An arrest has been made in a 19-year-old cold case in which an 8-year-old girl was taken from her bedroom, sexually assaulted and left in a field to die, KPRC Local 2 reported Tuesday.
Jennifer Schuett was snatched from her bedroom through a window on Aug. 10, 1990, raped, had her throat slit from ear to ear and was left in an abandoned lot about three and a half miles from the Dickinson apartment complex where she lived.
A group of neighborhood children found her 14 hours later. She was bruised, broken and unable to talk. She was hospitalized for two weeks.
Last year, Dickinson police Detective Tim Cromie and FBI Special Agent Richard Rennison were assigned to her case, in hopes that they could track down her attacker.
"Because of advances in technology, the decision was made to send key pieces of evidence from the crime to the FBI's laboratory for advanced testing," Dickinson Police Chief Ron Morales said. "The testing was successful. A male DNA profile was extracted from the evidence. The profile was run against existing FBI databases and a match was found."
Morales said that match was to 40-year-old Dennis Earl Bradford.
The lab found DNA on male underwear recovered at the scene and ran it through the FBI's national Combined DNA Index System. The DNA matched Bradford, who was in the system after a 1997 kidnapping conviction in Arkansas. Police said he kidnapped a 35-year-old woman, sexually assaulted her and cut her throat. He served four years of a 12-year sentence in that case.
"Further information revealed that this person resided in our community at the time of the crime," Morales said.
Bradford was arrested in Dickinson on traffic charges in 1987. His address at the time of his arrest was less than one-quarter of a mile from Schuett's home.
Police contacted the Texas Department of Transportation and got a copy of his photo from Bradford's driver's license that was valid in 1990. They compared it to a sketch drawn from Schuett's description of her abductor.
"We find them remarkably similar," Morales said.
Bradford was charged with attempted capital murder. He was arrested without incident in Little Rock, Ark., at 6:50 a.m. Tuesday as Bradford drove to his welding job.
He was booked into jail in Pulaski County, Ark., and his bond was set at $1 million.
Bradford has lived in Little Rock for the past seven years. He is married with two children and three stepchildren.
According to the arrest affidavit, Schuett told investigators from her hospital bed through handwritten notes that she was asleep in her bedroom when a man who identified himself as "Dennis" opened her window, grabbed her and drove away with her. While she was in the car, the man choked her four times. He took her to a wooded area, got her out of the car, undressed her, sexually assaulted her and then used a pocket knife to slash her throat.
"After the attack, Jennifer remembers laying naked in the field and being unable to yell for help and unable to get up or move. Jennifer (said) that as she was lying in the field, she knew she was going to die," according to the affidavit.
Schuett, now 27, tearfully told reporters at a news conference that she never gave up hope.
"Throughout this journey, I've had two main goals -- and they were to find the man who kidnapped and sexually assaulted and attempted to murder me 19 years ago so that he could not hurt anyone else 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 crime to stand up and speak out against criminals," Schuett said. "Today, I can say very proudly that I have accomplished both of these goals."
She said she she hopes her tragedy will bring hope to others.
"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. "I am not a victim, but instead victorious. I stand here wanting you to know I am OK."
She still lives in Dickinson.
If convicted, Bradford faces up to life in prison.
Galveston County District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk said authorities will work to extradite Bradford and then present the case to a grand jury for indictment.