PASADENA -- An Oakland man convicted of murdering the son of a Contra Costa real estate magnate in San Jose fled his parole and lived under a fake identity for more than three decades before he was tracked down and arrested this week, officials said.

Richard Bradford was 18 when he fatally shot Robert Burgess III during a robbery at a San Jose grocery store in 1970. Bradford was convicted of murder and attempted robbery and sentenced to life in prison in 1971.

He used a fake birth certificate under the name of James Edward Heard to create the identity while he was still in prison in 1977, according to a news release from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Bradford was issued a Social Security card under the fake identity in 1978, the same year he was paroled.

Richard Bradford, who for decades had lived under the name James Edward Heard. (Associated Pres/KCAL)
Richard Bradford, who for decades had lived under the name James Edward Heard. (Associated Pres/KCAL)

Bradford stopped checking in with his parole officer in September 1980, authorities said. He began using the Heard identity on and off in the mid-1980s, and the paper trail for Richard Bradford had stopped by 1992.

In early 2011, authorities discovered that Bradford may have been using the James Heard identity. They found several properties in the Pasadena area that were owned by Heard, including a drug rehabilitation facility called Eaton Canyon Treatment Center.

The drug treatment center is registered as a public charity with tax-deductible donation status, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The center's phone went to an answering machine Thursday afternoon, and a message was not returned.

Officials compared Bradford's fingerprints with Heard's fingerprints, on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles, and found them to be a match.

Whenever a parolee absconds, one of several investigative teams takes their case, according to Luis Patino, a corrections department spokesman.

"They investigate and they track for years," Patino said. "Sometimes it's quick, and sometimes it takes a long time, but they find their man."

Bradford's attorney contacted parole officials in February 2011, saying that his client knew authorities were looking for him and seeking to negotiate his surrender. The lawyer asked for Bradford to be given time to turn himself in, but the parolee did not surrender.

Parole officials continued searching for Bradford, but he became much more careful about hiding, authorities said. He transferred all of his properties to a trust and registered cars and credit cards in the name of the treatment center.

Agents tracked Bradford, now 60, to a home in Pasadena and spotted him leaving the house with his wife Sunday.

The couple was arrested at a home improvement store in the city of Monrovia. Bradford's wife was held on suspicion of being a felon in possession of pepper spray.

Parole officials did not identify Bradford's wife, but a public records search showed financial transactions between James Heard and Judith Wilson. The answering machine at the Eaton Canyon center identifies a Judith Wilson as the facility's director, and Los Angeles County jail records show a Judith Wilson, 52, was booked into jail by Monrovia police Sunday.

Documents for both Bradford and Heard were found in Bradford's home, authorities said.

Police said that Bradford, a student at what was then San Jose State College, was part of a holdup gang that robbed several San Jose-area stores before targeting the Spartan Market. Burgess, also a San Jose State student, died after he was shot during a struggle with the robbers on Nov. 2, 1970.

Burgess' grandfather, R.N. Burgess, was the original developer of the Diablo Country Club and the town of Clyde. He was instrumental in getting Mount Diablo designated as a state park, according to newspaper archives. Robert N. Burgess Jr., the father of the slain man, was also a prominent developer in Contra Costa County before moving to the Lake Tahoe area.

Bradford was being held without bail Thursday at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles. Patino would not comment on Bradford's specific case but said officials generally will determine first if an absconded parolee should face any new criminal charges before considering the revocation of parole for a previous conviction.

Contact Daniel M. Jimenez at djimenez@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DMJreports.