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10-13-09, 02:38 PM #1
DNA leads to child rape/attempted murder suspect after 19 yearsA suspect has been arrested in the 1990 abduction and attempted murder of an 8-year-old Texas girl, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Houston, Texas, office said.
Jennifer Schuett speaks at a news conference, urging other victims of violent crime to use their voices
The victim, Jennifer Schuett, is now 27. She recently shared her story with CNN in hopes of someday bringing her attacker to justice.
Schuett fought tears as she spoke at a news conference in Dickinson, Texas. "This event in my life 19 years ago was a tragic one," she said. "I want you to know I am OK. I am not a victim but instead victorious."
She continued, "I hope that my case will remain as a reminder to all victims of violent crime to never give up hope ... With determination and by using your voice to speak out, you are capable of anything."
Dennis Earl Bradford, a welder, was arrested 6:50 a.m. Tuesday in Little Rock, Arkansas, authorities said. He was on his way to work, and his wife was in the car with him.
DNA and other forensic testing led to him, authorities said. His DNA profile was in the FBI database due to a conviction in Arkansas.
Dunlap thanked CNN for publicizing the story and said investigators "received lots of tips and good reaction." But advances in forensic testing led directly to the arrest, she said.
Schuett was abducted from her bedroom, raped and left for dead August 10,1990. She spoke with CNN two weeks ago.
CNN normally does not identify victims of sexual assaults. But Schuett decided to go public with her story -- and her name -- to increase the chances of finding and prosecuting her attacker.
"It's not about me anymore," she told CNN in September. "It's about all the little girls that go to sleep at night. I know there are so many girls out there who have been raped and hurt. You have to fight back."
"I remember everything; I've always wanted to remember everything so I can find the person that did this," Schuett said. "If I had blocked this out of my memory, the investigation wouldn't have come this far. I'm a fighter."
Schuett says she was alone in her bed when a man crept in through a window. She remembers waking up in a stranger's arms as he carried her across a dark parking lot.
She said he told her he was an undercover cop and knew her family.
He drove her through the streets of Dickinson, Texas, pulling into a mechanic's shop next to her elementary school.
"Watch the moon. The moon will change colors, and that is when your mom will come to get you," she recalled him saying. "Oh, it looks like she is not coming."
Schuett said he drove her to an overgrown field next to the school and sexually assaulted her.
She passed out. When she regained consciousness, she was lying naked on top of an ant hill with her throat slashed from ear to ear, and her voice box torn.
She was found at 6 p.m. on a hot August day after lying in the field for nearly 12 hours. She was rushed to a hospital in critical condition.
"Three days after the attack, I started giving a description. The doctors told me I would never be able to talk again, but I proved them all wrong," Schuett said. She believes she got her voice back so she could tell her story.
Houston FBI Special Agent Richard Rennison is one of the lead investigators in the case, along with Dickinson police Detective Tim Cromie.
Both men were discussing the case when Rennison received a memo from the FBI's Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) team seeking child abduction cases that had gone cold and could be retested for DNA evidence. Schuett's was one of the cases selected.
Rennison, who has 10 years of experience in child abduction cases, said he has never seen a case like Schuett's.
"This is the only one that I can think of that the victim has suffered some traumatic injuries and survived," he said, "The main reason the CARD team picked this case was because she was alive. In cases of child abduction, it is rare that the child is recovered alive. Frequently, you recover a body. And most times, you never find them."
The investigators found evidence collected 19 years ago, which was retested. It included the underwear and pajamas Schuett was wearing, as well as a man's underwear and T-shirt, which were found in the field where Schuett was left for dead.
The clothes were tested in 1990, but the sample wasn't large enough for conclusive results. But now, modern techniques allow DNA to be isolated from a single human cell.
10-13-09, 07:20 PM #2The crime, on August 10, 1990, shocked the small town of Dickinson, a suburb of Houston. Police had only a sketch of a white man and a old blue car as clues.
That didn't get them far.
But in 2008, the FBI's Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team took on the case, teaming up with the Dickinson Police Department.
Det. Tim Cromie of Dickinson P.D. and FBI Special Agent Richard Rennison have worked tirelessly to close the book on a painful chapter in Jennifer's life.
Their first order of business was to go through the files and put a fresh set of eyes on a very old case.
Secondly, the FBI learned there was DNA evidence in this case.
New developments in DNA technology since Jennifer's abduction allows investigators to match a DNA profile based on a much smaller amount of evidence -- even a sample so small it's not visible to the naked eye.
A sample found on men's clothing that cops found in a ditch with Jennifer's clothes about one-fifth of a mile from the scene was sent to an FBI DNA lab, but they were told the nuclear DNA analysis could take about nine months because of the backlog of cases.
While waiting, Det. Cromie and Agent Rennison continued working leads and sought the help and exposure of this cold case from AMW.
The case was featured during AMW's 23rd season premiere in September 2009, and AMW Host John Walsh met with Jennifer on the set.
It was a touching moment for John Walsh, the father of a murdered child, as well as host and executive producer of AMW. He, too, shared Jennifer's pain and the need to find answers.
After the story aired, the AMW hotline received more than a hundred leads on the case. A few seemed very promising -- until the investigators got word that the DNA analysis had come back from the FBI lab in Quantico, Va.
After nearly a year of waiting for the analysis, investigators got what they had hoped for: a hit.
DNA analysis produced the name of a suspect who could be connected to Jennifer's case: Dennis Earl Bradford.
Bradford's DNA had been entered into the CODIS system after a kidnapping conviction in 1997. Police say Bradford was convicted of kidnapping a 35-year-old woman from a bar or nightclub, sexually assaulting her and cutting her throat on April 16, 1996 in Hot Springs, Ark. The D.A. pursued the kidnapping charge because it carried a higher sentence.
It was astounding news for the investigators. For weeks, Agent Rennison, Det. Cromie, the District Attorney, and others involved in the case played an active role in researching the name provided by the DNA lab.
Cops found that Bradford had lived in the Dickinson, Texas area less than a quarter mile from Jennifer's home at the time of her kidnapping.
Finally, when they were confident that they had the suspect in their sights, they made their move.
Suspect Arrested On His Way To Work
The detectives flew to 40-year-old Dennis Earl Bradford's home in North Little Rock, Ark. the evening of Oct. 12, 2009 and monitored his house.
Cops say Bradford never even knew they were there, or that he had been named a suspect.
On October 13, 2009 Bradford was arrested at 6:50 a.m. without incident on his way to work with his wife in the car.
Bradford is charged with Attempted Capital Murder. If convicted, he faces five to 99 years in prison, or life.
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