Thursday


Murdered in cold blood



True, 33-year-old Brady was in jail for life for murder — he shot a bystander after a bungled armed robbery  in Portland, Oregon in August 1994 — but accomplices said the gun had gone off by accident when Brady had panicked and tried to make a run for freedom.

"That was nothing," Brady would tell fellow inmates."I've done much worse than that." But he refused to give details — and with good reason. By 1995 his good behaviour had made him a privileged prisoner.  He worked on the penitentiary farm and in the library. He had a comfortable cell with a colour TV and there was a possibility of eventual parole. He even wore his own clothes at weekends and had regular visits from friends and family. With Roger Brady of sight and out of mind, he no longer had a current police file and his photographs and fingerprints disappeared into a dusty archive.

And back in the Oregon penitentiary, Brady stopped talking about his criminal past and concentrated on taking a postal course in engineering. He realised that he'd had a lucky escape. Certainly no one had ever thought to connect Brady with a killing nearly two years earlier, in the Californian seaside resort of Manhattan  Beach, south of Los Angeles,  when a popular 29-year-old police officer had been gunned down in cold blood. And not, surprisingly, Roger Brady wanted to keep it that way. It was two days after Christmas 1993 that Officer Martin Ganz, a popular patrolman in the quiet community of Manhattan Beach committed the characteristically kindly act that would cost him his life.  His young nephew, Don Ganz, just 13, had travelled from Florida for Christmas and Martin had taken the youngster under his wing.  Martin was Don's hero — the boy wanted to be a policeman when he grew up — and was thrilled when his uncle arranged for a trip in a police patrol wagon two days after Christmas. It was a late Saturday afternoon when Martin and his nephew were waiting to turn into downtown Sepulveda Boulevard when a blue car stopped practically under the stoplight at the intersection, blocking in the police vehicle.     

Officer Ganz turned on his loudspeaker and asked the car to reverse to the white line, but the driver didn't comply. When the lights eventually turned green, the blue car turned left into the parking lot of a shopping centre and Martin Ganz followed. Both vehicles stopped near a branch of the Bank of America and Ganz got out of his vehicle, leaving the door open as he walked the 30ft to the other vehicle. He had left his ticket book in the car telling his nephew that he only intended to issue a verbal warning.

As he approached the blue car, the driver, Asian in appearance, climbed out and threatened the officer with a revolver. Martin Ganz tried to run back to his own car for cover, attempting to release the safety clip on his gun holster, but the mechanism jammed. As he struggled with the weapon, the other driver ran up and coldly fired three shots at point-blank range. Don Ganz, still in the passenger seat of the police car, watched the killing transfixed with fear. As the gunman approached, the youngster slid to the floor but the man had seen a movement in the car and peered in. He saw a terrified 13-year-old looking up over the dashboard. According to witnesses the murderer then assumed a full combat stance, both hands wrapped around the grip of the gun, the barrel pointing into Don Ganz's face. But unaccountably he didn't fire at the boy who could be a major witness. Instead he turned away, walked slowly back to his car and drove off, braking at a nearby stop sign and signalling for a right-hand turn before driving sedately down the street.

Detective Mark Lillefield, in charge of the investigation, persuaded the boy, still in deep shock, to give a description of his uncle's killer which resulted in a sketch by a police artist which was circulated in its thousands, and shown on national and local TV. It showed an Asian man in his 30s. Don said the man was of average height and was dressed in dark blue jeans and a grubby white T-shirt. He thought he might have had a limp.

A passer-by had taken the registration number of the car, but this proved of little help to detectives — the vehicle had been stolen from a Los Angeles car park two days earlier. Nor did forensic investigation reveal any clues — the steering wheel and controls had been wiped clean of fingerprints. After counselling and hospital treatment for shock, Don Ganz went home to Florida shattered by the death of the man who was his hero. In the meantime police mounted a nationwide search, but they had little to go on: the man, who had killed a policeman rather than be scolded for a minor traffic violation, appeared to have disappeared from the planet.

Six months later, Roger Hoan Brady walked into a bank in Portland, Oregon with two other men and demanded money. They fled after a cashier pressed a hidden alarm, pursued by a 55-year-old woman bank employee who had witnessed the hold-up attempt. Brady shot the woman in cold blood and fled in a stolen car after firing shots at another witness. This time the car was stopped by a police roadblock and Brady arrested. He was gaoled for life for murder. Meanwhile in Florida, Don Ganz, still grieving the death of his uncle, was dredging new facts from the recesses of his memory. With his help a police artist was able to produce a much more detailed likeness of Martin Ganz's killer But most important was something the youngster had never mentioned before. As the attacker levelled his gun, Don had seen a tattoo of an eagle's head on the back of the man's right hand. This was the breakthrough detectives needed. The new descriptive details were fed into the national crime computer data-base which came up with one name: Roger Hoan Brady. On August 1,1996, the perfect prisoner was extradited from Oregon to California to stand trial for the murder of Martin Ganz.

Two years later, Brady was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to death. He is still on death row at San Quentin gaol awaiting the result of his latest appeal. If it fails he could finally go to the gas chamber in June. Recently Los Angeles city authorities gave rewards totalling $50,000 to witnesses whose information had resulted in Brady's conviction on the two murder counts. Two were witnesses of the failed bank raid and the third was Don Ganz, now a law graduate, who received the sum of $12,500. Don knew exactly what to do with the money. It went straight to the Martin Ganz Trust, which finances the education of underprivileged youngsters.      

"My uncle helped people in life and now he's helping them in death," Don said. "He would have been pleased to know that his tragic and senseless death was not entirely in vain."

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