The evidence presented to the Honorable Jacqueline Chooljian of California’s Central District Court to extradite Bruce Beresford-Redman to Mexico presents a damning tale.
(For a recent update see: No surprise that Bruce Beresford-Redman denied amparo. For a look at four foreigners imprisoned in Mexico, including Beresford-Redman, see: In Mexico, guilt by association is often enough. And for a look at security in resorts, see: How safe are tourists in Mexico?)
In effect, the court determined that Beresford-Redman, named at the time as a “Fugitive from the Government of Mexico”, was likely guilty of the murder of his wife Monica in a Cancun hotel room in April, 2010, stating outright that “probable cause exists to believe that Beresford-Redman committed the aggravated homicide of the victim.”
What some press outlets have presented as “alleged” were accepted as fact by the court. The text supporting the extradition request for the Los Angeles-based reality TV producer reads as a concise indictment of Beresford-Redman’ character, and also an indication of the dire straits his marriage was in.
“Beresford-Redman had an affair with a co-worker for several months in at least 2009. He lied to the victim about it for months. The victim learned of Beresford-Redman’s infidelity when she discovered text messages between Beresford-Redman and the co-worker. The couple quarrelled about the matter. The victim told Beresford-Redman to leave the couple’s home. Beresford-Redman moved out of the couple’s home and into his parents’ home. The victim denied Beresford-Redman access to his children and to his home. She liquidated his money. She told his daughter’s school that he was abusive and unfit and should not be allowed to pick up his daughter. The victim changed the locks on the house and took the couple’s children to Hawaii without Beresford-Redman. She planned to get a divorce. Beresford-Redman was devastated about not being able to see his children and the possibility that he might have to prove that he was not abusive in a possible future custody battle. Upon his family’s return from Hawaii, Beresford Redman apologized.”
Normally a “Certification of Extraditability and Order of Commitment” could be expected to be a pretty dry read, but Judge Chooljian clearly constructed the document in such a way as to form a convincing argument for Beresford-Redman’s guilt.
Part of the set-up is to indicate that the marital problems, and conflict, were on the increase:
“The couple decided to take a family trip to Mexico in early April 2010. The night before the family departed for Mexico, Beresford-Redman and the victim had a big fight concerning Beresford-Redman’s affair. The couple had previously had many loud arguments.”
The court document is heavily footnoted, and includes evidence from the victim’s sister, Jeanne Burgos, whom the court acknowledged was biased against Beresford-Redman. The reason for such allowance was because it was consistent with other evidence. Her statements were “largely cumulative of other evidence presented to the Court and are not themselves material to the Court’s probable cause determination”.
Nonetheless, Burgos’ testimony was included in the final document. She claimed:
“The victim confronted Beresford Redman about his infidelity, which he acknowledged. The victim then withdrew assets from their joint bank account and moved them to a new account, over which she had sole control. When the victim discovered that Beresford-Redman still had contact with the woman with whom he had been having an affair, the victim demanded a divorce. The victim told Beresford-Redman that, if he agreed to the divorce, she would give him half the money she had transferred to the new account, but that if he did not agree to the divorce, she would keep all the money. The victim also changed the locks on the couple’s residence and told Beresford-Redman to stay away. The victim further notified the children’s schools that Beresford Redman should not be allowed to pick the children up from school.”
We are clearly watching a family disintegrate. Nonetheless, Beresford-Redman and his wife decide to take their son and daughter, aged three and five, on a vacation to the Moon Palace Resort in Cancun, Mexico, to try and patch things up.
We are then presented with still more evidence of conflict, this time from a hotel employee:
“A woman the hotel employee identified from a photograph as the victim, and a man the hotel employee identified from a photograph as looking similar to Beresford-Redman, argued in front of the Los Tacos restaurant at the Hotel on April 4, 2010 at about 8:30 p.m. The woman was crying. The man twice attempted to physically assault the woman, but the man stopped when he realized that he was being watched.”
A view from a room at the Moon Palace
The judgment then takes a minor leap, and refers back to a statement by Burgos in which “the victim told her, on that date, that the victim had discovered that Beresford-Redman was still receiving communications from the woman with whom he had been unfaithful.”
In other words, the court is reasonably inferring that this is the reason for the violent argument witnessed by the hotel employee on the night of April 4, 2010. (It was also noted that the couple had life insurance policies – if a parent died, the children would receive $500,000 each). From here, Judge Chooljian builds the material and circumstantial evidence against Beresford-Redman.
“Beresford Redman also told Mexican authorities that on April 5, 2010 at about 8:30 a.m., he had had ‘a strong argument with his wife due to the behavior of his children.’”
“Around 6:00 a.m., on April 5, 2010, extremely loud banging and screams and cries for help, which sounded like a woman in extreme distress, emanated from the Hotel Room. The noises continued for around 15 minutes.” The judgment even footnotes this observation with “It can reasonably be inferred that Beresford-Redman incapacitated or killed the victim during this time period.”
Further observations from the court are as follows:
At approximately 8:30 a.m., hotel guests reported having heard loud noises from Beresford-Redman's room to the hotel concierge. The concierge called the hotel room and spoke to Beresford-Redman. Beresford-Redman told the concierge that he had been arguing with his wife about their children’s behavior but that it would not happen again.
Also on April 5, 2010, a “Do Not Disturb” sign was hung on the door to the Beresford-Redman’s hotel room from at least 8:30 a.m. to at least 5:00 p.m. Consequently, the hotel room was not serviced by the hotel’s cleaning staff that day. At one point that afternoon (around 2:00 p.m.), the hotel employee assigned to clean the room encountered Beresford-Redman coming out of the hotel room and asked Beresford-Redman if he wanted his room cleaned. Beresford-Redman indicated that he did not.
Perhaps the strangest piece of evidence comes for the key cards. Between April 5 at 9:02 p.m. and April 6, 2010 at 4:22 a.m. the room was accessed fifteen times, with five entries between 9:02 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.
Specifically, the records reflect that entries were made into the Hotel Room at 9:02 p.m., 9:28 p.m., 9:31 p.m., 9:35 p.m., 10:25 p.m., 11:01 p.m., 11:19 p.m., 12:33 a.m., 12:54 a.m., 1:58 a.m., 2:54 a.m., 3:34 a.m., 4:04 a.m., 4:09 a.m., and 4:22 a.m.
That’s a lot of activity, and very odd for a couple with a three year old and a five year old.
According to the extradition document –
“On the morning of April 6, 2010, Beresford-Redman told hotel employees that his wife was missing. He later reported her disappearance to the U.S. Consulate and the local prosecutor. On that date he told Mexican authorities the following: He had last seen the victim on April 5, 2010, between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. The victim had been planning to do some shopping in Cancun and perhaps to go to the hotel spa. The victim wanted to find a place where she could find an activity involving swimming with dolphins that might be suitable for the couple’s children. The victim had approximately $400 U.S. in cash and at least a Chase Slate Visa credit card. He had expected the victim to return around 10:00 p.m. on April 5, 2010. His wife had been wearing a golden band.”
At this time Mexican authorities observed excoriations (scratches or abrasions) on the fingers of both of Beresford-Redman’s hands, on the back part of his neck, behind his right ear, on his chest, and on the tibia of his left leg. The wounds seemed to have been inflicted by fingernail scratches. A ‘criminalistics’ expert opined that the nature of the injuries supported the inference that they were caused during a fight.
Beresford-Redman has explained this by saying that he suffered injuries to his hands and feet on April 2, 2010 at a subterranean river when, after his son asked to get out of the river, Beresford Redman climbed a slippery rocky river wall with his son in his arms. He also claimed to have suffered injuries to the back part of his neck on April 4, 2010 during a jungle tour when, after diving into the water, he hit the back part of his head on a rope holding a boat.
As well, Beresford-Redman’s daughter stated that she was on Beresford-Redman’s back at the underground river, “that her father helped both she and her brother out of the water, that it was rocky, that her father got scratches on his arms and legs while helping them out of the water, and that later she put Band-Aids on her father’s scratches.”
But the court was giving Beresford-Redman little consideration here, either. Clearly, the testimony of such young children, who have lost their mother and are left with their father, and who were presumably asleep during their mother’s alleged murder, is suspect –
“The Court notes that Beresford-Redman himself said nothing about carrying his daughter or incurring injuries while assisting his daughter in getting out of the river...the Court has concerns about the credibility of Beresford-Redman’s daughter’s statements. However, the child’s foregoing statements, even accepted as true, do not explain all of Beresford-Redman’s scratches and do not alter the Court’s view that probable cause exists to believe that Beresford-Redman committed the aggravated homicide of the victim.”
Not looking good
As part of additional statements made by Beresford-Redman on April 7, 2010 to Mexican authorities, the accused offered a more detailed, and rather bizarre, explanation for what he was up to on the night of April 4 –
“On the night of April 4, 2010, he and the victim argued about activities for the next day. Beresford-Redman did not sleep well the night of April 4, 2010, and visited the bathroom constantly throughout the night. His activities caused the victim and his son to awaken around 5:00 a.m. The three of them stayed awake until around 6:30 a.m. The three of them played a game named Mater that consisted of crashing against the wall, using the bed or any other object. The couple’s son was laughing and screaming during the game. They were making a lot of noise during the game, jumping on the floor and bed. The couple’s daughter slept all this time. After Beresford-Redman, the victim and their son stopped playing, they fell asleep. At around 8:30 a.m., the victim left the bed and Beresford-Redman and his son got up and watched a DVD movie while the victim got ready to leave. The victim left around 8:30 a.m. with $400 U.S. and around $100 in Mexican pesos and was wearing a blue dress.”
Beresford-Redman also denied telling the concierge that he had been fighting with the victim on the morning of April 5, 2010. In fact, he told Mexican authorities that he knew nothing about screams asking for help and that the only screams coming from the room were ones made when he, the victim, and their son (not their daughter) were playing –
“He further asserted that when, on April 5, between 9:00 and 9:30 a.m., the concierge called and advised him of a noise complaint, he apologized and told the concierge that he had been playing with his son, that they had been screaming and making noise, and that it would not happen again.”
Beresford-Redman then claims to have stayed with his children while the victim was out that day (April 5, 2010). He was sleeping at 10:00 p.m. with the children and expected that the victim would wake him up when she arrived because he thought, but was not sure, that she had a key. He awoke around 11:00 p.m. and noticed that the victim had not arrived yet –
“He felt distressed but knew that she sometimes ran late. He noticed that the victim did not have her cell phone so he could not call her. Since he was so worried, he walked around the hotel to look for her. He went in and out of the room several times but never spoke to anyone at the hotel or reported the victim missing that night. He returned to his room and eventually fell asleep around 5:00 a.m.”
The Hotel claims it maintains very strict entrance and exit registry for its guests; every hotel guest leaving the property is identified. The security employee that covered the 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. shift had never seen the victim until being shown a video of her in connection with carrying out a search for her.
On April 8, 2010, a hotel employee found the victim’s naked body in a sewage cistern on the hotel grounds:
“The cistern was approximately 25 meters from the building where the hotel room was located. The victim’s purse was near the body. Among other things, the purse contained approximately $15 in pesos. The victim’s gold band was also recovered. The purse did not contain the victim’s passport, the victim’s cell phone, a credit card, or a hotel key card.”
As part of the evidence accepted, and quoted, by Judge Chooljian, a Mexican criminalist stated that “the place and position in which the victim’s body was found did not correspond to the original position of her death and that her death had occurred approximately 72 to 96 hours prior to such investigator’s intervention on the morning of April 8, 2010.”
An autopsy was conducted on the victim’s body, determining that a “chop wound” to the right side of the victim’s head was believed to be related to the time and date of her death.
“The forensic pathologist opined that the likely cause of the victim’s death was asphyxia through suffocation.”
The court offered a detailed examination of inconsistencies in the statements of Beresford-Redman and his daughter, who was five at the time, and who gave a statement a year after the occurrences. It was observed that a mother of a five- and a three-year-old would not have left without her cell phone. As well, a subsequent medical examination of the victim’s body “resulted in the discovery of several additional wounds, including ecchymoses (superficial contusions) to the victim’s face caused by a blunt sharpless object of irregular shape, hard and with ledges, maybe a closed fist. The color of such ecchymoses suggested that they had been caused two or three days before the victim’s death”.
As well, on April 9, 2010, forensic examiners searched Beresford-Redman’s room. In the bathroom, forensic examiners noticed small spotting on the column of the washbasin. Examiners determined that several of these samples tested presumptively positive for the presence of blood. Forensic examiners found a reddish stain on one of the bed pillows, and later tested this stain for DNA, determining that it was consistent with human male blood. Forensic examiners found additional stains on the handrail of the balcony to the hotel room from which three samples were taken – all three of these samples tested presumptively positive for the presence of human blood.
Judge Jacqueline Chooljian seems convinced
In the end, Beresford-Redman was faced with this damning conclusion –
“The Court finds Beresford-Redman’s account not credible as it is inconsistent with the hotel’s key card records and common sense. Specifically, although Beresford-Redman told authorities that he awoke and began looking for the victim around 11:00 p.m., the key card records reflect five entries into the room before 11:00 p.m. – including four entries between 9:02 and 9:35 p.m. – before, according to Beresford-Redman, the victim had even planned to return. Moreover, it does not make sense that Beresford-Redman would not have checked with hotel staff during the night/early morning hours if he had actually been searching for his wife at that time (as opposed to disposing of evidence).
The Court infers that the children of Beresford-Redman and the victim were alone in the hotel room when Beresford-Redman left the room on multiple occasions in the late hours of April 5, 2010 and the early hours of April 6, 2010 and does not credit the statements of Beresford Redman’s daughter to the extent offered to show that the children were never left alone in the hotel room.
As Beresford-Redman’s counsel has pointed out, the security employee in issue was also on duty earlier in the week when, if Beresford-Redman and his daughter are to be believed, the family (including the victim), left the hotel grounds... Accordingly, Beresford-Redman’s counsel argues that the statement of the employee in issue – at least to the extent offered to demonstrate that the victim never left the hotel grounds on the date in issue – is unreliable.
Irrespective of the statements of Beresford-Redman and his daughter, evidence that the victim did not actually leave the hotel grounds on April 5, 2010 does not, in this Court’s view, make it any more or less likely that Beresford-Redman killed the victim or that he lied about the victim’s plans to leave the grounds.
If the victim had been robbed and had been killed by a robber, it does not make sense that any money or jewellery would have been left behind.
The Court finds Beresford-Redman’s statements not credible in light of the inconsistency between such statements and the statements of the concierge and the description of the screams by the hotel guests and the fact that the concierge and the hotel guests have no apparent motive to fabricate, whereas the same cannot be said of Beresford-Redman.
The Court finds that it can reasonably be inferred from the foregoing facts that on the morning of April 5, 2011, Beresford-Redman killed (or incapacitated and subsequently killed) the victim, that he kept the hotel cleaning staff from entering the hotel room to afford him time to attempt to sanitize the crime scene and to conceal his crime, that he disposed of the victim’s body during the night of April 5, 2010/the early morning hours of April 6, 2010, that he made inconsistent and false statements to hotel employees and the Mexican authorities about these events, and that such inconsistencies and falsehoods are indicative of a consciousness of guilt.”
(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)
(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)
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