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Crime

Victim Feels Cheated After Accused Rapist's Suicide

May 19, 2010 – 10:23 AM
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Mara Gay

Mara Gay Contributor

(May 19) -- Jennifer Schuett won't get to face her attacker in a courtroom but she will have the final word.

The man who is accused of raping her, slitting her throat, and leaving her to die when she was only 8 years old has committed suicide, and Schuett says she wanted the opportunity to confront him in court. Dennis Earl Bradford, 40, was found hanging from a noose in his jail cell last week.

"I am shocked and disappointed at the news of Bradford resorting 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," she said in a statement on her website, justiceforjennifer.com.

Schuett, 27, had waited nearly two decades to find her attacker and bring him to justice. At age 8, she was kidnapped from her family's home in Dickinson, Texas, on Aug. 10, 1990, taken to a field, and raped. Schuett's attacker then slit her throat and left her lying naked on top of a fire ant hill.

The attack had torn Schuett's vocal chords, and so when she woke up hours later and tried to call for help, she found she could not make a sound. In the years after her assault, however, Schuett regained her voice. She became an advocate for victims of violent crime and launched what she once called an all-out "manhunt" for her attacker.

"Three days after the attack, I started giving a description," Schuett told CNN last year. "The doctors told me I would never be able to talk again, but I proved them all wrong."

In September, Schuett's case appeared on "America's Most Wanted." And then, one month later, a breakthrough. DNA evidence compiled by investigators had once been too little material to make a match in the database. But with new technology, investigators were suddenly able to find a match: Dennis Earl Bradford, a husband and father living in Little Rock, Ark.

Bradford's name was in the database because he had been convicted in 1996 on rape charges, and had served three years of a 12-year sentence before he was paroled and released in 2000. Last year, the Galveston County district attorney charged Bradford with attempted capital murder in the Schuett case.

In an interview broadcast Wednesday on NBC's "Today," Schuett spoke out about what she had planned to say to her attacker.

"You chose the wrong little 45-pound, 8-year-old girl to try and murder. Because for 19 years I've thought of you every single day and helped search for you."

Schuett said she will continue to "use her voice" to stand up for other victims.

"His plan failed," Schuett said of Bradford. "These days it's hard to get me to be quiet."
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