Body found believed to be that of missing woman; man charged with her death

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Shannon Rippy Vannewkirk
Shannon Rippy Vannewkirk

Detectives with the Wilmington Police Department have found the body of a woman believed to be 53-year-old Shannon Rippy Vannewkirk, who was reported missing on April 7, and have charged a man with her murder.

Police found what they believe to be Vannewkirk’s body at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday near Hoover Road in Hampstead, according to Police Chief Ralph Evangelous, who made the announcement this morning at a press conference.

Vannewkirk was last seen at the Husk restaurant in downtown Wilmington about 7 p.m. Saturday, April 5, according to police spokeswoman Linda Rawley.

James Opelton Bradley
James Opelton Bradley

James Opelton Bradley, 51, of 2505 Flint Drive in Wilmington, was arrested at about 8:30 p.m. during a traffic stop at the intersection of 17th Street and Shipyard Boulevard, Evangelous said.

Bradley has been charged with first-degree murder, according to New Hanover County jail records.

According to the N.C. Department of Corrections, Bradley was previously convicted of first-degree murder in Cumberland County on Jan. 22 1990, for an offense that occurred on June 9, 1988. He was released from prison on Feb. 11, 2013.

Bradley served 23 years of a life sentence for the murder conviction. He was released under the Fair Sentencing Law, which governed sentencing and parole in North Carolina from July 1, 1981, until Sept. 30, 1994, according to the N.C. Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission.

On Oct. 1, 1994, The Structured Sentencing Act took effect in North Carolina, eliminating parole as it previously existed under the Fair Sentencing Law guidelines.

Under the Fair Sentencing Law, an offender who received a prison term of 18 months or more, in addition to otherwise possibly qualifying for parole, “must be granted 90-day mandatory parole at the end of the felony term.”

“The Structured Sentencing Act mandates that the offender serve at least 100 percent of the minimum sentence and 85 percent of the maximum sentence,” according to the N.C. Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission. “Once offenders with felony convictions have served their required time, they are released on post-release supervision. The parole commission has no decision-making power as to the offender’s time of release under Structured Sentencing, however it sets conditions for the period of post-release supervision.”

He was scheduled to make his first appearance in New Hanover County District Court at 10:30 a.m.

Check back for more details on this developing story.