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When Murder Runs in the Family: Frances Schreuder and the Killing of Franklin Bradshaw  

Frances needed cash, so she hatched a plan to kill her father. The secret weapon? Her teenage son.

On July 23, 1978 in Salt Lake City, wealthy industrialist Franklin Bradshaw was shot to death. The scene was set to look like a robbery gone bad, but it wasn’t until two years later police revealed the truth: Bradshaw had been shot by his 17-year-old grandson Marc Schreuder.

Yet Marc wasn’t the only family member involved: Marc's mother, Frances, a Manhattan socialite, was charged with unlawfully causing the death of her father and soliciting, encouraging, and aiding her teenage son in the homicide. When Frances was finally arrested (she was turned in by her sister) and testified against by her son, the story scandalized Utah.

The most difficult part to understand: Berenice Bradshaw–the widow of the victim–funded the entire defense, providing Frances with a $1 million dollar trust that ensured she was set for life.

Read on for an excerpt from Nutcracker, Shana Alexander’s gripping true crime investigation into Frances Schreuder, the murder of Franklin Bradshaw, and the years of secrets and family turmoil that culminated in such a horrific crime.

Read on for an excerpt of Nutcracker, and then download the book.

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Nutcracker

By Shana Alexander

Nutcracker

By Shana Alexander

… AT SIX FORTY-FIVE Sunday morning, Berenice Bradshaw heard the ancient Ford pickup cough and gargle in the driveway and knew her husband was leaving for work. Mrs. Bradshaw was seventy-five years old, and slightly deaf. She did not actually hear the old man leave his small room just across the hall from her own, or run his tepid bath. She did not hear him do his thirty-one pushups, or stir up his breakfast of oatmeal with evaporated milk, or hack off and brown-bag the chunk of her meat loaf that would become his lunch. But she knew he had done each of these things. The Bradshaws had moved into the bungalow on South Gilmer Drive one April day in 1937, and every single morning since then Franklin Bradshaw had followed precisely the same routine, Saturday and Sunday mornings included: 15,055 tepid baths, 15,055 pots of oatmeal.

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Franklin Bradshaw would not return home from the disheveled old Bradshaw Auto Parts warehouse, hard by the Union Pacific railroad tracks, until after nine o’clock. Time was when he did not get home from work until ten or eleven or even midnight, but he was seventy-six now, and lacked the energy he once had. By the time he came home she would have eaten supper and be down in her small split-level basement office, pasting snapshots into her photograph albums or working on her genealogy charts. He would warm up his own supper: more meat loaf, which she had prepared for him during the day, and Jell-O with fruit, and perhaps a homemade bran muffin. While he ate, he would read his newspaper. 15,055 copies of the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Weekdays or weekends, year in and year out, the routine never varied. So on this particular Sunday morning, July 23, 1978, when she heard Franklin’s old blue Courier truck starting up, Berenice Bradshaw did what she had done on so many other identical Sundays: she rolled over and went briefly back to sleep. At 8:30 A.M. Mrs. Bradshaw got up and went down to the basement to awaken her seventeen-year-old grandson Larry, who was spending the summer with his grandparents. She warned him not to be late for his ten-thirty flying lesson out at Skyhawk Aviation, near the Great Salt Lake. Larry was never easy to awaken, and this morning it took longer than usual. Larry had worked at the warehouse with his grandfather the evening before, the only time this summer the boy had set foot down there. The rambunctious Schreuder grandsons, Larry and his brother Marc, were not popular with the other employees. Last year, after the two sixteen-year-olds had spent the summer working at Bradshaw’s, some employees had threatened to quit. That was why this summer Granny Bradshaw was paying $3,500 for Larry to take flying lessons instead.

Nutcracker, by Shana Alexander
  • Franklin Bradshaw

A few minutes past ten o’clock Mrs. Bradshaw’s doorbell rang. On her front porch was a police officer accompanied by a Mormon elder and Doug Steele, manager of Bradshaw Auto Parts and her husband’s oldest friend. She asked them in and the elder told her to sit down. He knelt down beside her. “We hate to do this, Berenice,” he said. “We’ve had a tragic accident. It concerns your husband …”

“I don’t understand.” She turned to Doug Steele. “What’s he trying to say, Doug?”

“Berenice, Frank’s been shot. He’s been killed.”

“Oh, my God! My God!”

“Now, help us out, Berenice. I know you’ve got some tranquilizers around here. Where are they?” Steele brought the pills and some water and Mrs. Bradshaw calmed down somewhat and the policeman said it looked like a robbery. The cash register was open, Frank’s wallet and some coins and credit cards were scattered on the floor.

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“What’ll we do, Doug? What’ll we do?”

The grizzled manager put his arm around her heaving shoulders. “We have to reach out for the family now, Berenice. Get hold of the girls.”

All day long Mrs. Bradshaw, assisted by her grandson, tried to reach her three married daughters, two in New York City and one in Oregon. But this was July and a Sunday. Nobody was at home. It would be past midnight before she spoke to them all.

At 5:45 P.M. Mrs. Bradshaw and Larry went down to the Hall of Justice to give their statements to the police. No gun had been found, they were told, and there were no witnesses, no clues of any kind. The old man had been ambushed, shot in the back. It could have been anyone.

“I believe in capital punishment, so help me,” Mrs. Bradshaw said. The widow answered all the police officers’ questions. She told them her daughters’ names and addresses. She described her husband’s work habits, his business, his employees, “all very, very fine … wonderful men …”

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They asked about her husband’s will. She had not yet had time to look for it, she said. “Nothing but callers and phones all day.” But she thought a copy was somewhere in her basement files. “I’ve seen it … but my family didn’t like it, and he didn’t like it. And so it is still there, but nobody likes it.”

“Was your husband a rich man?”

“He told me we were poor.”

The murdered man was far from poor. Bradshaw was by training a geologist who in 1929 had been shrewd enough to go into the auto parts business at the dawn of the cross-country motoring era, and to set up shop at the edge of the worst stretch of automotive badlands between the Atlantic and the Pacific. One store soon became a chain, and the stores pulled in a small river of cash. Bradshaw was determined to sequester every dime from the hated Bureau of Internal Revenue. Over the years his money had been quietly and extremely wisely invested, and reinvested—first in the stock market and in the successful chemicals company he founded, but finally and most extensively in federal oil and gas leases on the public lands which constitute seventy percent of the state of Utah. When he had leased as much land as the law permits a single individual to hold in a single state, 200,000 acres, he branched out to other states. Slowly, and almost invisibly, Bradshaw built up a one-man archipelago of oil and gas rights that spanned every state between the Mississippi River and Hawaii. Because of the 200,000-acre limit, the leases were held not just in his own name but in the names of his wife, his children, his grandchildren. It had all been done in a very low-key manner, and by the time of his murder the old man owned twenty-eight automotive stores and unknown millions of acres of oil land. Single-handedly, he had accumulated the largest estate ever probated by the state of Utah. His net worth was estimated by the Salt Lake City Tribune to be at least $60 million, and some knowledgeable sources said that, when all was counted, the figure could exceed $400 million.

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… THE FUNERAL could not be scheduled until noon on Wednesday. The day after the murder, Monday, July 24, was Pioneer Day, the biggest holiday on the Mormon calendar. It commemorates the arrival of the Mormons, after years of hardship and persecution, in Zion, the Promised Land, and on that day the entire city shuts down so the Latter-day Saints can attend the big LDS parade up Main Street to the Mormon Temple.

One of the handful of people to go to work on Pioneer Day was Dr. Serge Moore, Medical Examiner of the State of Utah. He commenced his autopsy of Frank Bradshaw at nine o’clock Monday morning and finished about two hours later. The old man had been shot twice, both times at fairly close range. One bullet had entered the middle of his upper back, the other the base of his skull. Either would have been fatal. The killer had used hollow-point, copper-jacketed Remington-Peters ammunition—bullets whose copper-sheathed nose peels back on impact into equal segments, like a lily.

The damage was fearful. The back of the skull and brains had been blown away. Police photographs of the scene, which the surgeon kept beside him for orientation as he worked, were almost surreal. On a worn and dirty floor, a skinny old man lay on his back in an attitude of terror. A penumbra of bright blood haloed his head and shoulders. His mouth was stretched wide in its final scream. His lower plate had come loose and dangled in the mouth opening. The eyes, also open, were wild. The arms were upflung in surprise or fright, but the open palms bracketing the gaunt gray face at ear level were in an attitude of benediction, and long strands of gray-white hair floated out across the surface of the crimson puddle. The agitated, red-edged figure resembled a sixteenth-century cardinal painted by El Greco.

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But the portrait’s ecclesiastical quality stopped abruptly at shoulder level. The body on the dusty floor was dressed in a ragged orange polo shirt with penguins on it, and cheap black-and-white-checked trousers. The front pockets had been pulled inside out. From the neck down it looked as if some elderly derelict had wandered into camera range, collapsed, and died.

Dr. Moore sealed the two bullets into plastic bags to turn over to Homicide, cleaned up, and went home to get ready for the big parade.

… WEDNESDAY JULY 26 broke bright blue and blazing, another furnace-like day of desert heat baking the high Wasatch Valley. By eleven o’clock, an hour before the service, the large parking lot at Eastman’s Evans & Early mortuary, finest in town, was completely filled with the kind of sturdy, Detroit-built automobiles favored by Frank Bradshaw’s relatives, friends and employees. These people, and their children, now sat sweltering and quietly fanning themselves on rows of pale blue folding chairs. For the first time any of them could remember, Bradshaw Auto Parts was closed in the daytime.

As more and more mourners arrived and overflowed the main chapel, attendants seated them in a backup funeral parlor where they could at least hear the service over loudspeakers. Even the first arrivals, in the main chapel, had nothing much to look at—no casket, no altar, just the stiff floral tributes massed at the front of the long, blue room, and a small wooden lectern. When it was time to begin, the immediate family members would be seated in a blue-draped semi-private niche off to the left, shielded from the larger public view. Organ music played softly.

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Marilyn Bradshaw Reagan, the eldest daughter, had planned her father’s memorial service, reviewing with the undertakers the many available options, choosing the details she and her mother preferred, always mindful of certain tensions within the larger family. The Bradshaws are an honored Mormon dynasty. Franklin Bradshaw was one of the ten children born to John Franklin and Emma Briggs Bradshaw between 1880 and 1910. The family homestead was in Lehi, a pioneer Mormon settlement a few miles south of Salt Lake City, and from there Bradshaw uncles and cousins had prospered and branched out variously in banking, real estate, insurance, and farming.

As the youngest and last surviving brother, Franklin had inherited the position of family patriarch. But Frank was not much like his churchly, conservative brothers. He rarely attended family weddings or funerals, let alone regular Sunday services. He did not wear holy undergarments. Certainly Frank Bradshaw did not tithe ten percent of his earnings to the church. He was in fact known as something of a tightwad, a man who toured his auto parts empire by Greyhound Bus, a man who preferred to reoutfit himself, when it became absolutely necessary, at the Army-Navy store.

It is questionable whether he believed in the beautiful life eternal, life everlasting, which is the foundation of the Mormon faith. His wife Berenice said not; that he had just pretended to go along in order to keep peace within the devout Bradshaw clan. Bertha Beck, his deeply pious baby sister, said she knew better. “He told me he looked forward to meeting Mother again!” she huffed.

nutcracker by shana alexander
  • Berenice Bradshaw

Certainly Franklin Bradshaw would have approved his wife and daughter’s decision to have him cremated, that being both the most efficient and cheapest way to deal with an autopsied corpse. But the choice was viewed with disfavor by the Bradshaws. The entire edifice of the Latter-day Saints’ belief rests on the certitude of a Second Coming, and as daughter Marilyn said later, “Whereas you don’t have to have a body to come back to, it’s considered definitely better if you do.”

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Most of the delicate problems in planning his memorial stemmed from the fact that Frank Bradshaw had married outside his faith. Idaho-born Berenice Jewett Bradshaw was regarded by the Bradshaws as a gentile—the Mormon term for all non-Mormons. Her husband’s family, though always polite, had never fully accepted her. Berenice, serene and proud in the knowledge that her own ancestors were Huguenots, and that she was a direct descendant of Maximilian Jewett, a Yorkshireman who had settled in Rowley, Massachusetts, in 1638, did not particularly care what the Bradshaws thought of her. Her outspoken scorn for their religious views made that clear. “They believe the sky up there is all full of little invisible angels!” she would hoot. But she had bitterly resented the semiostracism accorded her children when they were growing up in Utah. To punish small children for their mother’s intransigence was unfair and cruel.

It was nearly noon. Marilyn Reagan waited with her mother and two sisters in the stuffy family anteroom. On the whole, she was pleased with the way things were going. The ivory-colored programs had been nicely printed up, and the hired soloist would sing her mother’s two favorite hymns. Berenice had studied voice before her marriage, and her children often heard her singing and accompanying herself on the family upright: “Oh, I come to the garden alone, While the dew is still on the ro-oses … And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own …”

But all that was long past. Franklin and Berenice Bradshaw had had four children. The firstborn, Robert, had died twelve years ago, and long before that his three sisters had scattered to lead their own lives. Even the old parlor piano was long gone … After the hymn, Marilyn had asked her father’s kindly cousin Wayne Hacking to be the first speaker, followed by Franklin’s handsome young nephew, Craig Bradshaw. When Craig was finished, the soloist would sing “Going Home,” and then the bereaved family would hasten back to Gilmer Drive to receive the numerous condolence callers who were expected. Aunt Bertha Beck was at the house now. She had volunteered to stay behind to answer phone calls and set out the many platters of food. Aunt Bertha didn’t mind missing the funeral. She already felt very close to God, and to her brother Franklin. She certainly didn’t need any memorial service to remind her of either one.

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All of the roast meats, salads, casseroles, pies, cakes, cookies and punch had been contributed by the dead man’s employees and their families, more than one hundred and fifty people. They had asked to do this as a way of expressing and dealing with their own grief. Working for the old man had been like being part of a big family, and many employees had been with him more than twenty years, some more than thirty. Frank did not pay much, but he always had time to listen to their problems. He found summer jobs for the kids who needed them, and pregnant women knew that whenever they were ready to come back to work, Frank would have held a place for them. As they sliced and kneaded and basted and garnished his funerary foods, many wondered what the boss’s home would look like. Since none of the Bradshaw daughters had been married at home and the Bradshaws did not entertain, it was going to be the first social event at Gilmer Drive that anybody could recall.

The organ music reached a crescendo, died away, revived again—the signal that the service was about to begin. Lynx-eyed Craig Bradshaw looked like one of the unflappable Mormon males who are often used by the Secret Service to guard the President. But right now Craig was uneasy. His Uncle Frank had always told him, “Craig, remember that the most important thing in life is your family.” Yet when he had dropped over yesterday to Gilmer Drive to pick up some pointers from Frank’s family on how they would like to hear him eulogized, they had mentioned everything but what a good husband and father he had been. That subject, they had made clear, was just as well avoided.

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A side door in the blue niche opened silently. Frank’s immediate family was coming in now, the women first, the men following, and all of them walking as stiffly as playing-card figures. Leaning forward slightly, Craig could see them from his front-row seat.

Frances, the youngest daughter, entered first. She was forty years old, with a stocky, boyish body, dark hair, intense eyes, and a Lily Tomlin face. Yesterday, meeting her for the first time ever, he had found her “striking-looking, but not attractive.” Today he could not see her features, but thought her oddly dressed. She was clothed head to toe in black. “Even a hat!” he would say later. “With a big veil, and long black gloves. We just don’t do that. I don’t mean LDS. I mean Utah people don’t do that.”

nutcracker by shana alexander
  • Frances Schreuder

Mrs. Bradshaw came in next. Craig was glad to see Berenice “looking okay.” Bright blue sunglasses hid her eyes. But her curly gray hair was freshly waved, and her heart-shaped face composed and impassive. Then Craig noticed her hands. Her grip on Frances’s black-gloved fingers was so tight that the old lady’s freckled, suntanned hands were milk-white at the knuckles.

Elaine Drukman, the middle sister, was truly petite, by far the smallest of the four women now seated in the front row. She was also the only daughter who resembled her mother. She had the same in-the-bone prettiness, and tightly curled Orphan Annie hair. But she looked worn, even weatherbeaten, compared to the older woman.

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Marilyn Reagan was amply proportioned, moon-faced, and bespectacled. Not so much as baby Frances, but more than middle sister Elaine, Marilyn bore the family’s genetic hallmark, the powerful, slablike Bradshaw jaw. She reminded Craig of a kindly head nurse, and he thought it a great pity that Marilyn was childless. She seemed to him to be the warmest and most motherly of the four women. Craig had no idea how carefully Marilyn Reagan had prepared herself for the inevitable day of her father’s death, no idea of her years of daytime work as a paralegal specialist in wills and estates, no idea of her twelve years of night-school study of inheritance tax law, no idea of her long, quiet campaign to be named executor of her father’s estate and one day to replace him as owner-manager of the Bradshaw empire.

In the second row of the niche, behind the four bereaved women, sat the men—a son-in-law and three of the four grandsons. The man was Elaine’s husband, Mason Drukman, a slender, high-domed, good-looking Oregon professor of political science. He sat squeezed between his two hulking, bushy-haired sons, Sam and Max Drukman, ages twenty and sixteen. Marilyn’s husband, Robert Reagan, was not present. He was a lawyer employed by New York City to work on family court cases, and had felt compelled to remain behind in New York City.

Frances Schreuder, the youngest daughter, had no husband; she was twice divorced. Her first husband had been Vittorio Gentile, an Italian-born pearl importer and the father of her two teenage sons, Lorenzo and Marco, now known as Larry and Marc. Larry was here today, seated with his two Drukman cousins. Like them, he was dark-haired and powerfully built, but large, staring blue eyes gave his face a softer aspect. Again, there was no mistaking the famous Bradshaw jaw. Marc had been asked to stay home in New York City and look after his baby sister.

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Frances’s second husband, Frederik Schreuder, had been Dutch. Several years after their divorce he perished in a plane crash. But he had given Frances a daughter who was the jewel of her existence, her reason for living. The child was the greatest joy of Berenice Bradshaw’s life as well—her first and only granddaughter. The little girl was now barely five years old, far too young for funerals, so Frances had left her at home in the care of her half-brother, Marc. Her name was Ariadne.

Cousin Wayne had finished speaking. It was Craig’s turn. “I have heard it said that each of us, as we walk through the sands of time, leaves some kind of mark,” he began.

Five minutes later he was reading the Twenty-third Psalm, all six verses, and then it was over. Out in the sweltering parking lot, Craig noticed Frances Schreuder one more time. Cousin Wayne was holding tight to her black-gloved hands and telling her how very much she reminded him of her dear, dead father. He could not see her face, but from under her black cloud of veil, mascara flowed like lava down her ashen cheeks.

Want to keep reading? Download Nutcracker by Shana Alexander.

Nutcracker

By Shana Alexander

Featured Photo: Courtesy of Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office; All other photos courtesy of Open Road Media

Published on 19 Feb 2015

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