'Survivor' Producer Speaks Out From Mexican Prison: "There Is Less of Me and My Soul Every Day"
In his first interview since sentencing, and after six years behind bars, Bruce Beresford-Redman still proclaims innocence for the murder of his wife. Though a Mexican federal court found his 2015 conviction problematic, it may have little impact on his imprisonment.
Bruce Beresford-Redman has seen his share of defeats in the last few years. In an exclusive interview, his first since his sentencing in March 2015, the former Survivor producer — incarcerated for the murder of his wife in Mexico — describes the agony of not seeing his two children for years, the horror of prison conditions and now the disappointment of another unfavorable ruling from a Mexican court.
His children, Camila and Alec, are growing up without their father’s physical presence. Beresford-Redman’s aging parents, Juanita and David, are raising them, largely on their own. They haven’t seen each other in four and a half years. The absence from them is particularly difficult, he says.
“There is less of me and my soul every day,” says Beresford-Redman, who is serving a 12-year sentence for the 2010 murder of his wife, Monica Burgos, at a vacation resort in Cancun, a crime he maintains he did not commit.
"My parents are doing a great job with them, and they are both excelling in school and growing up,” he adds. “I'm enormously proud of them, they are remarkable. We miss each other, and as the years go by I am ever more heartbroken to be kept apart from them, but they are both doing well, which is perhaps the only consolation I can find in this whole stinking mess.”
That mess continued to grow with a ruling last month by a Mexican federal court, which took on an appeal that offered Beresford-Redman a slim ray of hope. In a lengthy ruling, the federal court that has jurisdiction in the state of Quintana Roo found that a state appeals court had erred in several substantive ways during a review of his conviction, ignoring key evidence and failing to properly analyze documents and testimony that could have proved exculpatory.
That ruling came from the highest court that Beresford-Redman has at his disposal, and it was one of his last legal remedies. But instead of examining the merits of the case, the high court sent it back to the lower court magistrate with an order to re-evaluate the evidence.
The higher court criticized the lower judge for not properly reviewing the bona fides of the person who translated Beresford-Redman’s initial police interview, for failing to indicate which of the numerous forensic experts called to testify was being used to bolster the case for conviction, and for improperly reviewing testimony from at least three witnesses whose stories supported Beresford-Redman’s case.
Taking a stand on the merits of the case would “run the risk of denying [Beresford-Redman’s] appeal," the higher court found. The decision was an elaborate way of avoiding having to take a position on the substance of the appeal – but it did give Beresford-Redman another shot at a legal victory.
That was not to be. It is not clear in what manner the state appeals court reevaluated the evidence, but it is clear that the court declined to reverse the conviction. Instead, the appeals court affirmed the original ruling, saying that it had re-examined the original evidence and had found nothing new.
“It’s ridiculous, but that’s what [the state magistrate] did,” Beresford-Redman tells The Hollywood Reporter in a late August telephone interview from prison. “It’s ludicrous, but hardly unexpected.”
“[This] was the first time my case was looked at by a competent and independent authority,” he says. "In essence they found it incomplete.”
Beresford-Redman remains in the same prison where he was incarcerated when THR paid him a visit in 2014. At the time, he shared a cell with several other inmates. Since then, he says, his condition has declined.
“The conditions in the prison are much as they were when you were here,” he says. “My condition has deteriorated. I invite you to think of all you've done and seen and where you've been in the years since I met you here. In that time, I've been exactly where and as you saw me. It’s unbelievably frustrating to live such a small existence.”
Burgos was found dead in 2010 during a family vacation to the Moon Palace Spa and Golf Resort just outside of Cancun, on the pristine shores of the Gulf of Mexico. The couple and their children, 5 and 7 at the time, had traveled from Los Angeles, where Beresford-Redman worked as a producer on Survivor and Burgos ran Zabumba, a trendy Brazilian restaurant in West L.A.
Suspicion immediately fell on Beresford-Redman. Police questioned him extensively in the days following the discovery of Burgos' body, which was found hacked and mangled in a sewage cistern not far from the family’s second-floor hotel room. Suspicion mounted when it emerged that the couple had had a rocky marriage, with affairs on both sides, and when Burgos’ sisters began to voice concerns about their sister’s fate.
Beresford-Redman maintained his innocence from the beginning. When the police investigation dragged on, he returned unannounced to the U.S. and took up residence in his Palos Verdes home, a move that angered Mexican authorities. He was later placed in federal custody in California while an extradition proceeding commenced. He returned to Mexico in 2012 and has been in jail at Cancun’s Benito Juarez prison ever since.
Burgos and her children, Alec and Camilla, in 2008. (Courtesy of the Burgos family)
With six years in prison – in the U.S and Mexico – already behind him, the 45-year-old has another six to go.
In its August ruling, the federal court ordered the lower appeals court to re-examine evidence prosecutors used in Beresford-Redman’s conviction, including DNA evidence from the hotel room, footprints found near the area where Burgos’ body was discovered and soil samples from the surrounding ground. During his trial, numerous forensic specialists, including one appointed by the judge in the case, concluded that there was no physical evidence to support the thesis that Beresford-Redman was guilty. Much of the damning evidence used to bring about his extradition to Mexico — blood samples found in the hotel room, for instance, and footprints discovered near the spot Monica's body was discovered — fell apart upon further examination during the trial.
“The prosecution theory of events was unsupportable by the facts,” Beresford-Redman told THR in 2014. “I had no connection to the murder of my wife.”
Beresford-Redman and his new attorney, Daniel Rosillo, plan to file a second motion, called an amparo, before the same federal court in the coming weeks. Whereas the federal court found in its initial ruling that the state magistrate’s work was essentially incomplete, now Beresford-Redman will argue that the lower court’s findings were incorrect.
“It’s still unconstitutional, now for different reasons,” he says now. “It is my expectation that it will result in the federal court ordering my release. They gave the state a chance to fix their errors and the state is unable or unwilling to rule correctly.”
He expects the new appeal to take at least seven months.
Rosillo reiterated his hope that the next phase of the appeal will result in the conviction being overturned. “What’s happening to Bruce is like a bad movie,” he says. “The federal government needs to step in and see that the state isn’t doing its job correctly.”
Alison Triessl, a Los Angeles attorney representing Burgos' two sisters, who have insisted all along that Beresford-Redman is guilty of murder, says she hasn’t read the federal ruling or discussed it with her clients. “There’s not that much to say,” Triessl says. “It’s very sad. Nothing brings their sister back. A conviction doesn’t do that. They remain heartbroken, they remain committed to helping the children in any way they can.”
Once a successful Hollywood executive, Beresford-Redman traveled the world from the south Pacific to Afghanistan as a producer for CBS' Survivor and other shows on major TV networks. But after his arrest and conviction, most of his industry connections drifted away.
“I've had almost no recent contact from any Hollywood friends,” he says. “I have a very small group of close friends with whom I’m in regular contact.”
“We are exhausted, and all but crouching, waiting for the next blow,” says his mother Juanita. “Bruce is finding the days very long and hard. His children are growing up without him, he has been ill, but he still manages to be reassuring to them and amazingly strong.”
Beresford-Redman says he feels he has been largely abandoned by the U.S. government.
“I've been very disappointed with the U.S. Department of State,” he says. “I have been complaining to them all along that my case was not being handled according to law. This has just been confirmed by the Mexican federal court, but still, they are unwilling to do anything substantive to help me, despite my being here because they extradited me.”
When asked about this case, a State Department representative offered the following statement: "We can confirm that on March 12, 2015, U.S. citizen Bruce Beresford-Redman was convicted in Mexico of homicide and was sentenced to twelve years imprisonment. We will continue to follow this case closely and provide all appropriate consular assistance. The U.S. Consulate in Merida has been providing consular assistance to Mr. Beresford-Redman since his arrest. Such assistance includes visiting him during his detention; our last such visit was on August 11, 2016."
Beresford-Redman insists he will continue to fight until his conviction is overturned.
“I am innocent, the case file proves my innocence and I will not stop fighting until I'm back with my kids and home where I belong,” he says. “It is my expectation and profound hope that this next amparo will be the end of this saga. What's been done here is wrong. I don't want to see it ever happen to anyone else.”