By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Not only is Jody Lynn Bradley a murderer, he's also a hypocrite.
Those are the charges his daughter and his ex-wife leveled against Bradley, convicted last week by a Shenandoah County Circuit Court jury of second-degree murder. They are outraged the jury recommended he only serve nine years in prison for shooting to death Brendon Manning Barker, 16, plus three years on a gun charge.
Bradley, 48, of 189 Wakemans Grove Road, Edinburg, is the ex-husband of Susan Baker. Barker was dating Bradley's daughter, Sarah.
Bradley's defense centered on Barker repeatedly violating a civil no-trespass notice Bradley had obtained against him and on accusations he pushed drugs on Sarah. Numerous witnesses, including Barker's parents, testified Bradley told them he'd shoot Barker if he returned.
"Brendon was not a drug dealer," Sarah said.
Baker said Bradley was different when they married in 1992. He was fun, but, she said, he got into drugs and wouldn't quit, so she left. Baker, Strasburg's first female town police officer, had sole custody of Sarah and the couple's son, Dylan, now 13.
She points at a patch on the ceiling, remnants of a hole she says Bradley left when he found out she filed a no-trespass notice against him in late 1996.
"[Bradley] is not somebody you fool with," Baker said. "He's somebody you tiptoe around. I have for years."
The couple briefly reconciled, leading to the birth of Dylan. For many years, Bradley only saw the children at Christmas, Baker said. They began seeing him again in 2007 while the trespass notice was still in effect, Baker said.
"He made a point of coming in the house," she said. "So, how can he use that as an excuse for killing somebody?"
Sarah moved in with Bradley in May 2008 after she and Baker began fighting over missed curfews. Baker said Bradley at first let Sarah do as she pleased before cracking down on her. He started keeping his daughter and Barker apart after finding out she spent the night with him and a friend rather than the girlfriend she'd said she was with.
Bradley got the no-trespassing notice after finding a partially clad Barker in Sarah's room. She says they were just dressing him up in girl clothes to show Dylan. The boy continued to sneak over, unbeknownst to his parents, she said.
Sarah and her mother have seen online message boards blaming her and Barker for the shooting, and justifying Bradley's actions. Sarah believes if Bradley hadn't shot Barker that night, he would have another night.
"This was in no way Jody Bradley saving Sarah from Brendon," Baker said. "This was him angry."
Sarah added, "I think that made [Bradley] mad, that he tried so hard to break us up, but we wouldn't. It wasn't just a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. He was my best friend."
Sarah and her mother say Bradley, who testified that he takes pain medicine for his back, abused prescription drugs. Baker is galled that a nephew, who she says provided her daughter with drugs after the murder, sat in court to support Bradley.
Sarah -- who never was a wild girl according to her mother -- said she and Barker rarely smoked pot, which they got at school. Barker urged her to cut back. Bradley knew about her smoking.
"He told me there's only one problem, you've got to watch where you get [it] from," Sarah said. "He said it could mess you up for life and he has gotten stuff that has been laced."
Sarah said her father caught her and two girlfriends smoking marijuana outside the house and just told them to stop.
"That's someone who's really angry about drug use?" Baker asked.
These days, Sarah said, she doesn't do drugs, and her mother tests her for their presence.
Sarah believes Bradley was driven by "jealousy and attention."
"Anything [pets] that got too close, he kicked it out or killed it," she said.
Sarah said Bradley called the police when the two started arguing, with her demanding to know why he wasn't around for seven years.
"He picked me off his bed and threw me," Sarah said.
The incident impacted Dylan.
"I used to think he was OK," Dylan said. "He used to throw the football with me, play basketball a little bit. When I saw him throw his fit with Sarah, I saw him a different way. He was pretty much a jerk. Maybe when he gets out, I might run into him, but I never really want to visit him because I just really noticed how much it hurt Sarah and it hurt the family."
Both children are in therapy, and Sarah, who worked on a scrapbook of Barker as she talked, has flashbacks of the shooting. Baker thinks her children will feel the effects of their father's actions for years.
"The flashbacks, they get so bad, I wake up in cold sweats every morning," Sarah said. "I have nightmares that Dad gets out of jail and he comes after me. I'm just so scared he's going to come after me or Mom, or [Barker's] family. Every time I hear a loud noise, I think someone's getting shot, or I'm going to get shot. I need an escape route wherever I am in case there's a shooting.
"Once he gets out, there's no way I'm ever getting near him," she continued. "I will change my name if I have to. I'm not going to live here because of the fact he will get out around here. Especially if I have kids. The mentality of Dad, I'm afraid he will come after us. It's our fault."
Sarah says her grandmother has disowned her, and leaving court one day, an aunt walked by and said, "Good job, Sarah. I hope you're happy."
The jury's sentence left Sarah "mad and confused."
"All these people had to agree to this," she said. "How do they think that this is right? And then, having to sit there while they call everyone's name out and they agree to it, hurt so bad."
Finding it too painful to hear classmates' questions at school, Sarah has obtained her GED. She will finish some culinary classes at Triplett Tech and hopes to study criminal justice so she can help crime victims.