Detective Uses Soda Straw to Crack Violent Unsolved Rape Cases; Defendant Gets Life in Prison

For Immediate Release
August 13th, 2001

Contact: DDA Ed Flores (714) 347-8588

Detective Uses Soda Straw to Crack Violent Unsolved Rape Cases; Defendant Gets Life in Prison

SANTA ANA — It was the soda straw that did it.

Robert William Bradford Jr. will be going to prison for 53 years plus two life terms thanks to a quick-witted Brea police detective who switched soda straws on him in order to obtain a DNA sample that ultimately proved his guilt in cases that were two years apart.

“This is the type of police work that I love to see when I’m prosecuting a case,” said Deputy District Attorney Ed Flores, who filed charges against Bradford — a married father of two children. “Great investigation helps us obtain the results that we are seeing today.”

Today, Bradford, 40, was scheduled to go to trial but instead pleaded guilty to the following charges: two counts of residential burglary; one count of forcible rape; one count of attempted forcible rape; two counts of criminal threats and one count of oral copulation.

The two victims in the case gave statements to Superior Court Judge Ronald Kreber, both saying that they had a will to survive and wouldn’t let the crimes get the best of them. One stated: “I thought I was going to die, I was so scared.” Kreber urged both women not to let hate take over but to try and concentrate on the good things in life. The judge then sentenced Bradford and ordered him not to contact the victims.

The first incident occurred in a Brea house in 1998. A 24-year-old woman was sleeping when Bradford slipped into her home through an unlocked sliding glass door. He threatened to kill the victim and her roommate if she didn’t cooperate with the sexual assault. That case went unsolved until two years later, when a similar crime happened to a 19-year-old woman living in a Brea apartment complex. Again, the suspect threatened to kill the victim and her sisters after entering through an unlocked door in the middle of the night.

But this time, the second victim was able to give police some useful information: the suspect reeked of cigarettes and she remembered seeing a man who chain-smoked in her apartment complex while staring in the direction of her home.  Detective Susan Hanna went back to the first victim and asked if the suspect smoked. That victim confirmed that he did and recalled seeing a man who always watched her house.

Hanna identified the man living in the apartment complex as Bradford. Thinking that Bradford might be the assailant, Hanna arranged to meet him for lunch at Taco Bell in Santa Ana where another detective was posing as an employee.

Hanna pretended to be seeking Bradford’s help as a possible witness instead of a suspect. He was drinking a Pepsi with a straw. When he finished his drink, Hanna went to get him a refill and gave the cup to a fellow detective who switched drinking straws. A DNA test was done on the straw and it linked him to both rapes.