Two college students have gone missing. Were they sacrificed by a satanic cult? Or were they victims of a serial killer? A woman is dead and naked on a beach. No hands and no identity. And no idea who did it. In this true crime anthology, you’re going to explore more insane stories that gave the police sleepless nights.

The following is the first chapter from the book “True Crime Storytime Volume 6: 12 Disturbing True Crime Stories to Keep You Up All Night”

Chapter One

The Reinert Murders

Quiet suburbs can have a way of lulling us into a false sense of security. Small towns where nothing could ever go wrong. Except, when the danger lurking below the surface finally does break through, residents can be surprised at just how deep the lies, crimes, and sinister connections go. Such was the case with Susan Reinert, the kind and compassionate teacher no one ever believed would face an end so brutal, especially at the hands of supposedly upstanding community members.

A Mysterious Call

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s state capital, sits about two hours west of Philadelphia. While not as bustling as the well-known city, Harrisburg still had a large population. It was an amalgam of metropolis and suburbia, rich in history and natural beauty. Monday, June 25, 1979, was the beginning of summer vacation for Harrisburg’s children and many of the children in the state. Teachers and staff were settling into enjoying their well-deserved time off too. Unfortunately, crime never takes a break, and on that morning, police dispatchers in the area received an alarming call.

The unidentified male caller wanted to report a disturbing scene at a motel just a few minutes’ drive outside the city. There, in the parking lot, he had found a sick woman in the trunk of a vehicle. It was around five thirty in the morning when police arrived in response to the distress call, but the woman they found in the trunk wasn’t just sick—she was dead. A coroner would later discover that by the time police found the body, she had been dead for more than twenty-four hours. Her naked body, which was discovered lying akimbo in the trunk of the Plymouth, showed signs of abuse.

In short order, they identified the woman who had been reported missing just a few days before. But the missing person’s report contained even more disturbing news; her two young children had disappeared along with her.

The Main Line Murders Main Characters

Susan Gallagher was born in a small town in Northern Pennsylvania. Like her mother, she had aspirations to be a teacher, a dream at which she had succeeded with flying colors. After attending Grove City College and meeting her future husband, Kenneth Reinert, she began her career as a schoolteacher. The couple initially moved to the Philadelphia area and settled down near Ardmore, Pennsylvania, by the mid-1960s. Susan found a teaching job at the Upper Merion High School. Unfortunately, while Susan’s career was taking off, her relationship with her husband was struggling. The pair were divorced by 1976, amicably agreeing to take care of their two children, Karen and Michael, together. The split between Kenneth and Susan was likely peaceful due to the fact that Kenneth wasn’t aware of his wife’s affair. For some time, she had been seeing fellow Merion High School teacher William “Bill” Bradfield.

Bill Bradfield was intelligent, good-looking, and charming. So charming that he was able to carry on affairs with many women simultaneously. While Susan believed that after a few years of dating, they were resolutely on their way to marriage, Bill happened to be living with another co-worker he had secretly been involved with for the better part of a decade. The well-respected educator also had just as many friends as lovers, one of them being former principal Jay Smith.

Jay Smith was a military man turned principal. He was at the helm of Marion High School for twelve years before a transfer; the move was a result of a tumultuous life outside of the school. Jay had been recently arrested in a mall parking lot, where he was trying to break into a vehicle while carrying two loaded pistols. In his car, police found two more loaded firearms, prompting a search of his home. There, they would discover three pounds of marijuana, copious amounts of illegal prescription drugs, additional firearms, and reference material on bestiality, complete with notes on how to turn canines into “sexual surrogates.”

A deeper probe into his belongings uncovered security guard uniforms, eventually linking him to a tens of thousands of dollars robbery case involving BRINKS security trucks. Though Jay wouldn’t claim as much, his defense argued that his wife’s recent cancer diagnosis had brought upon an undiagnosed mental illness that resulted in the abuse of drugs and alcohol, leading to the rash decisions.

Jay’s friend from Marion High School, Bill, would testify that the allegations were completely against the former principal’s character. The jury didn’t buy it, and Jay was sentenced to two to five years in prison.

Though Bill couldn’t con the jury, the same couldn’t be said for Susan.

A Recipe for Murder

Susan’s mother passed away shortly after her divorce, and Susan suddenly found herself in possession of a fortune nearing half a million dollars. Her mother left her two hundred thousand in property and close to thirty thousand dollars in cash assets. Though Susan was separated, she and her ex-husband Kenneth remained friends and saw each other regularly. Kenneth knew that all of Susan’s property and wealth was to be left to their two children, Michael and Karen, that she had named in her will.

After Kenneth and Susan parted, she became very involved in an organization created for single parents, Parents Without Partners. What had started as a social opportunity for Susan turned into a cause she championed, leading her local chapter and regularly speaking at statewide conferences. Her neighbors and friends would recall, “She was active in Parents Without Partners and was constantly chauffeuring her children to gymnastics and baseball games. She was just a very nice person.” Much of the same could be said about her children.

Michael, a lively ten-year-old, was active, outgoing, and a regular baseball player. Karen was similar to her mother, quiet, nice, and studious. Both went to the school just a few blocks from their home, Chestnutwold Elementary School. On June 22, 1979, school was out for the summer, but life for Susan and her children was hardly relaxing.

That evening, Susan had to pick Michael up early from a father-son softball game. She would later call Kenneth and apologize before calling her former in-laws, who she communicated with regularly, to discuss weekend plans. The trio was set to attend a Parents Without Partners conference in Allentown, around forty minutes away, at which Susan was a speaker and her children were enrolled in various programs.

Neighbors recall Susan’s orange-red Plymouth Horizon hatchback starting up around nine thirty that evening, but no one ever actually saw the family leave. Later, friends would inform the police that they presumed Susan was off to see her boyfriend, Bill.

Susan, Karen, and Michael never made it to the George Washington Motor Lodge in Allentown, where they had made reservations for the duration of the conference. Instead, Susan’s battered body, showing signs of having been restrained with chains, beaten, and suffocated with tape over the mouth, would be found in the trunk of her car, parked at the Host Inn in Harrisburg.

A coroner found that her blood and tissue samples contained morphine at ten times the lethal dose. The Philadelphia State Police urgently began to trace her steps in a desperate attempt to locate her children.

First, they contacted Kenneth, who was almost immediately dismissed as a suspect due to having no motive, financial or otherwise, and an alibi, being home with his new wife and their six-month-old infant all weekend. A search of Susan’s house revealed suitcases with neat piles of clothes set out on Michael’s bed and Karen’s bed, untouched seemingly since Friday night. It contained nearly as many clues as her car, which were very few, aside from a blue comb found in the back seat.

Next, they moved on to her friends from the Parents Without Partners group. Shockingly, organizers of the conference told investigators that Susan had called earlier in the week and tried to remove herself from the list of speakers, stating she had an appointment that would make it impossible for her to speak at the event. Similarly, the George Washington Motor Lodge claimed that Karen had called and canceled her reservation for that weekend. Friends from the group disclosed that Susan had been having a somewhat secret affair with a fellow teacher, Bill.

Bill claimed that he was out of town for the weekend in Cape May, New Jersey, with fellow teacher Vincent Valaitis and his live-in confidant, Susan Myers. Both would verify his story. Initially, Bill wasn’t given more than a passing glance, but a discovery one month after Susan’s murder would necessitate a closer inspection of his character. On July 20, 1979, Patrick Gallagher, Susan’s brother, and her ex-husband, Kenneth, filed a caveat to stall processing Susan’s will. It was discovered that just before her death, she had altered her will, removing her children and naming Bill Bradfield as the sole beneficiary. The will included all of her financial possessions and the two hundred thousand in property left to her by her mother. Suspiciously, almost all of the thirty thousand dollars she had inherited from her mother had disappeared during that same timeframe, being withdrawn in large chunks until only five thousand dollars remained.

Susan had allegedly told close friends she was trusting the money to her “future husband,” Bill, who was going to place it in high-yield investments. Sometime later, investigators would find fake stocks and bonds given to Susan by Bill, created in the name of mostly-nonexistent companies that gave her so-called boyfriend unhindered access to tens of thousands of dollars belonging to Susan. Finally, in the weeks leading up to her death, Susan had taken out multiple life insurance policies, one for hundred thousand dollars. All named Bill Bradfield as the sole beneficiary.

When he was called to attest to these accusations, Bill said that he had no knowledge of the missing twenty-five thousand dollars or that Susan had named him in her will and life insurance policies. Furthermore, he told investigators that the relationship was nowhere near as passionate or serious as Susan’s friends claimed. He had no desire to marry her and really just saw her, on occasion, as a fling.

Police were suspicious, to say the least. They believed that if anyone could help Bill Bradfield hide tens of thousands of dollars while disposing of an obstacle by the name of Susan, it would be his old friend and co-worker, Jay Smith, who had surrendered to authorities for his robbery charges on June 25, 1979—the same day Susan’s nude body was discovered in her car in Harrisburg.

Police wanted to take a closer look at Jay. A review of his history revealed that three years prior to Susan’s death, Jay’s daughter and son-in-law had gone missing. The pair were recovering heroin addicts and had been living with Jay and his wife while they were getting back on their feet. Though they had visited relatives and told them that they would be back soon, Jay claimed his daughter and son-in-law had gotten in trouble with a drug dealer and urgently fled to California.

Susan’s death and the whereabouts of her children were still unsolved, and rumors were beginning to fly. The teachers’ lounge took to calling Jay the “The Prince of Darkness” and claiming that Jay, Susan, and Bill were involved in some sort of satanic sex cult. Six years later, the rumor mill was still churning, and investigators were relentlessly tracking down leads. One link led to a former student of Bill Bradfield named Wendy Ziegler.

Around the time of Susan’s death, Wendy and her teacher had been romantically involved. Wendy had also opened an account at a bank and deposited twenty-five thousand dollars into a safety deposit box. When police charged her with theft and receiving stolen property, she took a plea deal, agreeing to testify against Bill.

Crucial testimony would arise from the fellow teachers Bill had used as an alibi during the weekend of Susan’s death. They claimed that Bill encouraged them to go along with his story and regularly referred to that fateful weekend as “The Alibi Weekend” in private. A nearly four-hour gap in the investigators’ timeline suddenly appeared. Four hours in which Bill’s whereabouts were unknown, but friends believed he had gone to visit Susan.

On April 6, 1983, Bill was arrested and charged with three counts of murder; one for Susan and one for each of her children, who were now believed to be victims. He also faced three charges of conspiracy to commit murder. Bill was convicted of all counts on October 28, 1983. The co-conspirator was Jay C. Smith, who was still serving time in the Graterford correctional facility.

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.

Want more spine-chilling stories? Get our most shocking and horrific stories sent straight to your inbox, sign up for True Crime Seven’s newsletter and you can also receive a FREE copy of “The Briley Brothers” today.

Written by : Sajjad A

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.