Daughter's role in 'Survivor' producer's extradition case debated
If the 6-year-old daughter of a former producer of the "Survivor" reality TV series is allowed to testify in his extradition hearing Tuesday, it may occur behind closed doors, a federal judge has indicated.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Chooljian has asked attorneys for Bruce Beresford-Redman and U.S. prosecutors about how her testimony should be received if she allows it in connection with the homicide of the girl's mother, Monica Beresford-Redman.
Monica Beresford-Redman was killed in April 2010 at a luxury vacation resort in Cancun, Mexico, and Bruce Beresford-Redman could be extradited to Mexico in connection with the slaying.
Chooljian has asked attorneys whether they believe having the child testify in open court could substantially harm the girl psychologically and whether those not directly connected to the case should be excluded from hearing the testimony.
She also has asked whether an adult should accompany the child during testimony and whether there is a need for a competency hearing.
Television reality show producer Bruce Beresford-Redman is hoping his daughter will be able to refute authorities' theory that he murdered his wife in their Cancun suite.
Attorneys for Beresford-Redman informed the judge in court papers Monday that they believe the therapist should be present during testimony, which should not be held in open court.
Beresford-Redman is accused of asphyxiating his wife and dumping her body into a wastewater treatment tank. The family vacation was a last-ditch effort to repair the Rancho Palos Verdes couple's troubled 11-year marriage, according to U.S. prosecutors and Mexican police.
They said Monica Beresford-Redman had caught her husband cheating and left him briefly in the month before her death.
But his lawyers say there was a "rush to judgment" after his wife's body was discovered, and they will ask a federal judge Tuesday to reject extradition.
"They have mostly circumstantial evidence based on some noises heard from the hotel and some scratches on him," said attorney Vicki L. Podberesky.
The daughter's testimony will show there is no probable cause to support his extradition, Podberesky said. The girl will say that she last saw her mother April 5, 2010, when Monica Beresford-Redman left the suite for a solo shopping trip, Podberesky said.
Monica Beresford-Redman, 41, never returned.
Bruce Beresford-Redman's defense in court papers portrays the Cancun jurisdiction as having a history of corruption and attacks on tourists. In 2006, a Canadian couple were killed at another Cancun resort and authorities accused two Canadian women of double murder.
The crime was later found to have been committed by a hotel security guard.
Witness testimony in extradition hearings occurs at the judge's discretion, and child witnesses are rare in federal court. A judge in an extradition proceeding needs to find only probable cause to extradite, veteran attorneys said.
Bruce Beresford-Redman's attorneys said in court papers that the girl can explain her father's cuts and scratches and the loud noises that emanated from their suite.
The girl told her therapist and one of the producer's lawyers that the noises were part of loud games, according to a defense motion filed last Wednesday. The screams other hotel guests heard were her brother yelling, she said.
As to the cuts, she "recalls that her father obtained scratches during a trip they took to an underground river" and remembers putting bandages on her father's arms and legs.
Without the noise and scratches, the producers' lawyers say, "there is a complete lack of forensic evidence." They note that blood evidence examined in the room and on a pillowcase did not match that of either Bruce or Monica Beresford-Redman.
The lawyers say the girl also would testify that her parents did not yell at or hit each in Mexico and that her mother left wearing a blue dress the day she disappeared. Her last words to her daughter were, "I love you; I'll be back soon," the court papers stated.
Federal prosecutors said the move to call the girl is intended to distract the court from "overwhelming evidence" that the 40-year-old producer "killed his wife" and fled Mexico despite agreeing to remain there.
Prosecutors painted a picture of a desperate man who was caught in an affair and killed his restaurateur wife, then tried to cover his tracks.
Six weeks before her killing, Monica Beresford-Redman told her sister she had caught her husband cheating after discovering romantic emails. The sister, Jean Ferreira Burgos, told Mexican investigators Monica Beresford-Redman later discovered more email exchanges with the other woman.
The day before his wife disappeared, the reality TV producer nearly hit his wife outside the resort, a hotel employee told Mexican investigators.
The next morning, April 5, an English family reported being awakened about 6 a.m. by screams and crying from the producer's room. The producer allegedly told a hotel staffer he had been arguing with his wife over the children's behavior.
That morning, his wife went shopping about 8 a.m. and never returned, Bruce Beresford-Redman told authorities. She left without a passport, cellphone or key card.
That entire day, a "do not disturb" sign hung on their hotel room door. In the early hours of April 6, a key card was used to open the room's door, including four times around 4 a.m.
Two days later, Monica Beresford-Redman's nude body was found in the sewage tank. There was a wound on her face and some hair had been pulled out. She had been suffocated.
Her credit card and most of her money were gone but not her wedding band.
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Bruce and Monica Beresford-Redman. Credit: Los Angeles Times archives