By Matt Ingersoll
Opening statements began Tuesday in the first-degree murder trial of a Lynn man accused of stalking and fatally strangling his ex-girlfriend before dumping her body in an East Boston parking garage in 2013.
Prosecutors say Chhoeut Chin, 43, killed Sherry Leigh Bradley, 32, also of Lynn, sometime between the late evening hours of July 31 and the early morning hours of Aug. 1, 2013. Bradley’s body was found by a maintenance worker at about 9:20 a.m. Aug. 1, having suffered a fractured neck, a contusion to her skull, and bruises to her throat. Investigators believe Bradley’s body had been dumped just mere minutes earlier.
Murder indictments against Chin were not handed down until September 2014.
In a full courtroom, Assistant District Attorney Edmond Zabin explained to the jury that Chin and Bradley had begun a romantic relationship sometime in the late spring or early summer of 2013 after meeting through mutual heroin dealers. The two of them lived together on and off for a short period of time, but Zabin said it soon became apparent that there was a pattern in which Chin would repeatedly harass and threaten Bradley whenever she tried to leave him or end their relationship.
Zabin described to the jury the events of July 31, 2013, the last day Bradley was seen alive. That night, she had plans to hang out and get high with her friend Christopher Schmidt at his Lynn home. At some point, Zabin said she told Schmidt she was going to go out to get something to eat, but once she did, she never returned.
Early the next morning, Zabin said video surveillance footage from a parking garage at 800 Border St. in East Boston picked up a blue Honda Civic driving in just minutes before Bradley’s body was discovered. The video showed the car backing into the spot next to where she was found. Because Bradley was found without any form of identification, police detectives who were called in were not able to identify her until the next day, which they did through her fingerprints.
Zabin said upon the police’s review of the surveillance footage, it became obvious to them that the blue Honda Civic was somehow involved – a car that officers later found was registered to Chin.
Car registration records as well as police interviews with members of Bradley’s family all connected the investigation to Chin, Zabin said. But when he was brought in for police interrogation and given a photo of Bradley, Chin allegedly told investigators he had “never seen this person before” in his life.
During the defense’s opening statements, attorney Brian Kelley argued that no physical, biological or DNA evidence connected Chin to Bradley’s disappearance or murder, including after his car had been searched. Kelley also said that there was not one single witness who could testify with confirmation that he or she had seen Chin assault Bradley. Kelley tried to discredit upcoming prosecution witnesses by calling them “drug dealers” and “drug addicts,” and argued that police detectives jumped to conclusions too quickly by focusing their investigation solely on Chin.
The first witness after opening statements was Bradley’s father. Michael Bradley, 57, of Lynn, a self-employed construction worker, testified that he had only met Chin a few times while Chin and his daughter were in a relationship, all of which had occurred in the last few months leading up to her murder.
Mr. Bradley testified of the first and only instance of when he and Chin were formally introduced, at a Fourth of July barbecue at his Lynn home on July 3, 2013 just one month before his daughter was murdered. During that exchange, Mr. Bradley described Chin as being friendly and complimentary, and according to him, was known by the street name “T.”
Mr. Bradley said that on Aug. 2, Boston police detectives arrived at his home to bring him the news that his daughter had been found murdered. One day later, on Aug. 3, he testified of speaking to Christopher Schmidt, who showed him text messages on his phone exchanged between him and his daughter. The nature of these text messages was not discussed in open court Tuesday.
Judge Jeffrey Locke told the jurors that Chin’s trial is likely to last at least two weeks. A jury of 16 members was originally selected, but one juror was excused from empanelment just prior to the opening statements due to an unrelated personal issue.