Afraid of the Dark

"48 Hours" Live to Tell: Kidnapped from her own bed at age 8, strangled and dumped in a field to die -- the real-life story of a survivor and her lifelong journey to find her attacker

Produced by Stephen A.McCain, Marcelena Spencer, Mead Stone and Gary Winter

Many children who are abducted don’t live to tell their stories. Jennifer’s Schuett’s attacker tried to silence her, but she refused to let him. Jennifer is sharing her story in the hope of inspiring other women and girls to use their voices.

JENNIFER SCHUETT: The attack was always in the back of my head.

The scars that I have on my body … represent a time in my life when I was scared and left helpless. But they also represent survival… You may be left with scars, but you can blossom into something powerful.

It’s really been a lifelong journey of … finding who did this to me.

27 YEARS EARLIER | DICKINSON, TEXAS

The summer of 1990, I just finished the second grade. 

I just loved life. I loved school. I loved learning.

Jennifer Schuett elementary school photo

Jennifer Schuett

But … as far as I can remember back in my childhood, I just didn’t like the dark or sleeping alone. …So I found comfort in going to bed with my mom.  We were all that we had, was each other.

AUGUST 9, 1990

That night, I was very restless … and my mom turned to me and said, “You’re kicking me in your sleep and I have to work in the morning.  Would you mind going into your own room tonight?” … And I turned and I said, “Just because I love you, Mom, I’m going to sleep in my own room tonight.” 

So I left my mother’s room, went into mine, and I had a big lamp that was shaped like a light bulb.  And I remember clicking it on and it lit the whole room up.  That was the brightest lamp ever (laughs).  …And I got some books and just read until I fell asleep.

The next thing I remember was waking up in the arms of a man that I didn’t know. …He was running with me, carrying me down the sidewalk. …And I immediately tried to scream but he covered my nose and mouth.

He had me sitting on his lap as he was driving … and held me there. … He’s trying to calm me down, telling me, “Everything’s gonna be OK. I’m an undercover police officer.”

As a child, I wanted to believe him.  But … the part of me that had just learned about strangers in school, the part of me that was scared of the dark … knew that there was something really wrong here.

As we were driving … I started to realize that I had actually been kidnapped.

I was very afraid of what would happen next.

He pulled into the parking lot of my elementary school.

He told me to watch the moon. And when the moon changed colors my mother would be pulling in the parking lot to pick me up.  I remember anxiously waiting for those headlights. ...But they never came.

“I think that at that point he was trying to psych himself up for what he really intended to do. …I remember him saying, “Well, your mom’s not coming,” and starting up the car. …And we went … just a few blocks away. It was a … dead-end gravel road. 

And he pulled off … in an overgrown field. 

What went through my mind was sheer panic.

Then he held a knife to my throat and said, “Am I scaring you little girl? Am I scaring you?” 

And then … he choked me as hard as he could … And then he tried to break my neck.

I blacked out for a while.

I woke up to him dragging me by my ankles … through this field… And he … dropped my legs.  I heard him walk off, and I heard his car door slam and him drive away.  

I realized I couldn’t scream … and I couldn’t figure out why. …I had just enough strength to throw my right hand on top of my neck.  And that’s when I felt this gaping wound.  And I looked … at my hand and it was full of blood.

I was 8 years old. I was just left to die in a field.

FINDING JENNIFER

JENNIFER SCHUETT: It became light outside and … I remember looking up and seeing treetops and clouds.

I couldn’t move my body.  I would try so hard to lift my head, but I just couldn’t. …I had ants crawling all over my body … stinging me.

I would come in and out of consciousness … every time I would come to … I would be in disbelief that I hadn’t died yet. 

Laying there I could kind of look to the side and through those blades of grass and all the brush, see cars. …It was like help was right there and I can’t get to it. …I can’t scream, I can’t lift my head, I can’t stand up.

But I don’t remember feeling scared. …I remember feeling at peace with what was about to happen -- which was dying. 

News report: Sometime early Friday morning, eight year old Jennifer Schuett was abducted from her apartment bedroom.

FORMER DETECTIVE RALPH GARCIA | DICKINSON POLICE DEPT: On August 10, 1990, I did receive a call from dispatch that there was a possible kidnapping at the Yorktown Apartments in Dickinson, Texas. ...Dickinson Police Department at that time was a very, very small agency.

Det. Garcia to reporters: As anything new develops, I would be happy to talk with you about it.

DET. GARCIA: We would have had at the time, a total would have been three patrolmen and myself working. 

News report: This morning, Jennifer’s mother entered the bedroom and found the bedroom window open, and her daughter gone.

DET. GARCIA:  We … decided that it was best that we go ahead and try and assemble the fire department, and any volunteers that would be willing to come and search some of the fields nearby.

JENNIFER SCHUETT: It was in the early evening … It was now getting to be dark outside again.  … And the last time that I woke up … I heard children playing.  And I felt something hit my foot. …And these children had been playing a game of tag in the field and one of them had tripped over my foot thinking she had found one of her playmates.  And that’s how I was found. 

I remember going unconscious and then waking up to a police officer kneeling down beside me saying, “You’ve been found, you’re going to be OK.  Just please stay with me, please stay with me.” And I remember being put into the Life Flight helicopter. 

DET. GARCIA: Jennifer’s condition was grave.  Her throat had been cut from ear to ear … and quite possibly -- we didn’t know that -- but we felt that she probably would have been sexually assaulted.

As she’s airlifted … I’m thinking that we’re obviously going to have a murder case here. That’s your initial thought … “we’re working a murder case.” 

Jennifer Schuett after her rescue

Jennifer Schuett after her rescue

DR. CHESTER L. STRUNK | ENT SPECIALIST: When I first saw Jennifer in the emergency room, she was a fairly small 8-year-old. … Pale, very pale.

She was covered with ant bites … and scratches on her back. …She couldn’t make any sounds because of the injury that she had to her neck. 

She was alert and awake.  She would look at you and you could see, you know, that she was very fearful.

Her family can’t be in there with her in this acute situation, we have to stabilize her first; we have to act somewhat like family in their absence.

We try to comfort her … and try to reassure her. ...You know, “we’re going to take care of you … you’re in a safe place now. Nobody’s going to hurt you here.”

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I remember being on a stretcher and them putting me into an elevator and I remember them taking the earrings out of my ears before surgery. 

DR. STRUNK: Jennifer’s … laceration went through her trachea. … Fortunately it didn’t involve any major vessels. …We needed to put a tracheostomy tube in … below where we did the repair. 

We completed her surgery, her airway is stable, she’s not bleeding. … So we’re very hopeful about her survival. 

SHARON MCBRIDE | PEDIATRIC ICU NURSE: I was on the night shift, came onto the unit and noticed right away that … there was a police guard outside the room. 

Standing there and looking at Jennifer, this little 8-year-old girl in this bed that has suffered this … horrendous trauma and knowing that I had an 8-year-old little girl at home -- my heart ached for her. …And what on earth was her life going to be like? How was this going to affect the rest of her life?

The majority of my shift was sitting there at her bedside. Even at night if she was sleeping, I was there, I was in the room with her. 

She had some trauma to her face … and there was some trauma from being sexually assaulted. 

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I was unconscious and didn’t know it had happened. … I wasn’t aware until I was in the hospital. And really then, at 8 years old, you don’t really understand what rape means. 

SHARON MCBRIDE: She just struck me as being my own. And here I was charged with caring for her. And so I took care of her as if she was my own. 

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I was kind of a hard patient to deal with, because I had a lot of male doctors and I was scared of males. I remember even kicking one of the male doctors in the stomach because I wanted him away from me.

My mom and the doctors, the nurses there reassured me that I was safe … that there was a police officer right outside the door. …I learned in school that the police were good.

This man that hurt me said he was a police officer. …And he hurt me very bad, so…in my eyes, who’s to say that these doctors could be trusted. … Everyone was a suspect in my book. 

“WE WANT TO GET THIS GUY”

JENNIFER SCHUETT: One of my uncles brought me a little Tinker Bell makeup set to the hospital and that’s how I had seen myself in the mirror for the first time.  I remember opening it up and feeling so ugly and seeing all the blood vessels in the whites of my eyes … broken … from when he tried to strangle me and break my neck.  It just didn’t look like me.

schuett-chocolate.jpg

“To go from an 8-year-old girl who thought she could sing like Mariah Carey to being silenced ... t was really devastating and frustrating to me,” Jennifer Schuett told “48 Hours.”

Jennifer Schuett

DET. GARCIA: Dickinson is a small community … tree-lined, real nice. …Football is a major thing in Dickinson.

It’s just not something … that you would see… It hit home. I have children close to her age. …You tend to take that personal when you see that. It could happen to my kids. So we want -- we want to get this guy. 

An officer canvassing the area had discovered clothing in a ditch … a quarter of a mile, maybe less from the scene. We determined that that clothing was that of Jennifer and that of … the suspect. 

We needed that clothing because … we felt that now we have evidence that we can match DNA to someone. 

schuett-evidence.jpg

An officer canvassing the area had discovered clothing belonging to Jennifer and the suspected in a ditch 

Dickinson Police Department

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I remember having some members of law enforcement like, having to come in and talk to me but I would be just terrified. 

Det. Garcia to reporters: She can write and blink her eyes and stuff but I don’t know how far we can go with that.

DET. GARCIA: Early on with Jennifer we knew we had a survivor that couldn’t speak … the challenges were to extract information from her. …Now, we’re talking about an 8-year-old. …It was difficult. 

JENNIFER SCHUETT: That was just so frustrating to me to not be able to say what I wanted to in the way I wanted to say it. …It was mainly me writing notes to my mother and then she would hand them to the officer outside. 

SHARON MCBRIDE| PEDIATRIC ICU NURSE: The first night that Jennifer really started giving any details … I was with her and her mother was asking her the questions.

We were asking if she knew the person … what was he wearing, what did he look like?

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I just remember remembering his name.  And so I wrote, “he said his name was Dennis.”

I remember saying that he looked greasy and he may have had a scar or something on his face. 

SHARON MCBRIDE: She described the car to a T. The colors, the dent in the side.

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I remember writing down that there were beer cans in the car… and the brand of cigarettes that he had … just every little detail that I could remember, everything that I thought would help in finding him.

SHARON MCBRIDE: It tore at me that this little girl was having to sit there and relive this and go over these details.  And it got to the point where … I had to leave the room and cry.  I could not break down in front of this little girl.  I had to be strong for her. …And I had to go back in with a strong face and comfort her even more … she was the bravest little girl I’d ever met.

LOIS GIBSON | FORENSIC ARTIST: I got to Jennifer about four days after she was attacked. …I’ll never forget Jennifer in the hospital that day … And her beautiful blue eyes.

JENNIFER SCHUETT:  When Lois came in … she had these books, where she said we would go through and for me to really look at the different types of eyes and the different noses and mouths and that together we would come up with a sketch. 

I couldn’t talk and I’m trying to describe a person through notes.  And I’m traumatized, I’m medicated and the attack just happened four days earlier.  But she got me. …Like, she just understood me.

LOIS GIBSON: I draw like a printer … I start at the top and go down, so first she gives me the hair and it’s brown hair and she gives me a hairstyle.  …And then she picks some really dark eyebrows and eyes. …And then she picked a normal nose, non-descript. …I had her pick a moustache.  And then we go to the lips … and the chin needed to have a lot of stubble. …she saw a scar on his left side. …I did the sketch in about one hour. 

I turned it around and when she saw it … she … shook her head “yes.”

schuett-suspect-sketch-hero.jpg

“I was pretty confident that the sketch looked like the person who had taken me,” Jennifer Schuett said of the sketch done by the forensic artist.

Dickinson Police Department

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I was pretty confident that the sketch looked like the person who had taken me. 

LOIS GIBSON: I signed it, dated it … handed it to an officer that was there in the hospital waiting for it. …I felt confident they were going to find him.   

THE ONLY LIVING WITNESS

MICHELLE MILLER | CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Jennifer was determined to find her attacker.  Even at the age of 8, she understood he needed to be stopped before he could hurt anyone else. Police had never seen that kind of courage and resolve packed into a 45-pound frame.  

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I think I was almost sad to leave the hospital in a way. …This place had kind of become a safe haven to me.  But I had come leaps and bounds. I even regained my voice while I was in the hospital. 

I like to say I haven’t shut up since.

But going back out into this world where you were just so viciously attacked, like who would want to go back into that? 

You know, it was scary for me. …And then you have to start school. I started school right on time with the rest of my classmates, third grade, and had police there at the school …because the whole community was on edge.  No one knew who had done this to me. 

Det. Garcia to reporters: Right now, we just don’t have any new information.

DET. GARCIA: As time is progressing, the leads are getting colder and colder, and you’re losing your resources.  It’s very frustrating. …The case gets cold.

JENNIFER SCHUETT: As the years passed … the attack was always in the back of my head. 

I had been so traumatized. …I didn’t ever wanna really be home alone. Or at nighttime.

…Very fearful of men … for some time.

Every day, growing up for me in the town of Dickinson was like I was on a hunt looking for a suspect … thinking it could be anyone.  “This could be our new neighbor. This could be someone at the post office … someone at the grocery store.  Is he watching us? Is he gonna come back and finish me off?”

And as normal as I tried to live life … just the unknown could just drive me crazy at times, just not knowing who would do something like this to me.

10 YEARS AFTER THE ATTACK

But I continued on. I graduated high school. …I started attending college … and then eventually I was … a children’s librarian at a … local public library.  And I loved that job.

15 YEARS AFTER THE ATTACK

Jonathan has been there for me through most of my adult journey, dealing with my case. …So he has been my biggest cheerleader.

Jennifer and Jonathan

Jennifer and Jonathan

Jennifer Schuett

18 YEARS AFTER THE ATTACK

As I got older … I just thought, like, how can all these years have passed and I just still don’t know who’s done this?

And my case was handed off so many times. …Every time that happened, I felt like we were starting at square one. …And it just became almost unbearable for members of my family to deal with that. So we got to a point where we just really didn’t talk about it.

And then … I got a phone call that Detective Tim Cromie would be taking over my case and he wanted to meet with me.

DETECTIVE TIM CROMIE | DICKINSON POLICE DEPT: I was excited about sitting down with Jennifer for the first time. ...It didn’t go quite the way I thought it was gonna go.

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I was so frustrated. …I thought, here we are 18 years later. …What’s this guy gonna do? …I sat there in his cubicle and cried.

DET. CROMIE: I handed her tissue after tissue.

She was very much concerned about other people being victims of the person who victimized her. …Gave me just a great feeling about her.

And I told her, I said, “Jennifer, I will do whatever I can do in my power … until the end of my career to get you the answers that you need for this case.”

JENNIFER SCHUETT: And that simple sentence changed my life. …And I felt like he was as dedicated to the solving of my case as I was.

The next phone call that I got was he was bringing Agent Richard Rennison on board.

RICHARD RENNISON | FBI SPECIAL AGENT: This was the most violent crime I’ve investigated where the victim survived. It was a unique aspect of having Jennifer there to help with certain aspects of the case that otherwise we’d have never known.

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I really wanted to be a part of the solving of my own case. I wanted to help because I was the only living witness.

And I wanted to go to trial and see this through to the end. I wanted to be able to face the person that wanted to silence me, and show them that I came out victorious.

Investigators Cromie and Rennison

Dickinson Police Det. Tim Cromie, left, and FBI Special Agent Richard Rennison

CBS News

AGENT RENNISON: Often working cold cases, time is your enemy. People forget.  People move away. People die. This was one of the benefits of time in our case, was the advances of technology in the DNA field.

JENNIFER SCHUETT: And then, before I knew it they were submitting evidence that was still in the Galveston County’s sheriff’s office evidence room. …They felt like the answer might be right there.

DET. CROMIE:  We picked out four pieces of evidence.

AGENT RENNISON:  Jennifer’s t-shirt, underwear.  And the male’s underwear and T-shirt.  We sent those items off to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia.

DET. CROMIE: Both Richard and I knew that this was an 18-year-old case, and this was not gonna be a case that was gonna take priority up at the lab.

AGENT RENNISON: As time went on, and it took so long, my optimism faded. …If we didn’t get a DNA hit, I -- I wondered if we were ever gonna solve this case. ...It took well over a year to get the results of the DNA test back.

19 YEARS AFTER THE ATTACK

AGENT RENNISON: It was … 2:30 in the morning. …My phone rings.  And it’s the DNA lab.

The DNA examiner told me … we got a hit. 

When I heard the name, Dennis Earl Bradford, as our offender… my first response was, “Who?” “Who is that?” … We never saw that name in a report.

But at the same time, it was a really exciting phone call – to say that we got a match and that that person is out there. 

I immediately called Tim Cromie.

DET. CROMIE: I said, “Who is Dennis Earl Bradford?” 

AGENT RENNISON: Dennis Earl Bradford … was convicted in 1997 for … kidnapping … in Hot Springs, Arkansas. 

DET. CROMIE: Sexually assaulted … a woman he had met at one of the local … bars.

AGENT RENNISON: Bradford was sent to prison.  And it was from that sexual assault that his DNA was put into the national database that ultimately matched back to the enovidence we submitted.

Once we got the name Dennis Bradford, It was a couple of days later when Tim and I made the connection back to the notes that Jennifer wrote saying, “His name was Dennis.”

"He said his name was Dennis"
Dickinson Police Department

AGENT RENNISON: Jennifer was 8 years old, on pain medication, couldn’t speak, and handwrote down, “He said his name was Dennis.” And then … all these years … later, for that to actually be the fact.

At that point it was monumental … that this girl was so accurate. …Of course, later, we found out how accurate she was on everything.

DENNIS EARL BRADFORD CONFESSES

AGENT RICHARD RENNISON: We had a DNA match to Dennis Bradford … and he was living in Arkansas. 

DET. CROMIE: Since the time that he had been released from prison, it appeared that he was living … just a normal lifestyle.

AGENT RENNISON: We had to find a link to him being in Dickinson … to show that he coulda been the one that committed this crime.

I contacted the driver’s license bureau in Texas and they were able to get me a photograph from his driver’s license that was taken only a few months before the attack on Jennifer. … When I opened the email …I was floored.

Called Tim almost in a panic state …”Tim, get to your computer -- you gotta see this picture.” 

DET. CROMIE: He was a little excited.   

Dennis Earl Bradford

“I’ve never seen a composite drawing so close to the actual suspect, and then from a young child who had been through that experience. It’s unbelievable,” FBI Special Agent Richard Rennison told “48 Hours.”

Dickinson Police Department

AGENT RENNISON: It was almost as if Lois Gibson was drawing a sketch based on that driver’s license photo. It was that accurate.

I’ve never seen a composite drawing so close to the actual suspect, and then from a young child who had been through that experience.  It’s unbelievable.

DET. CROMIE: We were able to establish that Dennis Earl Bradford had at least two different addresses in Dickinson.

AGENT RENNISON: Both places were very close proximity to Jennifer and her mother’s apartment.

So it was very important that we were able to place him in the area at the time the assault occurred.

DET. CROMIE: The district attorney authorizes charges for attempted capital murder.

AGENT RENNISON: And if convicted he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

We traveled to … North Little Rock to meet with officers from North Little Rock Police Department.   

DET. CROMIE: They … pulled him over on a traffic stop and arrested him on a warrant.

MORE THAN 19 YEARS AFTER THE ATTACK

JENNIFER SCHUETT: So when they called me that morning ... and told me that they really arrested this person.  …Dennis Earl Bradford. …It was the most surreal moment of my life. … It meant everything to me.

DET. CROMIE: Richard and I got to meet Dennis Earl Bradford for the first time, face to face.

AGENT RENNISON: From all outward appearances he just looked like the guy next door. ...Lived with his wife and had three adult stepsons. Bradford was a welder in Little Rock.

Cromie: Understand you’re pretty good at that.

Bradford [smiling]: You guys done your homework.

AGENT RENNISON: We were hoping, most importantly, to get a confession.  We didn’t want there to be any way this could be beat in court. 

Rennison: You ever heard the name Jennifer Schuett? 

Bradford: Yes.

DET. CROMIE: He told us he remembered the story … and seeing signs back in Dickinson about her being abducted, and praying for her.

Rennison: Did you ever have occasion to come in contact with her? 

Bradford: Yes. 

Rennison: Tell me about that. 

Bradford [emphatically]: No.

DET. CROMIE: And the way he said, “No,” it was just, like, it sent chills up my spine.

Cromie: You don’t wanna talk about it?

Bradford: No. 

Cromie: Is there a reason why? 

Bradford: You did your homework.

DET. CROMIE: And again, that was … to me that was one of the coldest answers I’ve ever heard.

Rennison: You’re right, we did our homework.

AGENT RENNISON: He wasn’t ready to give up any details of how he knew her.

Rennison: If you’re remorseful about this … people need to hear that.  

Cromie: There’s two sides to every story.

AGENT RENNISON: I explained … he needed to provide all the details of the attack so Jennifer could have the closure that she needs after … all these years.

Bradford: Not a single day goes by where I don’t see that baby.  There is no other side to the story. She was an innocent. And I was a sick, deranged, beat up, little f---’n punk.

AGENT RENNISON: It was a long, exhausting interview.

Bradford: She wasn’t anybody I knew.


Bradford: I don’t remember why I pulled up into those apartments.

AGENT RENNISON: Bradford told us that he was driving around one night, and he just randomly pulled into a parking lot.

Bradford: And I walked over to this window. I remember it was open, and I could see in it and the light was on. 

AGENT RENNISON: I felt like he wanted to confess to everything, but just had a hard time saying it out loud.

Bradford: What do you want?

Rennison: I want you to just start talkin’ and tell me … everything you thought, everything that you did, everything that you can remember. 


Bradford: I’m ready for this to be over.  I’m sick and tired of lookin’ over my shoulder and bein’ afraid.


Bradford: OK. Forgive me, mama. I pulled that little girl out of that window, and I put her in my car. And she was freakin’ out, and I told her, “Please, just don’t worry.  It’ll be all right.”

Bradford: I told that little girl that I was a police officer, that everything would be OK. 

Bradford: I pulled off on this little road. …And that little girl, she was so scared.

Bradford: I just lost it. … I was like a savaged animal. 

Bradford: I, I can’t force myself to say it.

Rennison: This been haunting you your whole life, Dennis.

AGENT RENNISON: And I told Bradford-- I said … “Let’s hear it.”  

Rennison: Let’s hear it.

Bradford: I took that little girl out there and I raped her, and I cut her throat. I don’t know why. I’ve never known why.


Bradford: Many, many times, many times I’ve wanted to just end it. But I never had the guts. 

DET. CROMIE: Dennis Earl Bradford -- told us that … shortly after his attack on Jennifer, he had attempted suicide. …He was using a shotgun and just as he pulled the trigger … he made the decision not to take his own life.

Bradford: Blew a hole in my daddy’s roof with a 30 aught 6.

DET. CROMIE: From there, he was … transported down to the hospital for an evaluation.

AGENT RENNISON: And was put into the hospital in the psychiatric ward, which happened to be the same hospital that Jennifer was still in. …That was something we did not know beforehand.

Dennis Earl Bradford

Dennis Earl Bradford

FBI

DET. CROMIE: We got the information we needed.  We got a confession. And then he filled in a lotta the blanks … and to confirm a lot of what she remembered happened. …Made her feel better about always wanting to remember.

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I was so overwhelmed at the press conference.

Jennifer to reporters [crying]: I’m not a victim, but instead, victorious…

And then Detective Cromie and Agent Rennison came into the room and hugged me and whispered in my ear, “We told you we’d get him.” …At the time, that was the single most amazing moment of my life. 

DET. CROMIE: Dennis Earl Bradford was in the county jail awaiting trial. I get a phone call in the middle of the night. … “Tim, I need to talk to you. You need to wake up.  I’ve got some news to give you.”

A HAPPY ENDING

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I’m headed to the field where I was left back in 1990. …I don’t really visit there too often anymore. … I used to like to go there a lot, just to … see if it would bring back any more memories.

I just really wanted to be able to remember all the details of the attack. So that one day I could go to court and tell my story the way I remembered it.

Jennifer Schuett

Jennifer Schuett

CBS News

JENNIFER SCHUETT: After the arrest, I was preparing for trial. Everyone felt like we had a solid case … and we would go for a life sentence. …His attorney said, he’s gonna plead guilty, doesn’t want to prolong this anymore … we don’t want a jury trial and all that. Pick a day. …So we were like, wow, how great would it be to pick August 10 … 20 years to the day of the attack and kind of just come full circle and close it out.

I remember staying up late endless nights trying to perfect my victim impact statement. …Writing and erasing and writing again and erasing again, just trying to perfect what I wanted to say. I had 19 years worth of things to say to this person … I wanted to make sure that I relayed it in the way that I wanted. 

Bradford interrogation: I still to this day don’t understand myself…

DET. CROMIE: Dennis Earl Bradford was in the county jail awaiting trial. …I get a phone call in the middle of the night … that woke me up … and said … Earl Bradford had committed suicide and hung himself in his jail cell. 

AGENT RENNISON: All the work that we’d put together to give Jennifer her day in court was just gone. So we had to decide what would be the best way to tell Jennifer. 

DET. CROMIE: Not knowing if this information was going to be in the news in the morning … Richard and I decided … probably need to call her as soon as possible on the phone and let her know what had happened. ...It was not a good phone call.

JENNIFER SCHUETT: When he was arrested … the first thing that I said after they told me they arrested him was, “Please don’t let him kill himself.”

DET. CROMIE:  There was just crying and screaming on the other end of the phone. She didn’t wanna believe it. I-- most I could do was just tell her I was sorry.

JENNIFER SCHUETT: And the only thing that I can describe is devastation. …I felt like everything that I had worked so hard for was just ripped away from me in an instant.

20 YEARS AFTER THE ATTACK

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I sat at Dennis Bradford’s grave on August 10, 2010. …20 years to the day that I was attacked.

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Jennifer read her victim impact statement at Dennis Bradford’s grave on Aug. 10, 2010 -- 20 years to the day of her attack

Jennifer Schuett

I sat there, reading my victim impact statement. I was crying:

Dennis Bradford. I waited 19 years, two months, and three days to find out your last name and for you to be caught...

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 in searching for you...

In my heart, I knew you were out there, alive, either in prison or living a lie. And now, I know listening to my heart all of these years and never giving up on finding you. I was right.

Jennifer Schuett's victim impact statement by News Team on Scribd

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I turned to my husband and I said, “I wonder if he’s hearing me.” And just then a single fire ant bit me on the leg. And I took that as a sign from God that he heard me loud and clear.

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Agent Rennison, Jennifer and Det. Cromie

Jennifer Schuett

JENNIFER SCHUETT: I’m a very sentimental person, and I hang on to bonds that I’ve formed very tightly. So, having people like Sharon and Detective Cromie and Agent Rennison as a part of … my personal life … means a lot to me, to know that they’re still there, they’re still supporting me. …They’re not leavin’ me anytime soon, just like I’m not leavin’ them anytime soon

22 YEARS AFTER THE ATTACK

When Jonathan and I found out that we were expecting, we were in complete shock. …But we were so happy … we just couldn’t wait to see what parenthood had in store for us.  

My daughter Jenna … was born at the end of 2012. …I actually don’t even really remember what life was like without her. 

We wanted to give Jenna a sibling … and I now have a son as well … Jonah. …He smiles constantly, and laughs, and is just such a happy baby. 

It’s like pinch me; who would’ve thought that I’d have not one but two beautiful, healthy children at the end of all of this? They’re really my happy ending.  

With the case finally closed, Jennifer is now a fierce advocate for other crime survivors. She remains close to those who helped her through the darkest chapter of her life.