But Bill’s fate was not yet sealed. His defense claimed that there was no physical evidence linking Bill to the case and that the trial was awash in much media speculation and rumors, impairing the judge and jury’s judgment. However, witness testimony was nearly irrefutable. Especially when fellow inmate, Proctor Nowell, claimed Bill had confessed to being present for the murder of Susan and her children. Stating, “I was there when they were killed, but I didn’t kill them.” The killing was only meant for Susan, but that they could leave no loose ends. Bill’s friends, for their part, weren’t very convincing. After blowing holes in his alibi, the best they could do was point the finger at Jay Smith, who they claimed was having a relationship with Susan at the time… at least, that’s what Bill had told them. In the end, Bradfield was ordered to serve three life sentences consecutively.
Three years later, in 1986, Jay would be convicted of conspiracy to murder and the murders of Susan, Karen, and Michael. He received the death penalty. Fellow inmates similarly claimed that Jay had told them, “I killed that… bitch.” The police had the blue comb found in Susan’s car. It bore the stamp, “79th USAR COM.” It was Jay’s military unit. However, the case strongly relied on witness testimony; in the end, it was enough to convict Jay Smith of three counts of murder. Though Jay would only spend six more years in prison before his conviction was overturned, citing “egregious” prosecutorial misconduct that barred him from being retried. Jay was a free man.
Afterward, in 1992, evidence was supposedly found in a state trooper’s home that clearly indicated a police cover-up. Namely, the comb presented in the trial was not the same one from Susan’s car, and notes and filings pointed the finger at Bill Bradfield acting alone. The most damning paper was a letter to a state trooper on Susan’s case offering fifty thousand dollars from an author who made a fortune off his book and subsequent mini-series which detailed the case, on the condition that information from the officer led to an arrest and trial. Exorbitant purchases by said officer shortly after Jay’s 1986 trial seemed to prove the officer took that bribe. Nevertheless, Jay died in 2009, still a free man, while the bodies of Karen, Michael, Jay’s daughter, and his son-in-law have never been found.
There have been many works of writing released on the twisted tale of the Main Line Murders, but no clear threads have ever been able to be drawn detailing what actually happened to Susan and her children. It was surmised that Bill Bradfield either encouraged or hired Jay Smith to kill Susan for her insurance money and that her children were simply a casualty in a plan gone awry. Though the haphazard discovery of evidence seems to lead to a much more tangled web of bribery and a police cover-up. Jay Smith went to the grave trying to clear his name, forever blaming the author for irreparably damaging his reputation.
With the victims and suspects all either dead or disappeared, we may never know what really happened in this small, suburban Philadelphia town.