Friday, August 10, 2012

Christopher Bradley

cuffs
AN ICY wind blew through the town of Stevenson, Washington, on Saturday evening, January 26, 1991. It was normal, dead-of-winter weather for the small town and the several other hamlets that lie, miles apart, along the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington side of the nation’s third largest river. The Columbia is a major shipping waterway that also serves as the border between Washington and Oregon.
It was a brightly moonlit night, and the east wind kept the area in a deep freeze. The temperature, as usual at that time of the year, was expected to drop well below freezing by nightfall. Most people stayed indoors. Unfortunately, the winter chill didn’t keep lovely 15-year-old Amy Christine Dexter at home that Saturday night.
An attractive girl standing 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing 105 pounds, Amy had no need to spend much time in front of the mirror before going out. She took a quick shower, blow-dried her flowing blonde hair, and put on only a light base of makeup and eye shadow that complemented her pretty hazel eyes. Then she pulled on a light-colored short-sleeve top and a pair of dark-colored stretch pants, stepped into a pair of flat-heeled slippers, grabbed a faded Levis jacket and walked out of the house for what was to be the last time of her young life.
Getting ready for her date had taken Amy only a few minutes, and nobody in the house paid any mind to what she was wearing. Not until later, when her family determined what she had worn that evening, would anyone realize that her attire wasn’t appropriate for the freezing night air.
It would also be reasoned later that Amy had never planned on spending much time outdoors that evening, nor had she thought, even for an instant, that she might never return home. With her unusual, amiable, perpetual smile on her clear-skinned face, Amy assured a family member that she wouldn’t be gone long. That relative had no reason to believe otherwise.
Early the next morning, however, Amy’s family quickly noticed her absence. They reasoned, correctly, that she hadn’t returned home and gone directly to bed as she normally did following a date. When they checked her room, they discovered that she wasn’t there — her bed hadn’t been slept in, nor were there any notes from her. Likewise, they noticed that Amy had taken no other clothes with her except for the garments she’d been wearing.
By noon, when there was still no word from her, Amy’s family, gravely concerned about her well-being, contacted the Skamania County Sheriff’s Department and reported her missing.
A deputy arrived at Amy’s home and the family members told him what little they knew about her failure to return home. They had checked her room, they said, and contacted several of her friends and acquaintances. Nobody had seen her. One relative insisted that it was out of character for Amy to be gone for a long time without informing the other family members.
“Amy is not like that at all,” said the relative. “I know if she’s anywhere, she’s scared to death right now.” The relative described her as a skinny girl who ate constantly, and said that Amy was looking forward to turning 16 on February 25th so that she could get her driver’s license. The family provided the deputy with a physical description of the Stevenson High School sophomore, a recent school photo, and a list of the clothing she was believed to have been wearing when she left the house.
Because it was a Sunday, Sheriff Ray Blaisdell had to be reached at home and informed about the missing girl. It was apparent to him from the outset that Amy did not fit the profile of a runaway. Since he believed that foul play could have been involved in her disappearance, Blaisdell promptly organized a search-and-rescue effort to look for the missing teen in the remote, rugged terrain around Stevenson.
Nancy Sourek, Skamania County’s director of emergency services, began summoning teams from as far away as Yakima County to initiate as intensive a search of the area as possible. As an added effort, the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s 939th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron responded, making low-level flights over an area of approximately 15 square miles, while ground searchers looked for the girl below. Despite these widespread efforts, no sign of the girl turned up.
“We’ve made no progress,” said Deputy Bob Warrick, assigned to manage the search team’s command post. He explained to the media that searchers had turned the area upside down, but their efforts had been hampered by the rough terrain of “canyons, lots of steep area, lots of cliffs.”
By nightfall, everyone feared the worst for Amy Dexter.
The search resumed early the next day, joined by mounted officers from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department in Portland, Oregon. The combined search efforts of all agencies involved covered both forest areas and clear-cut regions, without success. The inconsistency of the weather also hindered the searchers’ efforts to find footprints. The frozen ground was much too hard to hold traceable footprints and, during warmer hours, the occasional rain showers had only created mud. If any tracks had been left in the mud, the impressions were soon washed away by the rain before refreezing again at night. “It warmed up a little last night,” said Sheriff Blaisdell, “but it rained.” As it had done on both Saturday and Sunday evenings, the temperature again fell well below freezing by nightfall on Monday. The frozen ground, if Amy was still out there and alive, would again mean that there would be no tracks to follow on Tuesday.
“My honest opinion is that she’s still out there and she’s in the elements,” said Skamania County Sheriff’s Deputy Tracy Wyckoff. “The chances of her being alive are not in her favor. She just wasn’t dressed for it.”
At every opportunity, the sheriff’s deputies questioned Amy’s friends and acquaintances. Unfortunately, nobody could report having seen the girl. Sheriff Blaisdell again looked at the possibility that Amy had run away from home after all, but upon questioning several other persons, he concluded, as he had believed initially, that she had not. The sheriff told reporters that Amy’s family and friends did not believe Amy would have run away, especially without taking any of her personal belongings.
“I’m still hoping that’s what she did,” said Blaisdell, “but it doesn’t look like that now. Somebody would have told us by now.”
No breaks cropped up in the mystery surrounding Amy Dexter’s disappearance until after the investigators interviewed her family again, hoping in vain to uncover something of significance. One of Amy’s female relatives recalled that Amy had said, just before leaving on Saturday night, that she intended to be home by 10:00 p.m. to meet her boyfriend. But Amy clearly never returned home, and her boyfriend said that he had not seen her as planned.
So where had Amy gone? And with whom had she left? The probers pondered these questions, but their theories and suppositions took them nowhere.
Finally, however, the name Christopher L. Bradley surfaced during the ongoing interviews, providing a glimmer of hope in the investigation. The 18-year-old Bradley, the sheriff’s detectives learned, was a recent graduate of Stevenson High School. He had known Amy and also had a crush on her, said witnesses, and he had been trying in vain to get Amy to go out with him. She’d finally consented to see him, one witness told probers, but only to let him know that he really didn’t stand a chance with her.
According to what the sheriff’s deputies were to able to learn, Amy apparently told someone she was close to that she was going for a short drive with Bradley on Saturday night to tell him that she already had a boyfriend.
On Monday evening, after the day’s search efforts were done, deputies interviewed Chris Bradley, who was a forest products worker with a job at a sawmill in the nearby town of Cascade Locks. Bradley promptly told them that he had in fact seen Amy on Saturday night. They had gone for a drive, he said, just as the deputies had been told, and wound up on a dirt logging road that runs through heavy timber and hilly terrain. There, his pickup became mired in mud.
The spot was about three miles from Amy’s house, Bradley said, and at approximately midnight, after they failed to get his truck out of the mud, Amy decided that she would hike home. Bradley said he did likewise and got home about half past three on Sunday, morning. He hadn’t seen Amy since, and he had been unaware that she had, not returned home until he was questioned by sheriff’s deputies. Realizing that he was fast becoming the focal point of the sheriff’s missing-person probe, Bradley readily agreed to take a lie-detector test.
That same evening, he passed a two-and-a-half-hour polygraph examination.
“The information that we have right now is the same that we had before,” said Sheriff Blaisdell following the young man’s polygraph exam. Blaisdell had a missing girl who had disappeared without a trace under suspicious circumstances, and a possible suspect who had easily passed a lie-detector exam. Obviously frustrated, the lawmen added that the polygraph had failed to contradict anything significant in Bradley’s account. Sheriff Blaisdell, like Amy’s family and the residents of Stevenson, just didn’t know what to make of it all. Nothing added up.
Amy’s family insisted that she was familiar with the area where Bradley’s truck had stalled and, since it had been a brightly moonlit night, she should not have encountered any problems finding her way home. Everyone estimated that Amy should have made it home within an hour or two after leaving Bradley’s pickup.
“Nobody feels that she couldn’t have found her way home,” said Sheriff Blaisdell, following two days of searching the rugged forest area outside Stevenson. “All she had to do was go downhill.”
Shortly after sunrise on Tuesday, January 29th, searchers again began looking for Amy in the area near where Bradley’s truck had become stuck. They walked through brushy clear-cut areas and traversed steep hillsides and gullies — any area where Amy might have wandered into. It was rough going — so rough, in fact, that one searcher slipped on a steep embankment and broke his kneecap and tore ligaments in his leg. Still, there was no sign of the missing teenager.
“We haven’t found anything — nothing,” said Nancy Sourek at day’s end. “No one has found a thing today.”
On Wednesday, January 30th, the authorities brought in bloodhounds and a team of divers from the Skamania County Sheriff’s Department. The divers searched the deep areas of Rock Creek, which runs through a steep canyon, but they still had no luck in finding any trace of Amy Dexter.
At one point, the bloodhounds seemed to pick up Amy’s scent in the area near where Bradley’s truck had become stuck. Nevertheless, the searchers failed to turn up anything significant there. Similarly, the dogs showed some interest in an area west of Stevenson, where some people had reported that they might have seen Amy around midnight on the night she disappeared. However, the dogs quickly lost whatever scent they seemed to have picked up.
When all was said and done, the bloodhounds and their handlers came up empty-handed, as did the sheriff’s mounted posse. There was simply no sign of the girl. Following the fourth day of rigorous searching of Skamania County’s backwoods, the search was called off, pending any new developments.
“It’s over,” Deputy Bob Warrick said reluctantly. “We’ve done everything that’s been asked of us.”
“If there is any new information,” added Nancy Sourek, “we will bring out a dog team, perhaps tomorrow. But at present, everything is suspended.”
Although the sheriff’s department had called off the search, several employees of a local logging company obtained the sheriff’s permission to press on with their own search effort. They began early the next morning, near the areas that had been previously searched.
A few hours later, at 10:20 a.m., the search for Amy Dexter was over. One of the loggers discovered a disturbed area at the bottom of an embankment, approximately 300 yards from Rock Creek, not far from a driveway leading to a nearby house. When he went to investigate, he saw what looked like a piece of clothing, partially buried. When he looked closer, he realized that the disturbed area was a shallow, rain-soaked makeshift grave that contained a partially exposed human body.
When Sheriff Blaisdell arrived at the remote site, accompanied by Skamania County Prosecutor Robert Leick, he was satisfied that they had found Amy Dexter’s body. The sheriff and the prosecutor observed that whoever dug the grave had used some kind of a tool, likely a shovel, and after depositing the body had hastily covered it with leaves and brush in an attempt to conceal the disturbed earth.
“If they hadn’t walked right over it, they wouldn’t have seen it,” said Prosecutor Leick. “It was not an obvious grave.”
Under the direction of the sheriff and the prosecutor, deputies cordoned off the scene and awaited the arrival of the Washington State Crime Lab. When the technicians arrived, the scene was processed in the usual manner, which took much of the afternoon. Afterward, the body was removed and positively identified as Amy Dexter. Prosecutor Leick, who also serves as the county coroner, promptly examined the remains. He said that the corpse appeared scratched and bruised, but he couldn’t immediately determine how Amy had died. Her body was sent to Portland, where a pathologist would carry out the autopsy at the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office. The gravesite, it was sadly noted, was only four-tenths of a mile from Amy’s home.
At a hastily-called news conference to announce the discovery of Amy Dexter’s body, Sheriff Blaisdell and Prosecutor Leick emphasized that no arrests had been made. The sheriff and prosecutor told reporters that they were looking at several “people of interest,” and that Chris Bradley was “one of the people we are talking to.” Though the lawmen did have potential suspects to focus on, Leick urged parents in the area to remain aware of “where their children are until we get this thing wrapped up.
“I don’t mean to panic the community,” Leick stressed, “but there is someone out here capable of killing a fifteen-year-old girl…Amy’s death was more likely a crime of opportunity…she might have been on the road alone and presented an opportunity for someone predisposed to do this.”
The next day, following the autopsy in Portland, it was announced that Amy Dexter had died from a stab wound to her throat that had severed her jugular vein. She had also been raped.
Amy Dexter’s murder shook the communities of the Columbia River Gorge, but particularly devastated the citizens of Stevenson, a town of approximately 8,000 people. Amy, who had lived her entire life there, was well-known and liked by kids and adults alike. Tension ran high in Stevenson, and the town- folks’ bleak mood was readily apparent, deepened by the flag at Stevenson High School, which flew at half-mast, and the school’s marquee, which announced Amy’s funeral services to everyone who drove down the town’s main street.
“When I hear the name Amy Dexter, I will remember joy,” wrote one of Amy’s friends and schoolmates in a tribute to the slain sophomore.
“She was the kind of girl that you would think was totally invincible,” wrote another friend. Out of respect and friendship, the student body of Stevenson High School prepared a large, handmade sympathy card for Amy’s family.
A surprise announcement on Friday, February 1st, revealed that Christopher L. Bradley had been taken into custody in connection with Amy’s murder. According to sources close to the case, he was picked up by sheriff’s deputies the night before and taken to the sheriff’s headquarters for questioning. Although officials weren’t saying much at that point, an affidavit filed in Skamania County Superior Court by the prosecutor’s office indicated that Bradley had confessed Amy’s rape and murder to deputies.
According to the affidavit, Bradley, in a lengthy tape-recorded statement, told the sheriff’s deputies how he had picked up Amy and had driven her to the logging road just outside Stevenson. He described in detail how his four-wheel- drive pickup
became stuck in the mud and stalled, and how he and Amy left the vehicle and set out for home on foot. He planned to walk Amy to her home, Bradley said, but along the way he was struck by a “sudden impulse” and dragged the girl into the woods to rape her.
“She never screamed, not once,” during the rape, he said. When asked if Amy had been scared, he replied, “She had to have been…She said, ‘You’ll never get away with this.’ I know she said that.”
Following the rape, Bradley said, “I just got to thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?’ So I killed her. I took a knife and I cut her throat, basically…
“She just kind of let out a breath of air and relaxed,” Bradley said in describing how he severed Amy’s jugular vein with his pocketknife.
Bradley described how he struggled with his emotions in an attempt to understand what came over him to cause him to rape and kill another human being. He likened it to hunting, and the thrill associated with stalking prey.
“It’s just the thrill of the hunt…I think it’s got something to do with the thrill…it’s one of the biggest thrills I know, to go out and just stalk something and get right up to it.”
A deputy asked him, did he feel that way about Amy?
“I almost did,” Bradley responded.
Bradley provided the investigators with an accurate description of the clothing Amy wore on that fateful Saturday night, as well as where he buried her and the position of her body after he’d placed her in the shallow grave.
After the slaying, Bradley continued, he walked to his home, got a shovel, returned to the slaying site, and buried Amy’s body. He described the location where deputies could find the shovel, and told them that he disposed of his pocketknife in a stand of bushes near Stevenson High School.
Amy’s family insisted that she was familiar with the area where Bradley’s truck had stalled and, since it had been a brightly moonlit night, she should not have encountered any problems finding her way home. Everyone estimated that Amy should have made it home within an hour or two after leaving Bradley’s pickup.
“Nobody feels that she couldn’t have found her way home,” said Sheriff Blaisdell, following two days of searching the rugged forest area outside Stevenson. “All she had to do was go downhill.”
Shortly after sunrise on Tuesday, January 29th, searchers again began looking for Amy in the area near where Bradley’s truck had become stuck. They walked through brushy clear-cut areas and traversed steep hillsides and gullies — any area where Amy might have wandered into. It was rough going — so rough, in fact, that one searcher slipped on a steep embankment and broke his kneecap and tore ligaments in his leg. Still, there was no sign of the missing teenager.
“We haven’t found anything — nothing,” said Nancy Sourek at day’s end. “No one has found a thing today.”
On Wednesday, January 30th, the authorities brought in bloodhounds and a team of divers from the Skamania County Sheriff’s Department. The divers searched the deep areas of Rock Creek, which runs through a steep canyon, but they still had no luck in finding any trace of Amy Dexter.
At one point, the bloodhounds seemed to pick up Amy’s scent in the area near where Bradley’s truck had become stuck. Nevertheless, the searchers failed to turn up anything significant there. Similarly, the dogs showed some interest in an area west of Stevenson, where some people had reported that they might have seen Amy around midnight on the night she disappeared. However, the dogs quickly lost whatever scent they seemed to have picked up.
When all was said and done, the bloodhounds and their handlers came up empty-handed, as did the sheriff’s mounted posse. There was simply no sign of the girl. Following the fourth day of rigorous searching of Skamania County’s backwoods, the search was called off, pending any new developments.
“It’s over,” Deputy Bob Warrick said reluctantly. “We’ve done everything that’s been asked of us.”
“If there is any new information,” added Nancy Sourek, “we will bring out a dog team, perhaps tomorrow. But at present, everything is suspended.”
Although the sheriff’s department had called off the search, several employees of a local logging company obtained the sheriff’s permission to press on with their own search effort. They began early the next morning, near the areas that had been previously searched.
A few hours later, at 10:20 a.m., the search for Amy Dexter was over. One of the loggers discovered a disturbed area at the bottom of an embankment, approximately 300 yards from Rock Creek, not far from a driveway leading to a nearby house. When he went to investigate, he saw what looked like a piece of clothing, partially buried. When he looked closer, he realized that the disturbed area was a shallow, rain-soaked makeshift grave that contained a partially exposed human body.
When Sheriff Blaisdell arrived at the remote site, accompanied by Skamania County Prosecutor Robert Leick, he was satisfied that they had found Amy Dexter’s body. The sheriff and the prosecutor observed that whoever dug the grave had used some kind of a tool, likely a shovel, and after depositing the body had hastily covered it with leaves and brush in an attempt to conceal the disturbed earth.
“If they hadn’t walked right over it, they wouldn’t have seen it,” said Prosecutor Leick. “It was not an obvious grave.”
Under the direction of the sheriff and the prosecutor, deputies cordoned off the scene and awaited the arrival of the Washington State Crime Lab. When the technicians arrived, the scene was processed in the usual manner, which took much of the afternoon. Afterward, the body was removed and positively identified as Amy Dexter. Prosecutor Leick, who also serves as the county coroner, promptly examined the remains. He said that the corpse appeared scratched and bruised, but he couldn’t immediately determine how Amy had died. Her body was sent to Portland, where a pathologist would carry out the autopsy at the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office. The gravesite, it was sadly noted, was only four-tenths of a mile from Amy’s home.
At a hastily-called news conference to announce the discovery of Amy Dexter’s body, Sheriff Blaisdell and Prosecutor Leick emphasized that no arrests had been made. The sheriff and prosecutor told reporters that they were looking at several “people of interest,” and that Chris Bradley was “one of the people we are talking to.” Though the lawmen did have potential suspects to focus on, Leick urged parents in the area to remain aware of “where their children are until we get this thing wrapped up.
“I don’t mean to panic the community,” Leick stressed, “but there is someone out here capable of killing a fifteen-year-old girl…Amy’s death was more likely a crime of opportunity…she might have been on the road alone and presented an opportunity for someone predisposed to do this.”
The next day, following the autopsy in Portland, it was announced that Amy Dexter had died from a stab wound to her throat that had severed her jugular vein. She had also been raped.
Amy Dexter’s murder shook the communities of the Columbia River Gorge, but particularly devastated the citizens of Stevenson, a town of approximately 8,000 people. Amy, who had lived her entire life there, was well-known and liked by kids and adults alike. Tension ran high in Stevenson, and the town- folks’ bleak mood was readily apparent, deepened by the flag at Stevenson High School, which flew at half-mast, and the school’s marquee, which announced Amy’s funeral services to everyone who drove down the town’s main street.
“When I hear the name Amy Dexter, I will remember joy,” wrote one of Amy’s friends and schoolmates in a tribute to the slain sophomore.
“She was the kind of girl that you would think was totally invincible,” wrote another friend. Out of respect and friendship, the student body of Stevenson High School prepared a large, handmade sympathy card for Amy’s family.
A surprise announcement on Friday, February 1st, revealed that Christopher L. Bradley had been taken into custody in connection with Amy’s murder. According to sources close to the case, he was picked up by sheriff’s deputies the night before and taken to the sheriff’s headquarters for questioning. Although officials weren’t saying much at that point, an affidavit filed in Skamania County Superior Court by the prosecutor’s office indicated that Bradley had confessed Amy’s rape and murder to deputies.
According to the affidavit, Bradley, in a lengthy tape-recorded statement, told the sheriff’s deputies how he had picked up Amy and had driven her to the logging road just outside Stevenson. He described in detail how his four-wheel- drive pickup
became stuck in the mud and stalled, and how he and Amy left the vehicle and set out for home on foot. He planned to walk Amy to her home, Bradley said, but along the way he was struck by a “sudden impulse” and dragged the girl into the woods to rape her.
“She never screamed, not once,” during the rape, he said. When asked if Amy had been scared, he replied, “She had to have been…She said, ‘You’ll never get away with this.’ I know she said that.”
Following the rape, Bradley said, “I just got to thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?’ So I killed her. I took a knife and I cut her throat, basically…
“She just kind of let out a breath of air and relaxed,” Bradley said in describing how he severed Amy’s jugular vein with his pocketknife.
Bradley described how he struggled with his emotions in an attempt to understand what came over him to cause him to rape and kill another human being. He likened it to hunting, and the thrill associated with stalking prey.
“It’s just the thrill of the hunt…I think it’s got something to do with the thrill…it’s one of the biggest thrills I know, to go out and just stalk something and get right up to it.”
A deputy asked him, did he feel that way about Amy?
“I almost did,” Bradley responded.
Bradley provided the investigators with an accurate description of the clothing Amy wore on that fateful Saturday night, as well as where he buried her and the position of her body after he’d placed her in the shallow grave.
After the slaying, Bradley continued, he walked to his home, got a shovel, returned to the slaying site, and buried Amy’s body. He described the location where deputies could find the shovel, and told them that he disposed of his pocketknife in a stand of bushes near Stevenson High School.
Amy’s family insisted that she was familiar with the area where Bradley’s truck had stalled and, since it had been a brightly moonlit night, she should not have encountered any problems finding her way home. Everyone estimated that Amy should have made it home within an hour or two after leaving Bradley’s pickup.
“Nobody feels that she couldn’t have found her way home,” said Sheriff Blaisdell, following two days of searching the rugged forest area outside Stevenson. “All she had to do was go downhill.”
Shortly after sunrise on Tuesday, January 29th, searchers again began looking for Amy in the area near where Bradley’s truck had become stuck. They walked through brushy clear-cut areas and traversed steep hillsides and gullies — any area where Amy might have wandered into. It was rough going — so rough, in fact, that one searcher slipped on a steep embankment and broke his kneecap and tore ligaments in his leg. Still, there was no sign of the missing teenager.
“We haven’t found anything — nothing,” said Nancy Sourek at day’s end. “No one has found a thing today.”
On Wednesday, January 30th, the authorities brought in bloodhounds and a team of divers from the Skamania County Sheriff’s Department. The divers searched the deep areas of Rock Creek, which runs through a steep canyon, but they still had no luck in finding any trace of Amy Dexter.
At one point, the bloodhounds seemed to pick up Amy’s scent in the area near where Bradley’s truck had become stuck. Nevertheless, the searchers failed to turn up anything significant there. Similarly, the dogs showed some interest in an area west of Stevenson, where some people had reported that they might have seen Amy around midnight on the night she disappeared. However, the dogs quickly lost whatever scent they seemed to have picked up.
When all was said and done, the bloodhounds and their handlers came up empty-handed, as did the sheriff’s mounted posse. There was simply no sign of the girl. Following the fourth day of rigorous searching of Skamania County’s backwoods, the search was called off, pending any new developments.
“It’s over,” Deputy Bob Warrick said reluctantly. “We’ve done everything that’s been asked of us.”
“If there is any new information,” added Nancy Sourek, “we will bring out a dog team, perhaps tomorrow. But at present, everything is suspended.”
Although the sheriff’s department had called off the search, several employees of a local logging company obtained the sheriff’s permission to press on with their own search effort. They began early the next morning, near the areas that had been previously searched.
A few hours later, at 10:20 a.m., the search for Amy Dexter was over. One of the loggers discovered a disturbed area at the bottom of an embankment, approximately 300 yards from Rock Creek, not far from a driveway leading to a nearby house. When he went to investigate, he saw what looked like a piece of clothing, partially buried. When he looked closer, he realized that the disturbed area was a shallow, rain-soaked makeshift grave that contained a partially exposed human body.
When Sheriff Blaisdell arrived at the remote site, accompanied by Skamania County Prosecutor Robert Leick, he was satisfied that they had found Amy Dexter’s body. The sheriff and the prosecutor observed that whoever dug the grave had used some kind of a tool, likely a shovel, and after depositing the body had hastily covered it with leaves and brush in an attempt to conceal the disturbed earth.
“If they hadn’t walked right over it, they wouldn’t have seen it,” said Prosecutor Leick. “It was not an obvious grave.”
Under the direction of the sheriff and the prosecutor, deputies cordoned off the scene and awaited the arrival of the Washington State Crime Lab. When the technicians arrived, the scene was processed in the usual manner, which took much of the afternoon. Afterward, the body was removed and positively identified as Amy Dexter. Prosecutor Leick, who also serves as the county coroner, promptly examined the remains. He said that the corpse appeared scratched and bruised, but he couldn’t immediately determine how Amy had died. Her body was sent to Portland, where a pathologist would carry out the autopsy at the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office. The gravesite, it was sadly noted, was only four-tenths of a mile from Amy’s home.
At a hastily-called news conference to announce the discovery of Amy Dexter’s body, Sheriff Blaisdell and Prosecutor Leick emphasized that no arrests had been made. The sheriff and prosecutor told reporters that they were looking at several “people of interest,” and that Chris Bradley was “one of the people we are talking to.” Though the lawmen did have potential suspects to focus on, Leick urged parents in the area to remain aware of “where their children are until we get this thing wrapped up.
“I don’t mean to panic the community,” Leick stressed, “but there is someone out here capable of killing a fifteen-year-old girl…Amy’s death was more likely a crime of opportunity…she might have been on the road alone and presented an opportunity for someone predisposed to do this.”
The next day, following the autopsy in Portland, it was announced that Amy Dexter had died from a stab wound to her throat that had severed her jugular vein. She had also been raped.
Amy Dexter’s murder shook the communities of the Columbia River Gorge, but particularly devastated the citizens of Stevenson, a town of approximately 8,000 people. Amy, who had lived her entire life there, was well-known and liked by kids and adults alike. Tension ran high in Stevenson, and the town- folks’ bleak mood was readily apparent, deepened by the flag at Stevenson High School, which flew at half-mast, and the school’s marquee, which announced Amy’s funeral services to everyone who drove down the town’s main street.
“When I hear the name Amy Dexter, I will remember joy,” wrote one of Amy’s friends and schoolmates in a tribute to the slain sophomore.
“She was the kind of girl that you would think was totally invincible,” wrote another friend. Out of respect and friendship, the student body of Stevenson High School prepared a large, handmade sympathy card for Amy’s family.
A surprise announcement on Friday, February 1st, revealed that Christopher L. Bradley had been taken into custody in connection with Amy’s murder. According to sources close to the case, he was picked up by sheriff’s deputies the night before and taken to the sheriff’s headquarters for questioning. Although officials weren’t saying much at that point, an affidavit filed in Skamania County Superior Court by the prosecutor’s office indicated that Bradley had confessed Amy’s rape and murder to deputies.
According to the affidavit, Bradley, in a lengthy tape-recorded statement, told the sheriff’s deputies how he had picked up Amy and had driven her to the logging road just outside Stevenson. He described in detail how his four-wheel- drive pickup
became stuck in the mud and stalled, and how he and Amy left the vehicle and set out for home on foot. He planned to walk Amy to her home, Bradley said, but along the way he was struck by a “sudden impulse” and dragged the girl into the woods to rape her.
“She never screamed, not once,” during the rape, he said. When asked if Amy had been scared, he replied, “She had to have been…She said, ‘You’ll never get away with this.’ I know she said that.”
Following the rape, Bradley said, “I just got to thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?’ So I killed her. I took a knife and I cut her throat, basically…
“She just kind of let out a breath of air and relaxed,” Bradley said in describing how he severed Amy’s jugular vein with his pocketknife.
Bradley described how he struggled with his emotions in an attempt to understand what came over him to cause him to rape and kill another human being. He likened it to hunting, and the thrill associated with stalking prey.
“It’s just the thrill of the hunt…I think it’s got something to do with the thrill…it’s one of the biggest thrills I know, to go out and just stalk something and get right up to it.”
A deputy asked him, did he feel that way about Amy?
“I almost did,” Bradley responded.
Bradley provided the investigators with an accurate description of the clothing Amy wore on that fateful Saturday night, as well as where he buried her and the position of her body after he’d placed her in the shallow grave.
After the slaying, Bradley continued, he walked to his home, got a shovel, returned to the slaying site, and buried Amy’s body. He described the location where deputies could find the shovel, and told them that he disposed of his pocketknife in a stand of bushes near Stevenson High School.

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