RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A state Court of Appeals panel upheld on Tuesday the first-degree murder conviction of a southeastern North Carolina man in the death of his girlfriend, whose body was found in a shallow grave on property owned by his employer.
The three judges rejected arguments by James Opleton Bradley, who is serving life without parole for the killing of Elisha Tucker.
Tucker's body was discovered in April 2014 in Pender County while Wilmington police investigated the disappearance of a Bradley co-worker and another romantic interest.
Police initially believed that they had recovered the body of the other missing woman, Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk, but determined it was Tucker, who was reported missing six months earlier. Tucker's body was found inside trash bags and her legs bound with duct tape consistent with tape found in Bradley’s apartment.
While Rippy Van Newkirk's body has yet to be found, a jury convicted Bradley in 2017 of second-degree murder for her death.
Tuesday's ruling declared Bradley received a fair trial in 2019 in Tucker's death. His attorney had argued the trial judge was wrong to let jurors hear “substantial evidence” about the investigation into Rippy Van Newkirk’s disappearance and had failed to address adequately “improper” closing arguments by prosecutors.