Closing the book on an old tragedy The authorities never gave up trying to solve the murder of Anne Bradley.

November 17, 1995

ALONZO HENRY Johnson Jr. got away with murder. We know now that he killed a St. John's College student named Anne Bradley back in 1968, but it's too late to make him pay; he died of a drug overdose 12 years ago. So the belated solving of this mystery doesn't matter as far as making the world a safer place or bringing an evildoer to justice. And yet, the aftermath of the end of this case shows why Annapolis police and the Anne Arundel state's attorney's office did the right thing by doggedly chasing leads years after the trail had gone cold.

No one outside the family had been pressuring investigators to solve this crime. The pain and shock that must have struck Annapolis when Ms. Bradley was found, shot in the head on State House grounds 27 years ago, has long since faded. Other than a few old-timers at St. John's, it is doubtful whether anyone remembers her; she came here from New England, and whatever friends she made in her brief time here probably have scattered far and wide.

Investigators resurrected the case on their own in 1992, when a "cold case" task force was formed by city police and the state's attorney's office. They began looking for witnesses who may have heard Johnson admit to the killing, finally finding one last June. A prison inmate said Johnson had confessed to him and his recollections were supported by other findings.

The belated solution to the mystery of who killed Anne Bradley is more than an interesting tale. For the victim's family in New England, the task force's work is a gift. Knowing what happened, at last they can close this chapter in their lives and find a measure of peace.

For the rest of us, the fact that investigators did not give up on the Bradley case should bolster our faith in an oft-maligned justice system. Had Johnson been alive, he would be facing murder charges. Many of the killers in the county's other unsolved murders no doubt are alive. Whether they are caught tomorrow or 10 years from now, they will be charged. This is something to remember as time passes and crimes such as the 1993 murders of Lisa Haenel, a teen-ager killed on her way to school, or Joanne Valentine, a nightclub owner, remain open. The Bradley case provides reassurance that our law enforcement authorities don't forget these crimes even after almost everyone else has.

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