One claims that panel was 'blackmailed' by member who wanted killer to get five years
By Sally Voth - email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- Two members of the Shenandoah County Circuit Court jury that recommended on Thursday that Jody Lynn Bradley serve nine years in prison for murdering a 16-year-old boy said Friday that his sentence was too light. One of the jurors claimed another "blackmailed" the rest of the panel into a decision they didn't want to make.
After finding Bradley, 48, of 189 Wakemans Grove Road, Edinburg, guilty of second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, the jury recommended that he serve nine years for shooting to death Brendon Manning Barker, 16. The firearm charge carries a mandatory three-year sentence on top of the time for murder term.
Barker, a Strasburg High School student, and Bradley's daughter, Sarah, continued to see each other after her father barred him from the property and obtained a civil no-trespass notice against him. Sarah Bradley testified that Barker would sneak onto the property and that they sometimes smoked pot together, but said she was normally the one supplying it.
Barker's family and friends were shocked and outraged by the verdict -- jurors also could have chosen first-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter -- and sentence. Second-degree murder carries a five- to 40-year term.
"I hope they have nightmares over what they saw for the rest of their lives," Barker's sister, Ryan, said of the jurors after the sentence was announced.
One juror, a 48-year-old woman who asked for her name to be withheld, regrets the outcome.
"I thought he should get 20-plus [years]," she said Friday. "We had one man in there that was refusing to do anything, and he kind of blackmailed us into doing what he wanted. He wanted five years."
Asked why the other jurors agreed to a sentence they didn't like, the woman said, "Because we didn't want a hung jury, which at this point, it would've been better if it was a hung jury. The women cried. We all cried when that man refused to budge."
She said the lone juror held up the deliberations over whether Bradley was guilty of murder, and said he thought the shooting was accidental.
Defense attorney Gene Hart argued that when Bradley went up into his attic looking for an intruder -- who he admitted suspecting was Barker -- a crouching and hooded Barker startled him and he fired his gun. Blood-stain pattern expert Marjorie Harris testified that the lack of bloodstains on the front of Barker's clothes proved he was in a reclined position and wasn't leaning forward when shot.
"I have a feeling that [the holdout juror] knew the family," the juror said. "That's why he was doing what he was doing. [Bradley} knew that kid was in that house, and he kept telling everybody over and over and over, 'I'm going to kill him if I get a chance.' I'm really sorry for the outcome. I'm sorry that the guy didn't get more. I'm sorry that [Barker's mother, Janeen Johannsen] lost a son that she will never get back. I'm sorry that this turned out the way it did."
Another juror, a man who wished to remain anonymous, didn't want to comment other than to say he wished Bradley had gotten more time.
Elaine Neff was one of the original 13 jurors, but was named the alternate after the prosecution and defense rested their cases, so she didn't sit in on deliberations. She praised the prosecution's case, and said she thought Bradley should get the full 40 years.
"I think he got off easy," she said Friday. "I'm sorry, I have three sons, and I guess I probably should've excused myself when I realized this was about a 16-year-old boy, but I kept thinking, my God, the poor woman has to live with this the rest of her life. Her baby is gone."
Neff said she spoke to one of the female jurors who told her about the man on the panel who wanted Bradley sentenced to the minimum punishment for second-degree murder.
"I said, 'You've got to be kidding -- five years?'" Neff said. "I think they need to report it to the judge personally. I think they need to go to Judge [Dennis L.] Hupp and tell him that this guy did browbeat them."
Barker's family has "every right" to be upset with the outcome of the case, she said.
"I think it was terrible what they did to that woman," Neff said. "I don't think it's all the jury. I wish there was something that I could've done because I certainly didn't agree with the verdict at all. I hope [the holdout juror] can live with himself. It makes me angry. That child was a baby, 16 years old, who hadn't even begun to live life, and for that man to say, 'I thought it was an intruder.' No way when his daughter was right there [in the attic]. Good God."
Bradley showed no remorse for murdering Barker, Neff said.
"He's one of the coldest people I ever had to be around in my life, no emotion at all," she said.
From the time of the no-trespass notice being filed in November until the Jan. 6 shooting, Bradley had suspected Barker of being on his land, but had not seen him.
"But, he meant what he said, 'If I see him again, I will shoot him,'" Neff said.
While Ryan Barker's wish for jurors to have nightmares wasn't meant for Neff, she is haunted by the pictures she saw of Barker's lifeless body.
"I will never get that picture out of my mind, because it was just like looking at a baby," she said. "He was so relaxed. He didn't have a snowball's chance in Hades."