Undercover police sting ends with arrest of shocked murder suspect

MICHELLE MACAFEE

June 21, 2005

BRANDON, Man. (CP) - When police finally brought the curtain down on a four-month undercover sting created to solve an 18-year-old Manitoba girl's murder, the naive suspect was left more than a little bewildered as he realized the extent of the ruse.

A videotaped confession played for jurors Monday shows Michael Bradley Bridges looking directly into a hidden camera in a Winnipeg hotel room, stunned and suddenly sheepish, as police handcuff him and read him his rights.

He sits staring alternately straight ahead and out the window, mumbling to the officers that he understands their words, but is left trying to process the fact he has just spent the last 90 minutes meticulously outlining for an undercover Mountie how he killed his former girlfriend and buried her in someone else's grave.

For four months, the officer known only as Agent X posed as Bridges' friend and recruiter for a powerful national criminal syndicate.

Convinced by the officer that the only way to climb up the ladder was to confess to past crimes in great detail to an all-knowing "Boss," Bridges gave his confession on Feb. 12, 2004, to his friend under the guise that it was a dress rehearsal for a pending meeting that morning with the shadowy leader.

No detail was left out and Bridges never expressed suspicion as the questions became more and more specific about how he killed Erin Chorney in Brandon, Man.

He chose a white flat, not fitted, bedsheet to wrap her in.

He buried her face up, centred in the grave, after carefully measuring her body and making last-minute adjustments to the size of the hole.

He used a metal shovel with a wooden handle to dig the hole.

He repeatedly walked by the grave long after the murder, "just to check up on it . . . just to make sure the dirt's all good, like nothing was bothered."

As he was being handcuffed and led away following his arrest, Bridges' first words were of his new friend's betrayal.

"Just tell me one thing, is (Agent X) a cop?" Bridges asked two arresting officers. "Just tell me that. Is (he) a cop?"

Chorney's parents left the courtroom, with father Darcy in tears, after only partially listening to Bridges' alleged confession. But several family members couldn't help but smile as they watched Bridges realize on video that he had been tricked.

Bridges, 24, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.

Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky, who only briefly started his cross-examination of the Crown's key witness Monday, suggested to the undercover officer that Bridges may also have been role playing and embellishing his past in order to impress the gang and make more money.

Chorney's remains were found in the cemetery two years after she was last seen April 21, 2002. She had been the subject of a nationwide missing person's search.

Crown prosecutor Bob Morrison has said Brandon city police long suspected Bridges, but called in the RCMP in 2003 to launch an undercover operation to gather more evidence.

Using the fake gang as bait, Agent X and about 15 officers slowly created a fictitious world in which Bridges believed he could become initiated, and earn lots of money, by confessing all his past crimes.

Bridges acknowledges his nerves on the tape several times, taking numerous bathroom breaks and cracking jokes with Agent X.

But once he begins talking about killing Chorney, he patiently fills in many blanks for police.

He told the officer he became angry with Chorney because she had not dropped an assault charge against him.

He choked her with his arm, then panicked when he realized she was still breathing.

He then said he cut the cord off his mother's hair dryer and choked her again before finally drowning her in the bathtub.

Afterward, Bridges told police, he stripped her, laid her in the tub, cleaned her body and fingernails to remove any of his DNA and went to bed.

The next day, as he was walking to the cemetery where his father worked to have a chat with him and try to relax, he said he decided return after dark to bury Chorney in a freshly dug grave.

A few days later, he pleaded guilty to the assault charge, which he described for police as a strategic move to deflect their suspicions.

Asked by Agent X if had ever had any second thoughts about killing Chorney after the initial choking incident that night, he readily said he had.

"Oh yeah, definitely," said Bridges. "I never wanted to get to that extent."

The Canadian Press, 2005

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