3:09 AM
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A Hephzibah man was sentenced to life in prison Friday night for the murder of a Columbia County utility worker.

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The prosecutor in the Thomas Eugene Bradford murder trial Geoffrey Fogus (from left) and defense attorneys Victor Hawk and Melissa Detchemendy make various gestures from the scene of the fatal shooting of Raymond V. Lee at the wastewater treatment plant for the jury which was 130-yards away at the location of the closest witness.   JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
The prosecutor in the Thomas Eugene Bradford murder trial Geoffrey Fogus (from left) and defense attorneys Victor Hawk and Melissa Detchemendy make various gestures from the scene of the fatal shooting of Raymond V. Lee at the wastewater treatment plant for the jury which was 130-yards away at the location of the closest witness.


After six hours of deliberation, Thomas Eugene Bradford Jr., 43, was found guilty of felony murder and possession of a firearm during commission of a crime in the death of Raymond V. Lee, 38, a supervisor at the Reed Creek Water Pollution Control Plant.

Bradford was found not guilty of malice murder.

Superior Court Judge J. David Roper then sentenced Bradford to life in prison for murder, a sentence that will require him to serve at least 30 years in prison before he is eligible for parole. He also received five years prison on the weapons charge.

“This was a needless, needless incident,” Roper said before imposing the sentence, capping a five-day trial.

Bradford testified Thursday that he didn’t intend to shoot Lee, that the gunshot was an accident following an April 1 argument about overfilled sludge trailers. Bradford, a driver with Hudson’s Grassing Co., picked up trailers regularly from the plant.

Bradford said Lee provoked the argument by intentionally and repeatedly overfilling trailers, throwing a shovel at him and spitting at him.

Lee’s family opted not to speak at the sentencing hearing following the verdict, but two colleagues and friends testified on their behalf.

“He always had a smile on his face,” Columbia County Water Utility Treatment Operations Manager John Maldonado testified at the hearing. “Professionally and personally, Raymond will never be replaced.”

Jurors started the day Friday with a site visit to the Stevens Creek Road plant in Martinez where the shooting took place. The visit allowed jurors to see from the vantage point of two witnesses who saw Bradford shoot Lee.

During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Geoffrey Fogus called Bradford a “hothead” who pulled out a gun after he and Lee argued.

Victor Hawk, Bradford’s lawyer, told jurors that Bradford was acting in self defense from Lee’s physical attacks.

“Thomas Bradford was defending himself when the gun accidentally went off,” Hawk said to jurors.

Fogus said that Bradford changed his story since the shooting and that he never mentioned the shooting was an accident or in self defense at the time.

Comments (22) Add comment
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Patty-P
3520
Points
Patty-P 02/24/12 - 11:02 pm
0
2
They shoulda had me on the

They shoulda had me on the jury.

thewayitis
15
Points
thewayitis 02/25/12 - 03:44 am
4
0
The gun "accidentally" went

The gun "accidentally" went off. You mean when someone pulled the trigger. Guns don't have minds of their own. Typical defense attorney garble.

Cynical old woman
1112
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Cynical old woman 02/25/12 - 05:25 am
0
2
I wonder how some of these

I wonder how some of these defense attorneys sleep at night.

david jennings
625
Points
david jennings 02/25/12 - 06:59 am
6
1
Good jury, I don't believe

Good jury, I don't believe for a minute this was an accident. Shoot an unarmed man for over loading a trailer, or because you were afraid he might slap you, ridiculous.

mangum
12
Points
mangum 02/25/12 - 08:36 am
3
0
@ cynical old lady, it is

@ cynical old lady, it is your right to be innocent till proven guilty and the lawyer you hire that is his / her job to defend that right for you, no matter that defense attorneys opinion. it is a terrible thing that happened , but he stilll had a right to a trial!! and the jury made a decision based on what they heard at the trial, that was how it is suppose to happen and dont turn this into " OMG you are deFending a murder" I am just making a point.

JRC2024
10520
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JRC2024 02/25/12 - 08:53 am
1
0
If the trailer was overloaded

If the trailer was overloaded he could just refuse to pull it until a supervisor checked ti and he also could have called his boss and have him call someone at CC Wastewater. He was a hothead and was trying to intimidate Mr. Lee. And why would he carry a loaded weapon in a company truck anyway. Sane people just do not do that. Thank you to the jury.

rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 02/25/12 - 09:10 am
3
1
It is apparent from watching

It is apparent from watching Mr. Bradford's self conduct on television, that he was not afraid of being in a physical altercation. He did not present himself as the "peaceful turn the other cheek type". I am glad the jury saw through this " accidental shooting" ruse and did the right thing. And yes, Mr. Mangum, every acccused person has the right to reprresentation in court, but I I agree with the cynical old lady, I myself wonder how some of these defense lawyers sleep at night. Or these defense lawyers could really have a conscience, and be laughing all the way home after the trial.

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 02/25/12 - 10:50 am
2
2
Evidently there is some pass

Evidently there is some pass bad history between these two individuals as it was stated that this "overloading" of the truck had occurred before. I do not know Mr. Bradford but I do know his parents, and my heart goes out to them and will be remembering them in prayer.

A defense lawyer believes that everyone (whether you believe they are innocent or guilty) has a right according to our constitution and hopefully according to our belief "innocent until proven guilty". As a human, Mr. Bradford has a right to present his defense and through the jury process, those individuals will decide who presented the most convincing case (not necessarily who is actually innocent or guilty). That is how defense lawyers can have a conscience and I'm sure none of them are laughing all the way home after the trial.

I ask, if this was your husband, your son, or your father.....would you want your lawyer to present your love ones best defense?

InChristLove
22485
Points
InChristLove 02/25/12 - 11:36 am
3
3
JRC, sane people carry loaded

JRC, sane people carry loaded weapons in their vehicle all the time. If Mr. Bradford was an independant contractor hired to do hauling, then more than likely this was his truck and not a company truck.

I don't know what transpired at the facility but it makes me wonder, if Mr. Lee was such a loving, peaceful, happy individual, why would he involve himself in a physical altercation with Mr. Bradford. He had the opportunity to call his supervisor about the situation, just as Mr. Bradford should have contacted his supervisor.

ddawg202
0
Points
ddawg202 02/25/12 - 02:38 pm
2
1
@ InChristLove, it is obvious

@ InChristLove, it is obvious that you did not attend or follow the trial by your comments. The witnesses did not lie on the stand and the one witness had only been an employee for 5 days so he was not friends with Raymond. As far as the physical altercation, Bradford admitted when he was interrogated that it could have happened after he pulled the gun on Raymond which is what the witnesses testified occurred. I knew Raymond for 16 years and he never got into a fight. Mr. Bradford got what he deserved, he can spend the rest of his life thinking about Raymond's 3 beautiful children.

Riverman1
94219
Points
Riverman1 02/25/12 - 01:47 pm
3
2
It really is a sad situation.

It really is a sad situation. I took up for Bradford a lot, but the one thing I could never get around is he introduced a gun into a dispute between two guys who were not criminals, guys doing their jobs, guys who you knew had limits. The jury was there and judged and I'll go with their human decision. They have the feel for what happened better than I do.

Riverman1
94219
Points
Riverman1 02/25/12 - 02:46 pm
3
0
I have guns and support laws

I have guns and support laws that allow the public to carry weapons. But all of us have to realize there are times when you don't pull your weapon. There comes a time to argue without guns,even if you are going to lose. There comes a time to duke it out without guns. There comes a time to walk away. There comes a time to take your whipping, get up, shake hands and move on. If someone doesn't get that.....

InChristLove
22485
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InChristLove 02/25/12 - 02:51 pm
0
0
ddawg202, evidently it is

ddawg202, evidently it is evident that you did not read my comments carefully. I've made no statement against any witness or insinuated anyone lied. I simply made an observation that if Mr. Lee was such an easy going fun loving person, how did the arguement and physical altercation reach the point that he lost his life. You are correct, I neither followed the trial or was in the courtroom. Just making an observation based on what I have read in the articles and by comments made on here. Never made a judgement of innocent or guilty.

Riverman1
94219
Points
Riverman1 02/25/12 - 03:06 pm
2
1
Bradford's biggest mistake is

Bradford's biggest mistake is he didn't realize this was not a life and death situation for him. The jury saw his mistake.

ny transplant
0
Points
ny transplant 02/25/12 - 05:10 pm
2
0
Bradford was shown to be

Bradford was shown to be fabricating his story during the trial so lost all credibility. Witnesses said that Bradford pulled the weapon, walked a few paces towards Lee while his arms were in the air, and killed a defenseless man. Bradford got what he deserved.

ddawg202
0
Points
ddawg202 02/25/12 - 06:28 pm
3
1
Riverman, I am not trying to

Riverman, I am not trying to start an argument, I just hoped that after the trial people like you would stop blaming the victim. I sat and watched a man be convicted of murder without a reaction. There were no tears, he didn't even bow his head. He did not show any remorse throughout the entire process. A man with three beautiful children; 10, 6 & 4, was murdered in cold blood and I cried in relief yesterday knowing the children will never again have to ask if he is going to come kill them too. My heart, as well as most people's, hurts for the Bradfords but he did this to them and to everyone that loved Raymond!

owensjef3
5639
Points
owensjef3 02/25/12 - 06:36 pm
3
3
Riverman you should be
Unpublished

Riverman you should be ashamed of yourself for your comments. I wonder if it was the other way around would you make such disgusting comments!

jmo
18603
Points
jmo 02/25/12 - 07:28 pm
2
1
I never believed Bradford's

I never believed Bradford's story about the gun "accidently" going off. I don't believe anyone that knows anything about guns would carry a Ruger .380 automatic in their pocket in a "cocked" position. I would say he had to pull the pistol, cock it and then fire. If this is true, in my opinion, it would constitute premeditation.

Riverman1
94219
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Riverman1 02/25/12 - 08:12 pm
0
0
Ddawg202, actually, I pretty

Ddawg202, actually, I pretty much agree with your 6:28 post.

macelindak
7
Points
macelindak 02/25/12 - 08:44 pm
1
1
I agree this is a senseless

I agree this is a senseless loss of life and I truely believe it was not intentional, had it been he should have fired more than one time. Also, he immediatly, call 911 for help with concern for victim, not trying to figure out how to cover up what he did. He took full responsibility for his actions. That being said, I also understand his carrying a gun with him, things and people being the way they are now days. I'm 66 yrs old and have learned ONE BIG LESSON which is : DON'T SAY YOU WOULD NOT OR WILL NOT DO SOMETHING cause by George ITS THE VERY THING YOU WIND UP DOING EVENTUALLY... AND EACH OF US IS CAPABLE OF MURDER UNDER THE RIGHT CIRCUMSTANCES, if you are saying you won't you are lying to yourself. If you live long enough you will understand what I mean. So I'm greiving for both families.....

ddawg202
0
Points
ddawg202 02/25/12 - 09:47 pm
0
1
As I sit here tonight with

As I sit here tonight with Raymond's wife and children, I just don't understand some people's ignorance. I am going to assume that you were not able to follow the trial when things like if the murder was intentional "he should have fired more than one time" is written. If you know where and how to shoot someone, one shot is enough to be lethal just like in this case. Also, when is going back to a truck to retrieve a gun after an argument and pulling it on an unarmed man unintentional? I am going to try and stop responding because all the people that truly matter know the truth, hence a guilty verdict.

JRC2024
10520
Points
JRC2024 02/25/12 - 11:19 pm
0
0
I believe he is guilty and

I believe he is guilty and just lost his cool. The jury was right in my opinion.

Riverman1
94219
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Riverman1 02/26/12 - 12:41 am
0
0
Owensjef said, "Riverman you

Owensjef said, "Riverman you should be ashamed of yourself for your comments. I wonder if it was the other way around would you make such disgusting comments!"

I have no idea what you are talking about. I said there was a confrontation that Bradford and Lee were involved in. Neither should have handled it like they did, but that's in no way saying Lee was responsible for Bradford pulling a gun and shooting him. I am totally saddened by the matter and completely support the jury's decision. I understand this was probably your friend and you want to strike out at something. Peace to all. It's over.

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