Rape survivor overcomes odds, prepares for motherhood

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - It was a cruel end of innocence for an 8-year-old Dickinson girl. Her life was changed forever when one night, she was kidnapped from her bedroom, brutally raped, her throat slashed and she was then left to die in a field.

But Jennifer Schuett is a survivor.

Nineteen years later, cold case detectives used DNA to crack the case and tracked down her accused attacker in Arkansas.

But Dennis Bradford hanged himself in his jail cell before the case went to trial.

Reluctantly, Schuett moved on as best she could.

"I could just always kind of sense that something was wrong," she said.

Schuett may have healed from the attack, but deep within, scars remained.

She struggled silently with painful, irregular menstrual cycles.

"(The doctors) would just send me away with pain medication. No one ever really took the time to do any testing like extensive testing. I felt like they thought I was just being dramatic," Schuett said.

In 2007, then 25 years old, she was diagnosed with hydrosalpinx, a condition where the fallopian tubes are blocked and filled with fluid.

Reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Craig Witz with Houston Fertility Institute explained, "Both of her tubes were damaged, likely from previous infection, and both of them were damaged so badly that surgery wouldn't allow for them to be fixed in order for her to become pregnant."

Schuett said the rape she endured all those years ago was to blame.

"They could tell from how old the infection looked that it had to be from that," Schuett said. "It was just like another obstacle, and I was honestly devastated."

Witz said even after corrective surgeries, Schuett's chances of becoming pregnant naturally were slim to none.

He explained, "Unfortunately, the best option for Jennifer was to remove the fallopian tubes and do in vitro fertilization."

So Schuett and her boyfriend, Jonathan Martinez, decided to try IVF. It was their only hope of becoming parents.

"Just knowing that you may not have the opportunity to experience what so many others get -- to carry a baby, feel the baby inside of you and watch the baby grow and all those things," Schuett said.

In February, Schuett found out the frozen embryo took. She's due on Nov. 11.

She said, "I've always wanted to have a family of my own."

Schuett recently found out she's having a baby girl, which brought a wave of conflicting emotions.

"Having a girl, it scares me, but it'll be fine," Schuett said. "It's just so hurtful to see that a grown man could do something like this to a child, so I definitely think I'll be on the overprotective side without trying to be too overbearing. But, it definitely scares me and I'm sure I'd be the same way with a boy, but I think even more so with having a girl."

Moved by her story, Houston Fertility Institute, which provides financial options to couples, donated their services to Schuett. IVF treatments can range anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000.

Dr. Witz told Local 2, "Everybody in the practice, in hearing the story, a lot of people remembered the story. It was a national story. We told Jennifer we would do whatever we could to help her."

"This is just a dream come true for me and a long painful road, but I couldn't be more grateful or happier with Houston Fertility. They've been amazing for me," Schuett said.

For Schuett, it's a new chapter, a new life and a beautiful future.

She said, "I definitely feel like this will always be a part of my life, my attack. Now it's just about even more so making it a positive. I just can't wait to see what she looks like!"

Schuett continues to speak to law enforcement and victim's advocates across the country.

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