More than a year after Shannon Rippy Vannewkirk vanished, the man charged with her murder is asking the court to dismiss the charge against him and is seeking to remove District Attorney Ben David from the case.
James Opleton Bradley, 52, of Wilmington, was arrested in April 2014 on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Vanwewkirk, a 53-year-old Wilmington woman who was reported missing April 7, 2014. She was last seen leaving the Husk bar in downtown Wilmington at about 7 p.m. April 4.
Police have yet to find Vannewkirk. But during a probable cause hearing in May 2014, District Attorney Ben David said her disappearance was not voluntary.
“Vannewkirk is missing but she is, in fact, deceased,” David said.
District Judge Sandra Ray determined there was “more than enough” probable cause to charge Bradley with Vannewkirk’s murder. He was indicted on the charge in September 2014. Bradley is scheduled to make a court appearance for an administrative hearing on June 8.
In two separate motions filed in New Hanover County Superior Court, Bradley is seeking that the charge against him be dismissed and that David be removed from the case. In a handwritten motion filed in March, Bradley claims there is no evidence tying him to Vannewkirk’s death or even that she is deceased.
“The alleged victim, Ms. Shannon Rippy Van Newkirk, was observed, on camera, sitting along in the defendant’s vehicle while the defendant was inside the Exxon Service Center on the corner of Third and Dawson streets, making a purchase,” Bradley wrote. “The defendant was also on camera, in the store, while Ms. Rippy was on the camera outside the store.
“The video clearly shows that Ms. Shannon Rippy Vannewkirk was not under any physical restraint, threat or duress. She clearly was able to leave the vehicle at any time.”
Bradley also claims that his arrest was predicated on the discovery of the body of 28-year-old Elisha Tucker, a missing Leland woman. Investigators believed the body was Vannewkirk, announcing to the media that she had been found in a Pender County field and Bradley had been arrested, before determining and later announcing it was Tucker.
Bradley has been named a person of interest in Tucker’s death, but at the close of business Friday, no charges had been filed in New Hanover County Court in connection with Tucker’s death.
“The police believed the body was that of Ms. Shannon Rippy Vannewkirk,” Bradley wrote. “Later, after defendant’s arrest, the body was identified as that of Ms. [Elisha] Tucker. Rather than admit and correct their mistake, by releasing the defendant, the District Attorney exacerbated his mistake by attempting to connect the defendant to Ms. Tucker’s murder.”
In a separate affidavit–also handwritten–filed in April, Bradley claims professional misconduct by David in Bradley’s arrest and prosecution.
“District Attorney Ben David has exhibited a pattern and practice of malicious, vindictive and professional misconduct,” Bradley wrote. “District Attorney Ben David abuses the power of his office to pursue and exacerbate his own personal vendetta against the defendant while using his office’s public status to bully, defame and prejudice the public against the defendant.”
David declined to comment on Bradley’s claims. The Capital Public Defender’s Office–appointed to represent Bradley–also declined to comment on Bradley’s claims.