Missouri detective reopens investigation of 1970 slayings in Dunklin County

Monday, January 29, 2007

Investigator hopes DNA testing on evidence kept for nearly four decades finally cracks the case.

A detective has reopened the investigation of the unsolved 1970 shooting deaths in Southeast Missouri of a former Illinoisan and his teenage girlfriend, hoping DNA testing on evidence kept by police for nearly four decades finally cracks the case.

Walter Dearing, chief of a major case squad in Dunklin County, believes the original suspect's bloody clothing -- found recently still in a Missouri State Highway Patrol evidence locker -- may now be key in finding who killed Alan Brian Bradford, 20, and Mary Seutter, 17.

The trial of the original suspect, Theodore Kleine, ended in a mistrial, and prosecutors never retried the case. Dearing wants to have DNA testing of the suspect's bloody clothing, which was seized by investigators after the killings, to determine whose blood it was.

At the time of the slayings, Dearing said, lab analysis could only show the blood was human, and "they could never do any more with it."

Tracked down family

Lately, Dearing -- with help from The Telegraph newspaper in Alton, Ill., a St. Louis suburb -- has tracked down Bradford and Seutter relatives who have agreed to supply blood samples to determine if the blood on the suspect's clothing belonged to either victim.

Dearing says he also has located almost all of the witnesses, the original prosecutor now retired and living in Florida, the pathologist who handled the autopsies and now lives retired in California -- even the court reporter who took the minutes of the first trial.

"Almost everything is in place," Dearing told The Telegraph recently. "It is just a matter of trying to put this all together. There's no guarantees that this DNA thing will work, but if it does, it will certainly increase the chance of a conviction this time."

Kleine's whereabouts were not immediately clear. There was no telephone listing for Theodore Kleine in the St. Louis area.

Dennis Kleine, who testified against his brother at trial, said Sunday by telephone from his St. Louis home that he did not know where his brother could be reached. He declined to discuss the case and hung up.

Calls Sunday to Dearing's home went unanswered.

Bradford, a high school dropout and Marine, was living in St. Louis in the spring of 1970 when he met Seutter, a Kansas City, Mo., runaway who was living at a St. Louis residential treatment facility for young female offenders.

There, Seutter and Bradford met two brothers, Theodore and Dennis Kleine, whose mother worked at the facility.

According to Dearing, Seutter, Bradford and the Kleine brothers took a drive together to Campbell, Mo., in June 1970 to visit an uncle of the Kleines. A deer rifle, perhaps belonging to Bradford, was along for the ride.

Dearing says the four stopped near Campbell to use the rifle for hunting practice, but only the Kleine brothers returned to town to their uncle's house. The bodies of Bradford and Seutter were found the next day in the water of the diversion channel near the bridge, each shot in the head.

The Kleine brothers were arrested, and Theodore Kleine eventually was charged in the slayings.

During the trial -- held in Poplar Bluff, Mo., in Butler County on a venue change -- Dennis Kleine testified that his brother killed the victims "because they slapped the glasses off his face," Dearing said.

Mistrial declared

But the jury couldn't decide on a verdict, and a mistrial was declared.

"For whatever reason, the case got put on the back burner," Dearing said, believing transitions of prosecutors contributed to the case eventually being dismissed by the trial court in Butler County for failure to prosecute. "It has lain dormant all these years."

After the killings, Seutter was returned to Kansas City for burial. Bradford's grave in Wanda Cemetery in South Roxana, Ill., near Alton, still has no marker.

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