DICKINSON, Texas – Authorities on Tuesday made an arrest in a nearly 20-year-old southeast Texas case where an 8-year-old girl was attacked and left for dead in a field, unable to cry out for help because her throat had been slashed.
DNA evidence tested last year led authorities to arrest 40-year-old Dennis Earl Bradford in connection with the 1990 assault in Dickinson, said Dickinson Police Chief Ron Morales.
Bradford was arrested in North Little Rock, Ark., where he has lived the past seven years. At the time of the assault, Bradford, originally from Dickinson, lived about two miles from the apartment where the victim was kidnapped, according to the arrest affidavit in the case.
The victim, Jennifer Schuett, told reporters Tuesday that she never gave up hope her attacker would be brought to justice.
"I hope that my case will serve as a reminder for all victims of violent crime to never give up hope in seeking justice, no matter how long it might take," said a tearful Schuett, 27, who still lives in Dickinson, about 30 miles southeast of Houston.
Schuett was taken from her family's apartment in the early morning of Aug. 10, 1990.
From her hospital bed after being found, she told investigators 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, according to the arrest affidavit.
She was discovered about 14 hours later in a field by a group of children.
The Associated Press does not normally name alleged victims of sexual abuse, but Schuett and authorities used her name in publicly discussing the case, and she also has a Web site devoted to her case.
"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.
"That little 8-year-old girl defied all the odds," Morales said. "She miraculously survived this brutal attack."
Houston FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard Powers said because of new DNA technology not available when the crime occurred, Dickinson police investigators resubmitted evidence in July 2008 for testing at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va.
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.
A police sketch that Schuett helped authorities create after her attack looks remarkably similar to Bradford's Texas driver's license photo, Morales said.
Bradford was arrested Tuesday morning by North Little Rock police, as well as by a Dickinson police detective and a Houston FBI agent who traveled to Arkansas, as he drove to his welding job with his wife, authorities said. Bradford has two children, police said.
Galveston County District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk said authorities will work to extradite Bradford and then present the case to a grand jury for indictment.
Bradford has been charged with attempted capital murder and faces up to life in prison if convicted. It was unclear whether Bradford has any legal representation.
"This event 19 years ago was a tragic one. I stand her wanting you to know I am OK," Schuett said. "I am not a victim. I am victorious."