Cold Case

Douglas Gordon Bradford watches as the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Lewin, makes his opening remarks Bradford's murder trial. He was convicted of killing Lynne Knight in 1979 Thursday. (Jabin Botsford / Los Angeles Times / July 7, 2014)

The Knight family waited 35 years for justice.

When it came Thursday, Donna Knight leaned forward and stared hard at the back of Douglas Bradford's head.

Bradford, who had just been convicted in the 1979 killing of Knight's older sister Lynne, did not look back as Knight, 61, called out "Yeah! Yeah! Yes!" and sheriff's deputies handcuffed him and walked him to his holding cell in the downtown courthouse.

After three days of deliberation on a case that prosecutors acknowledged was based mostly on circumstantial evidence, Bradford, 62, was convicted of first-degree murder.

Lynne Knight was a 28-year-old nurse in Torrance when she was killed. At the time, Bradford was an engineering student at Cal State Long Beach. He had dated Knight for a few months. But after she ended the relationship, Bradford stewed, prosecutors said. He stalked her for days before walking into her apartment with two mop handles and picture-hanging wire fashioned into a garrote, and tried to strangle her, cutting her throat. He then used a knife to cut her femoral artery and stabbed her more than 15 times.

“It’s been something we’ve been worried about for 35 years, that this guy did this and got away,” said Harry Knight, 62, Lynne’s younger brother.

After Knight's death, Bradford became an engineer and moved to Costa Mesa. Deputy Dist. Atty. John Lewin said he and two Torrance detectives started working the case in 1997 and got their big break in 2009, when they found the same type of wire used in Knight's killing in Bradford's mother's garage.

"He got to live a life he never should have had," Lewin said. "He's an arrogant, cocky man. Today he thought he was going to go home."

After Bradford’s conviction, Harry Knight stood next to his dad outside the courtroom and choked up as he spoke about the decades of uncertainty that swiftly ended when the jury foreman read “guilty” aloud. He had praise for the prosecutors.

“They brought so many pieces of the puzzle together and today was the last piece,” he said, wiping tears from his eyes. “It’s a relief. Every day I think about Lynne or there’s some little thing that makes me think about her…. I’ve woken up and just thought about the what ifs.”

Jurors in the case left without commenting to the media, but several stopped on their way out of the courtroom to shake Donna Knight’s hand and express their condolences.

“We’ve had this big stone on our chest and hearts. It’s never gone away,” she said. “It’s over now.”

Bradford is due back in court Oct. 10 for sentencing. He faces 26 years to life in prison.

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