Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sheriff: Suspected child rapist hangs himself in Galveston County Jail

by Michelle Homer / khou.com

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 1:51 PM
Updated yesterday at 6:36 PM

* Justice for Jennifer: Suspect arrested in 1990 rape of 8-year-old girl
* HPD sketch artist was haunted by 1990 abduction, rape of 8-year-old girl
* Bond set at $1M for 1990 rape case suspect
* Jennifer Schuett: 'I am not a victim'
* Cold case detective grateful for DNA test refusal

DICKINSON, Texas — A suspect jailed for the 1990 rape and attempted capital murder of Jennifer Schuett hung himself in the Galveston County Jail early Monday morning.

Dennis Earl Bradford "fashioned a crude noose from a bed cover" to commit suicide, according to Galveston County investigators.

Bradford was discovered by a deputy and medical personnel on routine rounds shortly after 1 a.m. He was pronounced dead on arrival at UTMB.

"I am shocked and disappointed at the news of Bradford resulting to suicide, as I looked forward to facing him in the court room this Fall, and now feel as though I was robbed of that opportunity," Schuett said in a written statement." I can say that I feel very blessed and grateful that I was able to find out who attacked me all of those years ago, and that he was arrested last year, and taken off of the streets so that he couldn’t harm anyone else."

Bradford, 40, had been in the Galveston County Jail since his arrest in Little Rock, Arkansas last October. It took detectives nearly two decades to solve the Schuett case.

Schuett was 8 years old when she woke up in a field in 1990, naked and covered with fire ants. The man who abducted her from her Dickinson apartment had sexually assaulted her, cut her throat and left her in the field to die.

Schuett was slowly bleeding to death, but she couldn’t scream for help because her voice box had been cut.

Fourteen hours later, some children found her and called for help. Schuett was rushed by helicopter to a Galveston hospital, barely alive.

Investigators found Schuett’s pink pajama top and underwear a few miles from where she was assaulted. They also recovered a man’s T-shirt and underwear. Back then, large amounts of blood or body fluids were needed to test DNA, and there just wasn’t enough.

Dickinson Detective Tim Cromie was assigned to the cold case in 2008. He teamed up with FBI Special Agent Richard Rennison.

They convinced the FBI lab to retest the clothing at their lab in Quantico, Virginia and those tests linked Bradford to the case.

After Bradford’s arrest, a tearful Schuett thanked the investigators for their "hard work and dedication."

"Throughout this journey, I’ve had two main goals and they were to find the man who kidnapped, sexually assaulted and attempted to murder me 19 years ago so that he could not hurt anyone else," Schuett said. "And to use my voice in telling my story to as many people as I possibly could over the years in hopes that I may encourage other victims of violent crimes to stand up and speak out against criminals."

Bradford had been living in Little Rock for seven years when he was arrested. He was married with children.

Bradford served time in Arkansas for the 1996 abduction of a 35-year-old woman he had met at a nightclub. He also raped her and slit her throat. He was released from prison after serving four years of a 12 year sentence.

Doctors initially told Schuett’s mother that she would never talk again because of the damage to her voice box. After weeks in the hospital, she proved them wrong.

Now Schuett believes she got her voice back so that she could speak out about her experience.

"I hope that my case will remain as a reminder to all victims of violent crime to never give up hope in seeking justice, not matter how long it may take or how hard it may be," Schuett said. "With determination and by using your voice to speak out, you are capable of anything."

Schuett hopes to get a degree in criminology so that she can use her own horrific experience to help other crime victims.

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