Delaware Town Misses Red Flags In Pedophilia Case
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
In a small beach town in Delaware, pediatrician Earl Bradley was arrested last December. He now faces more than 500 counts of sexually abusing more than 100 of his very young patients. An independent report has now found that authorities in Delaware failed the families in the town of Lewes where there were suspicions for years before Bradley's arrest. The contents of this story are disturbing. It's reported by NPR's Jamie Tarabay.
JAMIE TARABAY: Breathtaking, that's what Widener University�School�of�Law Dean Linda Ammons called the allegations against Bradley in their numbers and in their depravity. And the worst part, she says, is that there were red flags everywhere that people could've used to prevent so much pain.
Dean LINDA AMMONS (Widener University�School�of�Law): A mass tragedy of this magnitude may have been preempted if the individuals directly involved had been alert, less willing to give Bradley the benefit of the doubt, and if they had scrupulously followed the law.
TARABAY: Ammons spent four months investigating the Bradley case. She says she spoke to nearly 70 people, looking into what she called perhaps the pedophilia case of the century. Not everyone was happy to speak, and some wouldn't even acknowledge their role in the case.
Dean AMMONS: I did have a name, but when I checked that name, I could not get confirmation about that party as to whether or not he or she was the actual person involved.
TARABAY: That person was a Delaware state judge. Ammons found he refused to sign a search warrant of Bradley's office in 2008. The judge did offer to sign an arrest warrant, but that was never followed up. And there were others. A doctor who referred to Bradley as a pedophile in police and media reports was advised by his lawyer not to participate in the investigation.
Ammons inquiry found that no one mandated by Delaware law to report child abuse had forwarded information about Bradley to state agencies as required. Her list includes police, prosecutors and medical professionals.
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TARABAY: But that is little comfort to people in Lewes, where Bradley's BayBees Pediatrics sits on the coastal highway. Once almost a theme park, the toys are all now stashed away, the tiny carousel boarded up from view. Parents overwhelmed by guilt and shame are trying to face the town that wonders how anyone could've left a child alone with that man.
Candace Shetzler is an occupational therapist. She never met Earl Bradley, but remembers a recent town meeting for parents who patronized his practice.
Ms. CANDACE SHETZLER (Occupational Therapist): Hearing those people and some of their personal stories was really just eye-opening. Sometimes I don't even think it maybe wasn't a bad choice. It was just in that split second, you chose to let your child go get a lollipop while you dealt with your other child. You turned away for one second to answer the phone.
TARABAY: And in some cases, that is allegedly all it took for Bradley to get the children alone. Authorities also charged Bradley molested children even as he was examining them in the presence of their parents or grandparents. Toddlers going in for sore throats or flu shots would have physical exams.
Mr. MICHAEL KELLEY (Office Administrator, Lewes Schools): Hi, Jamie.
While the authorities continue their investigations, people in Lewes are making changes. Mike Kelley is central office administrator for the area schools. He's now revising curriculum that teaches children about good touch and bad touch.
Mr. KELLEY: Unfortunately, part of the teaching is that, well, if it's a doctor or a nurse or if your parents are with you, then it's okay. So we, you know, obviously, we've got to go back and look at that.
TARABAY: It's not clear if the Ammons inquiry will result in charges against the many officials blamed. The Delaware Attorney General's Office is conducting its own investigation into who knew and could bring charges. At the same time, the governor is meeting with state legislators to see what laws can be amended or created to guard against future abuse. And the Attorney General's Office is also working on its case against Bradley, who remains in jail on a cash bail that is now set at nearly $5 million. He is expected to go to trial next February.
Jamie Tarabay, NPR News.
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