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Bob Wooten: Murder is not a fair response to youth

By Bob Wooten -- Top of the Morning

Being young and foolish is far too often a fatal combination.

Stories about teenage tragedy -- car crashes, drownings, fights -- have been crossing my desk for as long as I can remember. The gruesome details emerge from the police report, and the grief-stricken family and friends offer moving accounts about the victim's youth, vitality and potential.

Usually, I'm left wondering how the story could have ended differently. How could the deadly moment have been avoided?

The question thickens the air around the story of Brendon Barker's death.

Barker, a 16-year-old student at Strasburg High School, died at the hands of his girlfriend's father.

On Jan. 6, Jody Lynn Bradley, 48, found Barker with his daughter, Sarah Bradley, in the attic of the family's home on Wakemans Grove Road near Edinburg, leveled his .44 Magnum at nearly point-blank range and shot the boy in the head.

On Thursday, after 10 hours of deliberation over two days, a Shenandoah County Circuit Court jury found Bradley guilty of second-degree murder. Jurors recommended a sentence of nine years in prison for the murder, plus another three for a related firearms charge.

The testimony during Bradley's trial paints a classic portrait of teenage romance and rebellion and a father's growing frustration with the relationship. The kids were smoking pot together, and the boy was found in the house on one occasion more or less in the buff.

Bradley obtained a no-trespassing notice against Barker barring him from coming on the property, a notice both teens flouted on a frequent basis, even after Bradley vowed to shoot the boy if he found him at the house again.

The love-struck teens didn't take that threat seriously, and that was the first missed opportunity to head off this slaying. Either could have called time-out on the relationship. At minimum, they could have met away from the Bradley property.

Jody Bradley, the adult in this toxic mix, also missed an opportunity to head things off when he failed to act on the no-trespassing notice. When Bradley found Barker in the attic he could have called sheriff's deputies and filed charges, which would have sent the boy to jail rather than the morgue.

Instead, Bradley treated the no-trespassing notice like a hunting license.

These what-ifs will haunt the survivors for the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile, Jody Bradley stands a chance of walking out of prison 12 years from now, a relatively small price for a teenager's life. Wall Street scoundrel Bernie Madoff got 150 years in prison for crimes that involved money, not murder.

If life has become this cheap, parents all over Shenandoah County should be worried. Plenty of teenagers smoke dope. Plenty let their hormones race ahead of their judgment.

Being young and foolish calls for assertive parenting, and maybe even police intervention, but not a summary execution.

* Bob Wooten is the managing editor of the Daily. Contact him at 800-296-5137 or at bwooten@nvdaily.com




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2 Comments



disillusioned

This is a feeble attempt to right a wrong. I am the unfortunate spouse of one of the much maligned jurors in this case and would be doing my spouse an injustice if I did not speak out. First of all to the comment of the sister: you have your wish. Nightmares are a fact of life now for the 11 jurors who wanted the maximum penalty but had to quote, "make a deal with the devil" to get what they could in the way of justice. A hung jury or a mistrial would have been a larger travesty and these fine people did what they could with what they were given to work with. One juror could not be swayed to the majority and no assistance was provided by the court even after numerous requests.
Now a few words about the jurors. they were PEOPLE doing their civic duty as good citizens and showing up when called. None had an inkling going in what horrors and nightmares were waiting for them that day. With no advanced warning they were thrown into this morass and left to pick up the pieces of their lives when all was said and done. And for what? $30 a day and a feeling of loss and sadness. My loving spouse who is as bright as the sun and full of love was ORDERED not to discuss the things that were eating at her very soul. We have always talked through life's bumps in the road and now that avenue was closed to her. For three days she lived in torment and fear. Now that is doubled. When faced with an unyeilding person, she and her fellow jurors did what they could to see justice done. For this she and they are condemned? Where is the justice in that? Their hearts went out for the losses and the demeanor of each should have been evident. Is none moved by tears anymore? For all those who seek so called justice.... where is the justice in attacking the jury without ascertaining all of the facts?
11 jurors wanted the maximum penalty for MURDER ONE with one abstaining. No amount of forensic evidence, expert testimony, or evidence was convincing to this individual. So what swayed him from his verdict of innocent? The impassioned pleas of these regular moms, dads, grandparents, fellow human beings. For trying to do a very thankless and gruesome task these fine people are reviled and attacked. Their one small comfort is that God has the final judgement. What would YOU have done? Let yea without sin cast the first stone.

chris77

A 16 year old child does not have the judgment of, say, a 48 year old man. The boy was invited to the home by a resident of the home who assured him that things would be OK. He was shot down in cold blood for the transgression of wanting to engage in courtship with a girl his own age, something that is natural and human. It may upset some of the high minded out there that the boy was caught on occasion with his "pants down" but if we start gunning down every child who engages in the normal, natural act of communing with the opposite sex then things are going to get mighty bloody.
If some of the jurors didn't agree with the sentence they should have put there foot down and stood their ground, mistrial be damned. There would have been another trial and maybe justice would have been done.
There are two things I hope for: one, this case goes "national" and people are outraged. Two, Brendon's mother gets a "good" lawyer and sues the hell out of Mr. Bradley, preferably in a "fair" venue like Richmond or Fairfax, and makes sure that when he walks out of prison in less than 10 years he won't have much to come home to.

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