true crime

Jennifer Schuett was terrified of sleeping alone. The night she did, a man took her from her bed.

Warning: this post deals with topics including rape and suicide which some readers may find triggering. 

At eight-years-old, Jennifer Schuett hated sleeping alone. As long as she could remember, she had hated the dark and slept in her mother’s room as often as she was allowed.

On August 9, 1990, Jennifer slept in her own room so as not to disturb her mother, who had to work the next day. She read books in her bed before she fell asleep.

The next thing she remembers is being carried in the arms of a man she didn’t know down a street.

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Jennifer's last school photo taken before she was kidnapped. Image via Flickr

27 years later, Jennifer Schuett is telling the story of her miraculous survival after she was kidnapped and raped.

Speaking to CBS News program 48 Hours, Jennifer has revealed her lifelong journey to find the man who took her from her home that night.

The man who kidnapped Jennifer from her own bed in Texas was father-of-three Dennis Earl Bradford. He told Jennifer he was an undercover police officer, but she knew something was wrong.

"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," Jennifer told 48 Hours.

"I started to realise that I had actually been kidnapped. I was very afraid of what would happen next."

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Bradford took Jennifer to an overgrown field, where he held a knife to her throat. He then choked her until she blacked out.

"I woke up to him dragging me by my ankles...through this field," Jennifer said.

"He...dropped my legs. I heard him walk off, and I heard his car door slam and him drive away."

Jennifer couldn't scream, and it wasn't until she gathered the strength to throw her hand onto her neck that she realised Bradford had cut her throat.

LISTEN: Emily Webb talks about Australia’s most chilling murders and why she is so interested in them. Post continues... 

"I was 8 years old. I was just left to die in a field," she said.

The following evening, Jennifer was found by a group of children playing hide and seek in the field.

"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'," Jennifer said.

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Jennifer recovering in hospital. Image via Flickr.
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Due to her injury, Jennifer was unable to speak to police about her attacker. Instead, she began to write notes about everything she remembered from that night.

"I just remember remembering his name. And so I wrote, 'He said his name was Dennis,'" Jennifer said.

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Jennifer wrote notes to police telling them everything she remembered from the night she was kidnapped. Image via Dickinson Police Department.
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Another of Jennifer's notes to police. Image via Dickinson Police Department.
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"I remember saying that he looked greasy and he may have had a scar or something on his face.

"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."

She was able to help a forensic artist put together a sketch of the man who had kidnapped, sexually assaulted and attacked her.

But it wasn't until 19 years later, when new technology meant that clothes found at the crime scene could be tested for DNA evidence, that police tracked down Dennis Earl Bradford.

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Dennis Earl Bradford, the man who kidnapped Jennifer (L) and the sketch Jennifer helped create after her attack. Image via Dickinson Police Department.
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Jennifer had spent every day since her ordeal searching for the man responsible.

"The attack was always in the back of my head," she said.

"Every day...was like I was on a hunt looking for a suspect...thinking it could be anyone. 'This could be our new neighbour. This could be someone at the post office...someone at the grocery store. Is he watching us?'

"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."

Bradford was arrested, and during a long police interview, he confessed to the kidnap and rape of Jennifer Schuett.

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Jennifer now lends her voice to help other victims of abuse. Image via Flickr.

But while he was in prison awaiting his trial, Bradford took his own life.

"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," Jennifer said of the day she discovered Bradford was dead.

Jennifer is now a mother to two children - Jenna and Jonah - who she describes as her ultimate "happy ending".

"Who would’ve thought that I'd have not one but two beautiful, healthy children at the end of all of this?" she asked.

If you or anyone you know needs help, Mamamia urges you to call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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