Man who blamed murder on dream pleads guilty
BISMARCK (AP) -- A Montana man who told investigators that a dream led him to kidnap and kill a man in North Dakota pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping charges Thursday.
John Bridges, 42, of Missoula, Mont., appeared in court and told a judge he wanted to "get this over with" despite not having an attorney.
Judge Cynthia Feland repeatedly questioned Bridges' decision to proceed without a lawyer, but Bridges insisted on representing himself rather than requesting a court-appointed attorney. He then admitted to kidnapping and killing an acquaintance, 40-year-old Lee Edward Clay, on July 6.
Burleigh County Assistant State's Attorney Lloyd Suhr said although Bridges told investigators he killed Clay and planned to kill another man based on a dream, he understood the consequences of his actions and knew what he was doing.
The guilty plea is the latest twist in a case that first drew law-enforcement attention when Bridges was involved in a crash on Interstate 94 near the 80th Street overpass, about three miles east of Bismarck. Clay was dead in the back of the van.
Police said Clay's injuries did not match the severity of the crash, casting doubt on Bridges' claim that he had died in the wreck.
Tim Myers, a special agent with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, testified in a preliminary hearing Thursday that Bridges insisted Clay died in the crash in two separate interviews. But Myers said in a third interview, he confronted Bridges about the inconsistencies between the wreck and Clay's injuries and that Bridges gave a different story.
"The injuries to the back of the neck were very huge and very large," Myers said, noting that Clay had not been tossed around the van during the crash and hadn't struck the windshield.
Based on Myers' testimony, here's what police believe happened:
Bridges met Clay through work and had a dream one night that Clay and another man were taking cellphone videos and pictures of him. Bridges bought a knife, some zip ties and duct tape, then lured Clay into his van and bound him at knifepoint.
While driving around Bismarck with plans to accost and kill the second man from the dream, Bridges noticed that Clay had discovered a hatchet in the back of the van, according to the account. Clay took a swing at Bridges, who stabbed Clay multiple times with a knife, then crashed his van and struck Clay's neck with the hatchet in an attempt to break his neck.
At Thursday's hearing, Bridges acknowledged the story was true except for some "minor details."
"I've already given a full confession," he said. "I think they've pretty well described what took place."
Feland ordered psychological and psychiatric evaluations prior to sentencing. Bridges faces life in prison without parole.
Killings are rare in North Dakota. FBI statistics show the state had 10 murders or non-negligent homicides in 2010, the most recent year for which full data is available.