Keith Renard Bradley was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday after a Charleston County jury convicted him of murdering Miriam Leeks with a shovel for refusing to follow through in a trade of sex for crack cocaine.
Bradley, 31, was found guilty after roughly three hours of deliberation, largely on the testimony of two co-defendants.
After the verdict was read, Leeks' family asked for the maximum penalty of life behind bars, saying her life was worth more than the hard times she'd fallen on.
"She was loved," her sister, Mary Brown, told Circuit Judge Benjamin Culbertson. "What happened to her, a stray mangy dog did not deserve."
Testimony this week said Bradley beat the 37-year-old Leeks to death in May 2002 in a North Charleston trailer park. The two, and a co-defendant in the case, met earlier that day and drove around until their encounter erupted into violence.
"She didn't have a chance that night," Assistant Solicitor Trip Lawton told the jury. Her body was found wrapped in garbage bags and sheets near Adams Run.
The 2002 murder was considered a cold case homicide until Valentine's Day 2006 when a witness suddenly came forward giving information that led to the arrests.
Testifying against Bradley were co-defendants Hans Frazier, 37, who still is accused of murder and kidnapping in the case, and Cynthia Major, who is charged with accessory after the fact of murder.
Frazier admitted on the witness stand to beating Leeks that night, while Major supplied the coverings used to wrap her dead body. Their cases will be handled later.
During his closing argument, Bradley's public defender, Beattie Butler, asked the jury to question the reliability of the co-defendants' testimony, saying both expected leniency for their cooperation in prosecuting Bradley. Frazier "made a race to the Sheriff's Office to talk," Butler said. Prosecutors said no deal had been struck.
Bradley was found guilty of murder but not guilty of a related charge of kidnapping. He has previous convictions for armed robbery and strong armed robbery, authorities said. He'd also skipped out of the area last year just as his case was to be called for trial. He was arrested on the grounds of a homeless shelter in Berkeley County.
Bradley's wife described him as good man and wanted him to come home to his family as soon as possible. Bradley did not speak after the verdict but through his attorney maintained his innocence. His sentence begins immediately.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-5551.