A trial date has yet to be scheduled in the first-degree murder case of a Wilmington man charged with the death of a woman who has been missing since last year.
James Opelton Bradley, 52, had an administrative hearing on Monday in New Hanover County Superior Court in connection with the April 2014 death of 53-year-old Shannon Rippy Vannewkirk. No trial date was set during Monday’s hearing, and no motions were heard.
Bradley’s attorneys–appointed through the N.C. Capital Public Defender’s Office–were not present during Monday’s court session.
Vannewkirk, who was reported missing on April 7, 2014, was last seen at the Husk restaurant in downtown Wilmington on April 5, 2014.
Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous initially reported finding a body believed to be Vannewkirk in a shallow grave near Hoover Road in Hampstead in late-April 2014. But after receiving an autopsy report, the police department reported the body was 34-year-old Elisha Marie Tucker, another woman reported missing in October 2013.
Investigators have opened a second homicide investigation into Tucker’s death. Bradley has not been charged in Tucker’s death, but remains a person of interest, according to Evangelous. District Attorney Ben David confirmed that Bradley remains a person of interest, but no charges have been filed.
Bradley has moved for his case to be dismissed and for David to be removed from the case. In his handwritten motion, Bradley said there is no evidence tying him to Vannewkirk’s death, or that she is even deceased.
District Judge Sandra Ray determined there was “more than enough probable cause” for the State to proceed with its case against Bradley during a hearing in May 2014, just after the body found in Pender County was determined to be Tucker. A New Hanover County grand jury returned a true bill of indictment against Bradley in the first-degree murder of Vannewkirk on September 2, 2014.
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Christina Haley is a crime and courts reporter for Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.