On August 10, 1990 Jennifer Schuett was just an 8 year old girl. That night after going to sleep she was kidnapped from her warm bed, removed from her house, and told that her mother would come when the full moon changed colors. A little bit later Jennifer was told that her mother must not love her because she was not coming. Then she was raped, her throat cut which severed her voice box and she was left to die, alone, in the field next to her elementary school.
Jennifer was left bleeding on top of an ant field in the hot summer until she was found late the next day. Jennifer was not expected to live and certainly never expected to speak again with a severed voice box, but she defied the odds. Unlike many rape victims Jennifer did not choose to forget what happened, and she did not try to push it away or block out the horrid details.
Instead at the tender age of just eight years old Jennifer spent the days and nights recovering from her injuries at the hospital and during those hours she focused on her attacker remembering what his face looked like, how his voiced sounded, and what he did to her. She focused on every minute detail. Waiting for the day that her abductor would be found, and refusing to die, because if she died, he would have won.
Dennis Earl Bradford is 40 years old and believed to be the man that kidnapped and raped little Jennifer at the tender age of 8 years old. Dennis Bradford was arrested early one morning as he drove to work with his wife next to him. His arrest is a direct result of the advances in DNA profiling over the last 17 years. The few DNA cells initially collected in 1990 after Jennifer Schuett’s was left for dead were recently matched to another rape in 1996.
When the DNA made a positive hit it identified Dennis Bradford as Jennifer Schuett’s rapist. The fact this cold case was solved is due to good old fashion police work and a federal law which requires convicted sex offenders to provide a DNA sample when convicted of a sex crime.
Forensic science is making incredible advancements and those advancements are placing criminals at a crime scene decades later. DNA also is proving someone was not at a crime scene and clearing many innocent people of crimes they could not have committed. DNA advances are reopening cases once thought unsolvable and permanently closing old, cold cases from child rapes and abductions, and even murder when a suspect is identified. DNA is only as good as the crime scene preservation done in the days following the original crimes.
Nothing can replace good old diligent police work. Cases are solved today through DNA only if an officer many decades previous made a choice to find and preserve evidence from the original crime scene long before knowing what DNA was ever capable of initially. DNA is solving cold cases like Jennifer’s that long ago were declared unsolvable without a direct confession of the perp. DNA is everywhere and to every cell of DNA, there is a story waiting to be told. This time it was that of a child rapist from 1990.