After surviving a brutal rape and attempted murder, Jennifer Schuett and Tim Cromie join forces to identify her attacker.
Tim: Tim Crommie – I’m a detective with the Dickinson Police Department. Starting my 29th year in law enforcement. I’ve been with the Dickinson Police Department about 14 years. The last 11 years I’ve been assigned as the Special Crimes Investigator which focuses on child abuse and sex crimes.
Jennifer: My name is Jennifer Schuett. I’m a survivor of a violent crime and victim advocate. In August of 1990, on August the 10th, I went to sleep in my mother’s bed as I usually would have. In the middle of the night, she woke me up and asked me to go sleep in my own room. I’ve never slept in my own bed before, and I went in there and got out my piggy bank and some books and started to count the change in my piggy bank as I fell asleep.
Soon after, I awoke in the arms of a strange man who I did not know. His hands covered my nose and mouth and he calmed me down by telling me he was an undercover police officer. He placed me in his vehicle and we started to drive through town, passing my grandparent’s house, and ending up in the parking lot of my elementary school.
We were still on summer break. I had just finished my second grade year, so I was getting ready to start my third grade year at Silvernagel Elementary in Dickinson. The school is maybe two miles from where my apartment complex was located.
We were there in the parking lot and he offered me candy, which I refused, as I learned in school to not take candy from strangers. But also, I’d learned that law enforcement could be trusted, so I kinda felt like I was being pulled in two different directions. But, my gut was telling me there something just wasn’t right about this entire situation. My mother wasn’t one that would go out and party or even hang out with friends, so I’d never been watched by anyone except for grandparents.
He told me that my mom was going to pull into the parking lot to pick me up soon, and she never came. He started up his vehicle about five minutes after he told me that, but it seemed like it was forever, and he drove me about a mile past my school to an overgrown lot off of a short gravel road, and it was there that I started to question him being a police officer.
I was a very curious eight year-old little girl, and would ask a lot of questions. So, I started to ask him, “If you’re a police officer, where’s your gun? Where’s your badge? You know, prove this to me.” At one point he told me that his gun was in the backseat. So, I stood up on the front bucket seat of the car to look into the back, and whenever I did that to see where the gun was located, he ripped my panties off of me. He then laid me down in the front seat of the vehicle, climbed on top of me, and started to lick me all over my body. There are times when I black out either from him either choking me or trying to break my neck. The next thing I remember is waking up and him dragging me through a field by my ankles. So I could feel sticks poking me in the back, thorns, but I just stayed silent, and played dead at one point, not even realizing that during one of those times that I had blacked out, he had actually slit my throat from ear to ear. He laid me in a fire pile soon after that and left.
I laid in the field for 12-14 hours – we don’t know the exact time that I was kidnapped, so we can only estimate it was about 12-14 hours after the attack occurred. I was found by a group of children playing tag in this field and was life-flighted to John Sealy Hospital, which is part of the University of Texas Medical Branch on Galveston Island, and I stayed there for two weeks being treated for a lacerated throat and trachea.
While in the hospital, doctors said that I would never be able to speak again due to the damage done to my throat, and just being determined, and passionate and wanting this person caught, I believe I was given my voice back for a reason, I now travel and share my story, and did so for almost 20 years, as my case was a cold case. It was finally solved in 2009 on October the 13th when an arrest was made in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
Tim: I became involved in Jennifer’s case in January of 2008. The case was assigned to me – there had been other investigators. My captain was moving from our division to another division, and he had the case, and he assigned it to me, because it kind of fell into my area of expertise which child abuse cases.
So, that’s how I got involved, and I started reviewing the case and somewhere shortly after that, within a month or two, I’m still friends with Richard Renison, FBI Special Agent. He had worked in a neighboring police department from Dickinson before he went off to the FBI, and he would also work child abuse cases. So, we knew each other well, and we had become friends. So, we were discussing this case and one thing lead to another and, “Let’s work this case together. FBI and Dickinson Police Department together.” It felt like there were better resources with the two agencies together.
Richard and I, through looking through all the reports and evidence, we found out there was a significant amount of evidence that had been collected on the day that Jennifer was abducted and shortly thereafter. Specifically, some clothing that was Jennifer’s clothing and some men’s underwear and a tshirt that was found with Jennifer’s clothing just around the corner from where she was. So we started to focus on that and we sent that off to the DNA lab with the FBI out at Quantico. We had learned in doing some research that there were some new advances in technology, obviously, some 18 years later, so we focused on the clothing and we sent that off, but we were still doing some other things to see if there were some other leads that we could work on.
Jennifer: The profile was obtained and then put in CODIS, and my attacker just happened to be in CODIS, because of a previous offense where he assaulted another woman that was in Arkansas. In 1996, he assaulted a woman in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and he was convicted of the kidnapping portion and he was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and served 4.
He was out by 2000, and had gotten married and had children of his own, and step-children, and he had been working as a welder up until the day he was arrested in 2009.
Tim: So, then the challenge came to Richard and I. We have this person identified as Dennis Earl Bradford. We know that we’re now into September of 2009, some 19 years after Jennifer’s attack and we know now that Dennis Earl Bradford is living in Arkansas, so our first concern was how do you put someone from Arkansas in Dickinson, Texas some 19 years earlier. My concern was, is this someone who was travelling through, visiting?
So, we started to do some research, and we had done some research, or Richard had some of the analysts at the FBI within several hours do some research and we knew about the arrest in Arkansas and the charge in Arkansas and that he was living there.
I started researching through the local records in Dickinson and lo and behold found an arrest report for Dennis Earl Bradford. Actually, to be honest, I started looking at old index card files in our records room. Anybody who had ever had any contact in Dickinson, and I couldn’t believe it when I came across an index card that had the name Dennis Earl Bradford. My heart skipped a beat, and I found an offense report where he was arrested in 1987, some 2 ½ – 3 years earlier than Jennifer’s arrest. So, started to feel a little bit better about Dennis Earl Bradford being around Dickinson in 1990.
I guess for about a week and half, Richard and I started to do what I guess is referred to as ‘foot work’. We started doing some research. Found several addresses that he was attached to in Dickinson through school records and some other things. His driver’s license record from back in 1990 and things started to fall into place and the ball started to roll downhill and gain speed.
Jennifer: So on October the 14th, 2009, Detective Cromie and Agent Renison came back to Dickinson, Texas with my attacker in hand, and up until that time, it was just everything in my life that I had lived for and wished for had come full-circle. I was just thrilled. I got the phone call on October the 13th that an arrest had been made, and then another phone call later that morning saying that he had confessed, but of course I couldn’t know all of the details of that, because we were going to prepare to go to trial.
I was part of a press conference on the morning of the 13th and then got to kind of come face to face with Dennis Bradford on the 14th when Detective Cromie and Agent Renison brought him into the Police Department. I was able to look at him through the double-sided glass and he couldn’t see me, but I could see him. It wasn’t a really emotional time for me. I kind of was just so interested in his mannerisms and just wanted to study him. This was a person that I had wanted to find for almost 20 years at that point, and I was just so scared that it was someone that I knew, and thank goodness it wasn’t. It was just one of those true stranger abductions, and thank God for that. I don’t know what I would have done if it had been someone close to my family.
After that day, we just started to prepare for trial. The District Attorney’s Office (the staff) was all there when Detective Cromie and Agent Renison brought him in, and they kind of kept me informed on what the process was going to be like. He was charged with attempted capital murder in my case, and we were just going to wait for trial, which they told me would probably be about a year out. So, close to the 20 year anniversary of my attack. However, seven months after him being in the Galveston County Jail, for six months he was on suicide watch. We knew when he was arrested and through the confession that he had tried to commit suicide in 1990 after my attack, and the first thing I said was, “Don’t let him kill himself.” I really wanted to see it through to the end and go through trial and be on the witness stand, and be the strong voice, and be face to face with him.
Unfortunately, after six months of him being in there, he was moved without any of us being notified, to general population. There, he had access to everything. He went from having access to nothing to having access to everything, and he made the decision on May the 10th in 2010 to hang himself in his jail cell. So, we never made it to trial, and at that point, I kind of felt defeated. I got that phone call from Detective Cromie – another phone call early in the morning. This time, it wasn’t a happy one. It was very devastating to me to not be able to see my case through to the end.
But, I had to (once again) pick myself up and after about a month, I realized that I’m still here. I’m the one with the voice. I can still tell my story and hopefully inspire others to keep going as well. I can’t just stop now, so I continued on, and August 10th, 2010 (which would have been the 20th anniversary of my attack), instead of being able to read my victim impact statement in a courtroom, I drove to his gravesite, which is in Texas, and sat there on his gravesite and read my victim impact statement. That was very rewarding to me to be able to do that. I would have rather it happened in a courtroom of course, but I loved that I was still able (in a sense) to come face to face with him.
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