Patrick Bradford and his children
The Defendant, Patrick Bradford, was a police officer in Evansville, Indiana. He married his high school sweetheart, but eight years into the marriage, he began a long affair with another woman, the victim, Tammy Lohr. Patrick's wife knew about the affair, but neither she nor Patrick was interested in getting a divorce because they had two small children.
Tammy worked at the county jail along with a coworker who was putting in time at the jail with hopes of joining the police force when he was old enough. His dream was destroyed when he was fired from the jail for (1) hitting inmates, and (2) sexually harassing Tammy. He ranted that he would get even with Tammy if it were the last thing he ever did. He threatened and stalked her, and she filed a complaint after catching him staking out her house in the dead of the night.
On August 1, 1992, Patrick Bradford was on duty, patrolling alone on third shift. Before beginning his shift, he stopped by Tammy's house briefly. Tammy's father talked to her on the phone twenty minutes into Patrick's shift, so she was clearly alive at 10:50 p.m., well after he left.
Patrick's late shift was unusually busy. In fact there was only one period of just 65 minutes (11:05 pm-12:10 am) when his whereabouts were not clearly documented by the police dispatch records. This gap represents the only imaginable opportunity for Patrick to go to Tammy's house, and the prosecution focused on that "window of opportunity.
"Even that window, however, was not exactly "open." Fifteen minutes into that period at 11:20 p.m. (when the prosecutor contends he was murdering the victim) Patrick was in radio contact with dispatch when he spotted a well-known drug dealer named "White Boy" Russell while patrolling. There were no outstanding warrants, though, so he did not pull Russell over. The "window" squeezed tighter when forty minutes into that 65 minute period he was seen by two witnesses patrolling near a tavern miles away from the home where Tammy died.
The "window" was narrowed still more by Patrick's recall of a peculiar accident scene, miles away from the crime, which he was able to diagram perfectly. (Patrick's family, after the trial, tracked down a witness at that scene who identified Patrick as an officer he had seen at that accident. That witness' identity was not made known to the defense attorneys as the law requires.)
The window closed finally at 12:10 a.m. when Patrick was dispatched to transport a suspect. The suspect testified that Patrick was relaxed, polite, and "friendlier than the other officers." In fact every witness, whether for the State or the Defense, testified that Patrick behaved normally that evening: very professional, neat, and not disturbed or preoccupied.
Actually, Tammy was not killed within that period of time. Neighbors reported that her lights were on at 12:30 a.m. and off at 2:00 a.m. This means that someone was alive in the house well after the prosecution insists she was dead. But if she had been killed then, whoever turned off the lights could not have been Patrick Bradford.
When Patrick's shift was over, he drove by Tammy's house, as was his habit. Providentially, a bank's automatic surveillance camera photographed his car moments before he reached her home. Just at that time, Patrick says he saw smoke coming from the roof vents and soffits of Tammy's house. (He was actually the second person to notice the smoke: a newspaper carrier told his wife, then police, that he smelled smoke as he crossed Tammy's lawn, several minutes before Patrick arrived.)
When he entered the unlocked house he found the bed in flames and the house filled with rolling smoke. He exited, then radioed (from his portable radio) that there was a fire and that it "looks like a fatality." From the time the bank camera photographed his passing car to the time he radioed police dispatch, a mere 65 seconds had elapsed. Witnesses who saw him moments later described him as distraught, as did the reporters who arrived at the scene.
Patrick went immediately back to the police station, gave a full statement, and tuned over his uniform to be examined for evidence. When asked who might have bear a grudge against Tammy, Patrick offered several possibilities – the most obvious being Tammy's stalker and former coworker. Patrick gave three other statements to the police over the next three weeks - all without a lawyer, of course. He knew the risk as well as anyone, but he didn't want to be the reason Tammy's killer went free. All of the statements were consistent with one another.
The detective assigned to the case was Detective Minnis. Minnis went to the home of Tammy's former coworker at the jail, questioning him in the presence of his wife (and alibi) for less than ten minutes. Although the coworker admitted he had left his wife sleeping at home from 5:30 a.m.-7:00 a.m., Minnis decided immediately that he wasn't the killer and never considered him as a suspect again.
The autopsy revealed a horrid, ghastly crime. Tammy had been stabbed over 20 times to the front and the back of her body, and her throat was cut. Her body had been doused with gasoline and set afire. The autopsy report concluded that the (good) condition of the internal organs, specifically the pancreas, indicated a time of death "possibly 5-6 hours, and probably less than 1-2 hours before the fire." Only after Patrick's detailed alibi notice was filed did the prosecution realize that this finding conflicted with the presumption of Patrick's guilt. Conveniently, the medical examiner changed his estimate of the time of death in his trial testimony to, "any time in the 24-hour period before discovery of the body." When challenged about the change from his original opinion, he said that the original opinion (the one that cited the condition of the internal organs) was not a medical opinion, but, rather, a guess based on how he had seen "cases like this turn out in the past."
There was another body at the scene – Tammy's dog. The dog had been kicked in the head and stabbed, and his body was found in the living room, completely untouched by fire. But while the murderer destroyed evidence by arson, the police destroyed it by negligence. By failing to properly handle (refrigerate) the dog, police spoiled the most important physical evidence: his body could have pinpointed the time of death for both of them.
Lab testing revealed neither blood nor gasoline on Patrick, his patrol car, his own car, or his uniform. No murder weapon was ever recovered. Patrick had no motive - his wife knew about the affair, and he had been seeing Tammy for almost four years. Tammy was the love of his life.
Patrick was arrested for 1st degree murder and arson. However, the prosecution's closing argument put forward a scenario that was the definition of voluntary manslaughter, contending that Patrick drove across town from his district to Tammy's house at the beginning of his shift, and "suddenly just flew into a rage about some unknown thing" and stabbed Tammy over 20 times.
This scenario demands that Patrick must somehow have cleaned himself, his uniform, and his accessories of all traces of blood (and remember, this was a gruesome scene – the victim was stabbed over 20 times.) To provide some explanation for the strange things discovered at the home, the prosecutor went on to claim that Patrick had then "staged an elaborate crime scene" cutting a screen out of a window, bringing a ladder from the basement and propping it beneath the window, disabling the telephone line outside the house in a very peculiar and complex manner, throwing the circuit breaker for the bedroom, and rifling through Tammy's purse.
In the midst of all that busy-ness, the prosecutor alleged that Patrick had gone outside to his car radio and requested warrant information about "White Boy" Russell, even specifying his license number. This crazy scenario is sandwiched into less than thirty-five minutes even if you don't consider Patrick's appearance at the traffic accident.
The Prosecutor further contended that Patrick returned in the morning, set the fire, and called it in. This means that in the space of 65 seconds (according to the bank camera and dispatch tapes) Patrick had to drive half a block, get out of the car, walk into the house, pour three quarts of gasoline on the body and bed (very carefully so as not to splash any gasoline on himself), set the fire, go back outside, and then radio for help.
Even apart from the absurdity of it, there are two huge problems with the prosecution's account of the fire. First, a newspaper carrier came forward on the first day, corroborated by his wife, to say he had smelled smoke before Patrick arrived. Second, two joggers whom Patrick passed moments before arriving at Tammy's house saw the smoke above the treetops barely 66 seconds later (again according to the faithful bank camera.) A surveyor's calculations yielded a smoke height of at least 500 feet. Even if one could move fast enough to set such a fire, can one cause a fire in a closed bedroom in a closed house to belch a thick column of smoke 500 feet into the sky in only 66 seconds?
Evansville Fire Department investigator Jesse Storey contended that the fire was of short duration, burning freely for eight to ten minutes before it was extinguished. Two serious problems here. First, the time from Patrick's arrival to the time the fire was extinguished was well under eight minutes. Thus, if you subtract the time of Patrick's arrival from the time the fire was extinguished, the fire must have started before Patrick arrived.
Second, the fire, according to the prosecution, burned freely. Based on smoke staining on the door, they contended that the door was open barely one inch throughout the fire. However, the two theories of a free-burning, gas-accelerated fire and that of a nearly closed door are in direct opposition to one another. A gasoline-accelerated fire would quickly deplete the oxygen in such a closed environment, reducing it to a smoldering state, so the fire could not burn freely. The damage to the room was, however, consistent with a fire that was allowed to burn freely for at least eight to ten minutes.
Patrick stated that the door to the room was open nine to twelve inches, allowing him to see into the room. The first firefighter who entered the house also firmly stated that the door was open nine to twelve inches, and that he could see into the bedroom. But at the trial the fireman testified that the door was closed. Under cross-examination, he admitted that the prosecutor, chief of police, fire investigators, and detectives had called him downtown and had "shown him the evidence" and convinced him that he was wrong about his recollection of the bedroom door being open more than one inch.
At the trial, the prosecution presented a parade of witnesses who testified contrary to their earlier sworn statements. Perhaps the most damaging testimony was that of a neighbor who, when first questioned, knew nothing relevant. (She said she heard angry shouting at about 4:00am, but nobody else in the tight-packed neighborhood reported the same.) But immediately after Police Chief Art Gann publicized the alleged 65-minute gap in Patrick's radio activity (virtually writing the script for any willing "witness") she resurfaced, telling officers that she just remembered having seen an Evansville Police Department patrol car in Tammy's driveway at about 11:00 p.m. on the night of the murder. While she was not a credible witness, and was demonstrated to be lying about much of her whereabouts on that night, she was nevertheless the only witness that even circumstantially connected Bradford to the murder scene.
Early in the defense's investigative stage, Patrick's lawyer spoke to "White Boy" Russell, and Russell said that he had been out driving in the area at the time and in the place that Patrick said he had been driving. But Patrick's lawyer did not depose Russell. At trial, Russell testified that he had been inside all night long at his brother's birthday party. About two years after Patrick was sentenced, Patrick's family finally tracked down Russell's brother. Although the brother had had a birthday party that night, Russell was not in attendance. In addition, the cops were called out to the party - all of them would have recognized Russell had he been there; and all of them would have immediately approached him to see if he was carrying any drugs to sell.
Coincidentally, a few years later, when we were researching the court records on Russell, we discovered that during the four months after Patrick's arrest, Russell had very little criminal court activity. But as Patrick's court date approached, Russell was called into court for approximately five different cases - all in the six-week period immediately prior to Patrick's trial. Russell was in court - for one case or the other - every four or five days. Once Russell testified, all of his court activity CEASED, and a serious felony charge was dropped with no explanation.
In summary, the prosecution was vigorous
and dramatic. The defense was neither. Today an innocent man sits
under an 80-year sentence for crimes that he could not logically have committed,
even if he had wished to do so.
As chilling as anything is that this story has no back room torture under a bare light bulb. It has no vast sums of money buying cover for organized crime. It has neither hero nor devil. Just a score of decent citizens, policemen, lawyers, and jurors, in varying shades of ignorance, indifference, and ambition. None pausing to think, nor daring to care, that they swept away the innocent with the guilty.
How will you fight if one day it is "The State versus You?"
If that day ever comes for you, we hope you respond as admirably as has Patrick Bradford. Handling his wrongful conviction with grace and dignity, Patrick does not waste his time with bitter complaints. Instead he focuses on helping others by being actively involved in the prison ministry and by teaching barely literate inmates how to read and write. Having received a full scholarship from Grace College, he has completed his undergraduate degree while in prison and is currently studying for a master's degree in theology.
And he prays for this nightmare of injustice to end.
We ask that you also pray – for Patrick
and for all the uncounted others who are paying for crimes they did not
commit. Pray that the light of justice will not be smothered by society's
If you have information that will help Patrick, or if you would like to learn more about what you can do to help him, click HERE to e-mail the Committee to Free Patrick Bradford.