Local

Alleged rapist back in Texas

Thursday, October 15, 2009
Dennis Bradford was magistrated before Judge Stephen Baker this morning.

The man suspected of kidnapping, raping and trying to kill an eight-year-old girl 19 years ago was returned to Texas last night.

[WATCH IT: Victim Jennifer Schuett speaks about the arrest]
[READ IT: The FBI affidavit]

Bond remains at one million dollars for Dennis Bradford, 40. He sits in the Galveston County Jail, where he'll be physically and mentally evaluated. Bradford is charged with attempted capital murder in the 1990 abduction and rape of Jennifer Schuett. She was eight years old when a man kidnapped her from bedroom, raped her, slit her throat and left her in a field to die. Investigators say Bradford is that man.

Bradford did not appear in court today for security reasons. Instead, the judge went to the jail to read the charge against him. Bradford waived his right to counsel, which means he wants to hire his own attorney.

Bradford chose not to put up a fight in court by waiving extradition to Texas on Wednesday. The move meant he could be brought back to Galveston County. A handcuffed Bradford was led by authorities into the Dickinson Police Department accompanied by a heavy police presence on Wednesday night.

"He is going to be booked tonight into the Dickinson jail, and later on this evening we anticipate he's going to be transported to the Galveston County jail," said Galveston County District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk.

Bradford is now in the Galveston County jail. His night in Texas started around 6:45pm when FBI agents flew him from Arkansas to Bush Intercontinental Airport, then drove him to the Dickinson Police Department where he was marched in and booked on an attempted capital murder charge.

In anticipation of one of the most high-profile suspects Dickinson police have ever dealt with, armed officers stood guard and residents watched from the streets.

"Having a nine-year-old daughter myself, that's what hit home to me, the age that she was at the time of the crime," said Dickinson resident Coy Powers.

Nineteen years after an investigation began, Bradford was escorted into the police station. He was not talking.

It was just Tuesday that his alleged victim, eight years old at the time, gave a tearful thank you after learning of his arrest.

"Above all, I'd like to thank everyone that has been involved in one way or another, working on my case over the years," said Jennifer Schuett.

On August 10, 1990, Schuett was kidnapped from her bedroom window. She was taken to a nearby field where she was raped and her throat slit. She was found 14 hours later.

Her case was cold for nearly two decades until key pieces of evidence, including her attacker's underwear, were retested with new DNA technology.

A DNA profile matched Dennis Bradford, already in the FBI database for a 1996 rape in Arkansas where the victim's throat was also slit.

Now, 19 years later, the Dickinson police station doors shut behind Bradford as he is booked with an attempted capital murder charge.

We talked to one of the officers who rode along with FBI agents and Bradford from the airport, he said Bradford was very quiet and calm.

Bradford will be formally arraigned Thursday.

In addition to whatever happens to Bradford here in Texas, he'll have to pay a $400 fine in Arkansas. Before leaving for Texas Wednesday, he pleaded guilty in an Arkansas court to soliciting a prostitute. That is now the third sex crime to which he has been linked.

Earlier Wednesday

Even with the solid DNA evidence investigators claim to have, there are still have questions to answer, like that of motive. Why would Bradford, or anyone, kidnap an eight-year-old girl from her bedroom, rape her in an empty field, cut her throat and leave her for dead?

Given his 1997 kidnapping conviction, in which Bradford was accused of raping and cutting the throat of an Arkansas woman, some are questioning whether there are more victims. We found one local professor who thinks it's likely there are.

"I don't think the vast majority of people who commit these types of crime don't wait 19 years between incidents," said Clete Snell. "So, I think the odds are quite high."

Chair of University of Houston Downtown's Criminal Justice Department, Snell says investigators will now likely try to get a confession from Bradford.

"In many cases, it is bragging," Snell explained. "Many offenders like this can be narcissistic. They like attention."

As Bradford returns to Texas, attention is one thing he is certain to get. We've learned Bradford's family in Texas is making arrangements to get him an attorney.

Victim kept up her search

Jennifer Schuett is now 27 years old. She was just eight years old when a man broke into her mother's apartment, abducted, raped her and left her for dead in August 1990.

"Once inside the apartment, the abductor grabbed her from her bed, picked her up and took her to his car. Eventually this little girl was taken to a field," Dickinson Police Chief Ron Morales said. "This individual sexually assaulted her, violently cutting her throat from one side to the other and then left her in that field to die."

Several children playing in the field found Schuett some 14 hours later.

Investigators back then told Eyewitness News that Schuett was left so traumatized by the ordeal that they had to find female FBI agents to question her.

"I think she's afraid to be around males without her mother being there," said one investigator at the time.

Because of this, investigators had trouble questioning her at first and they wanted to question her without her family present.

At the time, they thought it was likely that Schuett knew who attacked her, but that's not how it turned out.

Chief Morales says despite the victim's persistence there were few leads in the case until a year and a half ago. That's when officers sent several pieces of clothing found near Schuett to the FBI for DNA analysis. Investigators say advanced technology was able to pick up DNA belonging to Dennis Bradford, a man who was already in their system for previous crimes.

Bradford was convicted of kidnapping in 1996 in Arkansas and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He had been accused of raping the woman he kidnapped, and although he was never convicted of rape, his DNA was on file from the investigation.

Although rape victims are generally not identified, Schuett has chosen to make her name and face public. She says the phone call that an arrest was made brought closure to her 19 year long effort to pursue justice in her case. She hopes his arrest helps inspire victims of other violent crimes.

"I hope that my case will remain as a reminder to all victims of violent crime to never give up hope in seeking justice, no matter how long it may take, or how hard it may be," Schuett said.

Bradford has been charged with attempted capital murder.

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