A Priest River man allegedly admitted to detectives that he beat and strangled a woman to death before kidnapping an acquaintance at gunpoint and forcing him to help move the woman’s body.
Bradley M. Leader, 67, was arrested Friday after a man flagged down a Priest River police sergeant and said Leader had kidnapped him the previous day, according to Bonner County court records. The man reported he had known Leader for 20 years, and Leader forced him to help move the body of 66-year-old Eveline Pederson.
Pederson was reported missing on Aug. 19 by her longtime partner, Joseph Clark. Leader had been living on the couple’s sprawling property on Gunsmoke Lane, just north of the city.
The kidnapped man told detectives Leader visited his home in Priest River on Aug. 20 and asked him for a ride to Pederson and Clark’s property. Just before they arrived at the property, Leader allegedly pulled out a .45-caliber revolver, pointed it at the other man and said they were going to dispose of a body. When the victim objected, Leader allegedly cocked the hammer of the gun and threatened to shoot him.
Without speaking to anyone on the property, Leader took the man to a remote part of the property where a minivan was stuck in the mud, according to court records. After freeing the minivan, Leader ordered the man to drive it while Leader followed in the man’s SUV.
They drove a short distance to another remote corner of the property, where Leader lifted some boards off a pile of lumber, revealing Pederson’s body hidden underneath, according to court records.
Leader loaded her body into the minivan, while the other man refused to touch her, according to court records. Leader again ordered him to drive the minivan to a remote wooded area, where Leader dropped her body off the side of a U.S. Forest Service road, according to court records.
The pair then abandoned the minivan behind some trees and shrubs along Highway 57 and drove around for several hours before returning to the man’s house in Priest River shortly before dawn, according to court records.
The man told detectives Leader kept his gun close and he “knew” Leader was going to kill him, so the next morning, while Leader appeared distracted, he escaped through the back door and ran toward the Priest River police station. That’s when he flagged down the sergeant.
The man guided detectives to the minivan and to the wood pile where Pederson’s body had been stored, where they found pieces of hair, according to court records. He also narrowed down the location of her body to a 2.5-mile stretch of the Forest Service road. Detectives quickly found her in that area with help from a cadaver dog and a search-and-rescue team.
Deputies arrested Leader at the man’s house “without incident,” according to court records. In an interview with detectives, he corroborated the man’s story and admitted to killing Pederson, expressing no remorse and saying he “only felt sorry for himself,” according to court records.
Leader told a detective he had punched Pederson in the face after the pair got into an argument, knocking her to the ground, according to court records. He said he began hitting Pederson’s head with a rock while she lay prone on the ground, then strangled her with a piece of bailing twine, then repeatedly struck her head with a concrete brick, according to court records.
Leader “said he only stopped when he knew she was dead,” court records state. He said he tried to move the body himself but got the minivan stuck in the mud, so he put her in a wheelbarrow and took her to the wood pile. Then he rode a bicycle to abduct the man in Priest River.
Leader remained in the Bonner County Jail on Wednesday with bond set at $1 million. He faces charges of second-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and aggravated assault.
Heather Haddeland, a longtime friend of Pederson and Clark who lives in Priest River, said Pederson was a native of Germany who made a living growing edible greens and flowers that she supplied to local restaurants and a local resort. She described Pederson as tough, hard-working and self-sufficient – a woman who, even in her later years, chased cattle, used a chain saw and enjoyed skiing.
“Not the kind of woman that needed someone to do things for her,” Haddeland said.
Leader, according to Haddeland, was an artist and “vagabond” who had been living in a motor home on Pederson and Clark’s property. She said Pederson had been fearful of Leader after previous arguments.
The day she was killed, Pederson and Leader had been arguing about whether people should wear masks to curb the spread of COVID-19, Haddeland said.
“It had something to do with people who wear masks, and she didn’t believe in the masks and he does,” she said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.