Brother hails conviction in double killing - KMOV.com

Brother hails conviction in double killing

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Relatives of a man shot to death with his girlfriend nearly four decades ago in southeast Missouri say they're finally at peace after a retired investigator's dogged work helped convict the couple's killer.

Jurors in Missouri's Dunklin County deliberated 90 minutes earlier this month before finding 59-year-old Theodore Kleine of suburban St. Louis guilty of two counts of first-degree murder in the 1970 deaths of Alan Bradford, 20, and Mary Seutter, 17.

By law, Kleine was sentenced to two life terms without parole eligibility for 50 years.

Kleine had been charged decades earlier but was freed because jurors could not agree on a verdict. Walter Dearing reopened the case in 2006 while he still headed the the Dunklin County Major Case Squad. He generated enough interest in the case for prosecutor Steve Sokoloff to charge Kleine again in April 2008.

"I really think those guys need recognition for what they did," said Bradford's older brother, Jim Bradford, 63, who lives in the Fort Worth, Texas, area. "They went above and beyond."

Alan Bradford, a high school dropout and Marine, was living in St. Louis in the spring of 1970 when he met Seutter, a Kansas City, Mo., runaway who was living at a St. Louis residential treatment facility for young female offenders.

There, Seutter and Bradford met two brothers, Theodore and Dennis Kleine, whose mother worked at the facility.

Dearing has said Seutter, Bradford and the Kleine brothers drove together to southeast Missouri in June 1970 to visit the Kleines' uncle. A deer rifle was in the car.

The four stopped near Campbell, Mo., to use the rifle for hunting practice, but only the Kleine brothers returned to their uncle's house, Dearing said. Bradford and Seutter's bodies were found the next day, each shot in the head.

The Kleine brothers were arrested, and Theodore Kleine was eventually charged in the slayings.

During a 1970 trial, Dennis Kleine testified his brother killed the couple because they supposedly slapped the glasses off his face. A mistrial was declared after the jury deadlocked.

Years passed, but Dearing didn't quit. In December 2006, he reached out to The Telegraph newspaper in Alton, asking for help in contacting Alan Bradford's relatives. Readers helped him find Jim Bradford, who recalled getting a call from a Telegraph reporter in early 2007.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "It almost seemed like a cruel joke. I thought, 'I don't want to be disappointed again."'

Dearing had hoped DNA testing on blood on Theodore Kleine's clothing would link him to the victims, but the blood had deteriorated too much to be of use.

But during a second trial, Dennis Kleine again testified against his brother, and "the most critical thing was that (Theodore Kleine) told his brother he had shot them before anybody else knew they had been shot," Sokoloff said.

During the trial, "I felt really sorry for (Kleine's) family, but all I could see was a cold-blooded murderer sitting over there, having murdered two beautiful young people and getting away with it for so long, said Glenda Claussen, Alan Bradford's ex-wife, who now lives in Maplewood, a St. Louis suburb.

"It was surreal sitting there, watching that man acting like it was no big deal, acting unconcerned. He was giving thumbs up to his family and smiling before the verdict. But when the verdict came, that wiped the smile right off his face."

Sokoloff said Kleine had expected to be cleared and told a deputy who brought him to the courthouse from the jail moments earlier "he had packed up all his stuff, and when it was done, he was heading to Florida with his sister."

"I don't think it was bravado," Sokoloff said. "I think he really thought he was going to walk away."

On Dec. 7 -- the day Alan Bradford would have turned 60 -- Jim Bradford visited his brother's grave in South Roxana, Ill., just northeast of St. Louis. Kleine's conviction just two days earlier, Jim Bradford said, "was a pretty good birthday present."

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

 

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