Bradley v. State

Decision Date21 September 1990
Docket Number6 Div. 946
Citation577 So.2d 541
PartiesThomas Paul BRADLEY v. STATE.
CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals

Erskine R. Mathis and William M. Dawson, Birmingham, for appellant.

Don Siegelman, Atty. Gen., and Cecil G. Brendle, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee.


Appellant, Thomas Paul Bradley, was convicted, after a jury trial, of the capital offense of murder during sexual abuse in the first degree or an attempt thereof, in violation of § 13A-5-40(a)(8), Code of Alabama 1975. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court accepted the recommendation of the jury and sentenced appellant to life imprisonment without parole.

The State's evidence disclosed that, on the morning of July 14, 1986, Lieutenant Linn Moore of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department received information that a body had been discovered underneath the bridge at the River Run Shopping Center, located on the outer area of the City of Mountain Brook, Alabama. The body, nude except for knee-length stockings, was later identified as that of 26-year-old Tracey Diane Schoettlin. Bloodstains were observed on the curb of the bridge above where Schoettlin's body was discovered. Stan Pitts of the Jefferson County Coroner's Office testified that death had occurred within a 24-hour period of the discovery of the body.

Dr. Robert Brissie, chief coroner and medical examiner for Jefferson County, testified as to the results of his July 15, 1986, autopsy of Schoettlin's body. Brissie found no presence of alcohol or drugs. He identified three stab wounds to the upper lobe of the left lung, one stab wound through the heart, five stab wounds through the liver and two stab wounds into the stomach area. There was a defense-type wound to the middle finger where a tendon was cut as the victim apparently tried to protect herself. There were several antemortem head injuries including bruised lips and eyelids, a chin abrasion, fingernail marks and an indication of "running" injuries. In addition, there were three stab wounds to the neck that were found to be consistent with wounds inflicted by a dull pocketknife or a letter opener. There was antemortem bruising to the left nipple consistent with pinching, as well as antemortem impact abrasions. There was a total of 19 stab wounds, 14 of which were located between the left breast and the left abdomen. The stab wound to the heart area was found to be three and one-half inches deep and would have caused death in less than one minute. There was a bruise to the right thigh and a rip which extended upward from the rectum and vagina into the pelvic area. This latter injury consisted of a vaginal tear and massive blunt force trauma to the area, both of which were antemortem injuries. Brissie concluded that the victim had been dead at least eight hours prior to the discovery of the body and that the cause of death was due to multiple stab wounds.

A piece of "glitter" was found embedded in Schoettlin's knee. Appellant's ex-wife testified that, about two years prior to the murder, she had observed little bottles of glitter in appellant's car; and that, when asked about them, appellant explained that he used the glitter in performing witchcraft.

Forrest Scott Whitmore, an employee of Southpoint Restaurant, testified that the victim worked at the restaurant as a waitress and had "clocked out" at approximately 11:15 p.m. on July 13, 1986. The victim indicated that she was tired and was going home. She was last seen by Whitmore one block from the post office where she had parked her 1973 black Chevrolet Monte Carlo as she was walking toward the post office.

Floyd Williams, a commercial photographer, testified that he knew the victim and had spoken to her on the night of July 13, 1986, as she was walking toward her car parked at the post office. The victim indicated to Williams that she was "heading home." He heard the victim emphatically respond to someone else's invitation to her to go somewhere with "No!"

James Dudley Parker testified that he knew the victim and saw her on the night of July 13, 1986, at Tom and Jerry's Convenience Store, on the Southside of Birmingham. Parker had just gotten off work at 11:00 p.m. He saw the victim enter the store and, as he stood in the cashier line behind her, he observed her purchase two quarts of motor oil. He then saw her exit the store and walk to the left toward someone's car. As Parker left the store, he looked toward the left and saw a man in a 1969 to 1971 blue Datsun or Toyota automobile, waiting on Schoettlin. The next day, when Parker learned of the victim's murder, he contacted the sheriff's department and gave a description of the man he had seen waiting on the victim.

Johnny Hide, an employee of Tom and Jerry's Convenience Store, testified that sometime after 10:30 p.m., a blonde female came into the store and asked for his assistance in selecting two quarts of motor oil. She was in a uniform, and it appeared that she had just come from work at a restaurant. Hide identified the price markers used by the store and the cash register tape showing the purchase of the two cans of oil, at $1.79 a can, at 11:41 p.m. on July 13, 1986.

The victim's disabled black Chevrolet Monte Carlo was found on 18th Street on the Southside of Birmingham, on July 14, 1986. Andrew Green, a Jefferson County auto mechanic, testified that, upon inspection, he found that it had a bad starter; that, once it was cranked, fuel would run out of the fuel pump and the engine would stop running; and that it was two quarts overfilled with motor oil.

Frank Michael Hale of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department testified that he found two empty quart oil cans with price labels like those used at Tom and Jerry's and a bag in a 55-gallon garbage can near the victim's automobile on 18th Street.

Lillie Daniels testified that she had read about the victim's murder and was walking to a store on the city's Northside when she found the victim's partially-burned driver's license.

Appellant first came to the attention of Birmingham investigators on November 4, 1986, nearly four months after the killing, when Lieutenant Moore received a call from Birmingham attorney Bob Sanford. Sanford advised Moore that appellant had received "visions from God" about the Schoettlin murder case. On November 5, 1986, Sanford, Birmingham attorney Ray Bullock, and appellant came to Moore's office, where Sanford stated to Moore that appellant had received "visions from God" regarding the murder of Schoettlin and that appellant would give information on the Schoettlin case if the authorities would tell him why he was being followed. (Moore testified that appellant was not being followed by anyone involved in the investigation of the Schoettlin case and that appellant was not even considered a suspect at that time.) The initial interview with appellant and investigating authorities, with Sanford present, took place at that time. Two days later, on November 7, 1986, appellant telephoned Sergeant Eddie White of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department to again discuss his "visions."

No further contact was made with appellant until March 16, 1987, when he was contacted by Sergeant N.D. Harris and asked if he had had any other "visions" about the case. Sanford then had appellant set up a meeting with the investigators, which took place on March 18 and 19. Over those two days, appellant led the authorities to several different locations in the Birmingham area. During an automobile trip with White, appellant pointed out the exact location where the victim's vehicle had been found. He also directed the officers to the River Run bridge where the body had been found. At this location, he asked that the automobile be stopped. After both got out of the automobile, appellant explained to White that the victim's body had been thrown from the opposite side of the bridge from where it was actually found. However, three or four times he glanced toward the spot where the body had actually been recovered. He described how the victim had been thrown from the bridge and stated that there were bloodstains on the bridge. Appellant also revealed that, during one of his "visions," he could see that the killer burned something plastic like the victim's driver's license and threw it out on the road.

Appellant's conversations, with the officers and particularly with White, about his "visions" of the murder extended over a period of approximately 20 hours. In these conversations, appellant described, in minute detail, how the killer came upon the woman; how he convinced her to be alone with him; and how he beat her, sexually abused her, and killed her. He stated that the killer discovered her with a disabled automobile; that he stopped ostensibly to help her; that, after he cranked her car for her and she expressed concern about making it home, he took her to Tom and Jerry's to buy oil where he waited, for her, in his car; and that, upon his offer, she consented to let him take her home. He further disclosed that, one time, the victim tried to run; that, when the killer realized that the victim was performing sexual acts only to save her life, he began stabbing her; that she started fighting him; that, as he was killing her, he shouted, "You ugly beast"; that, although she appeared to be dead after the third stab, he continued to stab her eight to fourteen more times to make sure that she was dead; that he then mutilated her internally, probably with an unusual knife with a big wooden handle or with a comb; that he performed witchcraft on her; that he took, from her neck, a gold chain with something hanging on it; and that, when he realized that she was dead, he professed, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry I killed you." Appellant also knew that the killer had a knife, in a designer-type pouch hanging on the right side of his hip. Appellan...

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