Positive Matches

Date Published 10.30.09
I have a longer post coming soon, but in the meantime I wanted to point out a couple of recent cases I find intriguing.

August 10, 1990.  Dickinson, Texas.  Eight-year-old Jennifer Schuett is sleeping in the first-floor apartment she shares with her mother.  Jennifer's bedroom windows face the apartment complex's parking lot.  A window suddenly opens.  A man climbs through and grabs Jennifer.  He tells her his first name:  Dennis.  She's too young to realize that this means he doesn't think she's going to live long.

But she does.  She lives through Dennis putting her in his old blue car, driving around with her on his lap, and choking her.  She lives through him driving her to a wooded area, undressing her, sexually assaulting her, taking a pocket knife and deeply slashing her throat, then leaving her behind in the dark, bleeding, to die.  She continues to live like this for another 14 hours, until a group of children stumble across her in a field, and save her.

From her hospital bed Jennifer explains to detectives what happened to her.  She explains through a series of handwritten notes, because her throat is cut so badly she can't speak.

Jennifer lived.  But Dennis wasn't found.  There was a sketch.  There was a description of the car.  He'd even left his shirt and underwear behind in a ditch.  Best intentions.  Hard work.  Nothing.

Fast-forward eighteen years.  The FBI collaborates with the Dickinson Police on the cold case.  DNA technology has evolved.  Now you leave as much as a single skin cell behind and they've got you.  They re-test the underwear.

There's a hit.  The sample matches a man who's in the system for a 1996 kidnapping and sexual assault in Arkansas (he cut her throat, too).  Dennis Earl Bradford.

How was he not on their radar earlier?  Bradford, now 40, lived less than a quarter mile from Jennifer's apartment at the time of the attack.  Jennifer's sketch looks exactly like Bradford's driver's license photo.

Bradford's driver's license photo and sketch of abduction suspect

He didn't go by an alias.  He was Dennis.  He drove an old blue car.  He went to Dickinson High School.  Dickinson is not a big town. 

Somehow he escaped the net.  He moved to Arkansas, worked as a welder, and became a husband and a father.  He got caught for one other kidnapping and assault, but how many others did he commit?

One case I'd look at him for is the disappearance of Morgan Nick.  Morgan, 6, was abducted from a little-league baseball game in Alma, Arkansas the evening of June 9, 1995.  Witnesses saw a man watching Morgan as she was playing with other children in the park.  He was described as white, about 6 feet tall, with a medium build, a mustache and a 1-inch beard.  He was between 23-38 years old and had black, slicked back hair.  Bradford roughly fits the description.

Morgan Nick suspect

A case not so cold but equally aided by DNA is the murder, on Oct. 1, of Kimberly Smith, 39, in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.  Smith's live-in boyfriend returned home from work that morning to check on her after he heard she hadn't shown up to her job.  He found Smith bound and lying on the family room floor.  She was in her sleep clothes.  She'd been stabbed multiple times.  Smith's 4-year-old son was asleep in the house when the attack occurred.

Suspicion initially fell on Smith's ex-boyfriend, with whom she was having an acrimonious custody battle.  But the boyfriend had relocated to Lubbock, Texas, and investigators were able to confirm he was in Lubbock that morning.

Investigators asked the Wisconsin Crime Lab to expedite their analysis of evidence in the case, and the results came back last Friday.  They were surprising.  DNA extracted from crime-scene evidence was a match with a 26-year-old California man named Justin Patrick Welch.  Welch, of French Camp, Ca., a suburb of Stockton, has no known ties to Wisconsin, much less the small town of Oconomowoc. 

Since there was no sign of forced entry at the house, investigators suspected Smith was familiar with her attacker, but no one close to her remembers her knowing Welch.

Welch, who has a record for robbery, auto theft, and battery, but nothing approaching the violence of the Smith murder, appears to have experienced some sort of upheaval in July.  That's when he allegedly stole a vehicle in the Stockton area and took off, cutting off contact with family and friends.

How did he end up in Oconomowoc, and why kill Smith?  It's interesting that it was noted in one report that Smith and her boyfriends' vehicles were always parked side by side in the driveway when they were home together.  When Smith was killed, only her car was in the driveway.  The boyfriend left unusually early for his job at a courier company.  It's almost like Welch knew their routine.

Justin Patrick Welch

The detail about the acrimonious custody battle with the ex-boyfriend, and the toddler son at home during the murder, reminded me of the murder of Sheila Bellush, the mother of quadruplet toddlers who was shot and stabbed to death by young thugs hired by her angry ex-husband.

It will be interesting see if investigators can find any link between Welch and Smith's ex-boyfriend.  Smith and the ex-boyfriend had a court date scheduled Oct. 15.  In 2008, she had sought a restraining order against him.

But first, they have to find Welch.  A warrant has been issued for his arrest, but no one knows where he is.

The Feed

RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary: https://t.co/ijA8xHJ8Tm
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.