Renfro makes profanity-laced jail phone calls during trial
Murder suspect Bradley Renfro made two expletive-laced phone calls to his parents just hours after his testimony was cross-examined by the state prosecutor on Monday.
The calls show a drastically different side of Renfro than his demeanor on the witness stand.
Renfro is one of four people charged with beating and killing David Grunwald in 2016. His trial began in Fairbanks on Sept. 3; he’s the first suspect to testify in his own defense.
Defense attorney Chris Provost spent three-and-a-half days on his direct examination of his client.
Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak began his cross-examination on Monday.
On Wednesday, the jail calls were played for Judge Gregory Heath without the jury present so he could determine if they were admissible as evidence in the case.
Alaska State Troopers Sgt. Tony Wegrzyn testified inmates know calls are recorded. There’s a message before each phone call that states, “This call is subject to recording and monitoring.”
About an hour after court ended on Monday, Renfro called his stepmother Chara Renfro. She told him he did a good job on the stand but shouldn’t challenge the prosecutor with questions.
“You need to be careful you don’t look like a smart mouth is all I'm saying,” Chara said.
“I was being respectful, right?” Bradley responded.
“You were getting a little lippy,” Chara said. “But otherwise you did very well Bradley. I’m proud of you.”
Bradley talked about how he was holding back his feelings while talking to Kalytiak.
“He was saying stuff that was f------ b-------. And I can’t just be like, ‘Hey dips---, you’re f------ lying.’ I can't say that s---, so I have to say, ‘With all due respect sir, that is an exaggeration.’ I have to say s--- like that. I can’t be like, ‘Hey c---sucker,’” Bradley said to his stepmother.
Chara Renfro told him he needed to be careful and congratulated him on using his “big people words.”
“You’re sounding very mature up there,” she said.
“Yeah, f------ c---sucker,” the defendant responded to his stepmother.
Kalytiak said the conversations show Bradley's true colors and that his testimony isn’t credible.
“We didn’t create this. This is adult court, it’s not baby land. Notice judge, he doesn’t use his baby voice in his phone calls — it’s his gangster voice. Like, ‘F--- that. Yeah, do this.’”
He argued the jurors would feel duped if they didn’t get a chance to hear the tapes and found out about the recordings after the trial was over.
Provost said the calls were too prejudicial and didn’t pertain to the charges Bradley is facing.
“How is it relevant to the disappearance and murder of David Grunwald three years ago?” Provost asked.
He said most people who are incarcerated use coarse language and that shouldn’t be held against Bradley.
“How does it make him not credible that he had these two conversations under these circumstances?” Provost asked.
The second call Bradley made was to his mother Brittney Smith in which they talked about sending books to the jail. At one point in the conversation, Renfro mentions having his girlfriend send photos. Smith tells him the girlfriend is “in a funk.”
“Tell that b----, ‘Bradley said you better send some goddamn pictures.’ Serious, mom," Bradley told his mother.
He continued, "She better get with the f------ program. That’s all I got to say.”
Judge Heath ultimately decided not to let the state play either recording for the jury. But he said Kalytiak could ask specific questions about the phone call Bradley had with his stepmother.
To Provost, the judge said, “I think it’s fair, instead of them just playing it outright, I’ll let your client testify to it and he can answer the questions. I think it’s a way for the state to question him on his conduct without just playing the tape."
The judge said if Renfro lied about any information in the call, the state could play the recording.
When the jury came back in Kalytiak had Bradley read a portion of a transcript of the call.
“You were using your normal, adult, assertive voice in this phone call, right?” Kalytiak asked.
Bradley stuttered, “I was using a different tone of voice, yes sir.”
He explained that using profanity with his parents was normal behavior because he has a “different relationship” with them.
The state and defense have both rested their cases. Closing arguments begin Thursday morning.
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