Waldroup guilty, will not face death penalty
A conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping and felony first degree murder in the death of Leslie Bradshaw were required in order for Waldroup to face a death sentence.
After four days of testimony and nearly two days of deliberation, a jury has convicted Davis Bradley Waldroup, Jr., of the aggravated kidnapping and voluntary manslaughter of Leslie Bradshaw and the especially aggravated kidnapping and attempted second degree murder of his estranged wife Penny Waldroup on October 13, 2006. A conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping and felony first degree murder in the death of Leslie Bradshaw were required in order for Waldroup to face a death sentence.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 7th. The conviction drawing the greatest jail time is the especially aggravated kidnapping against Penny Waldroup, a Class A felony, where the range is 15-25 years. The range for voluntary manslaughter, a Class C felony, is 3-6 years.
State Prosecutors Drew Robinson, Wayne Carter and Cynthia Schemel attempted to prove that Waldroup intended to confine the two victims by removing the keys from the ignition of Penny Waldroup’s van and throwing them into the yard, and that the confinement led to the murder of Bradshaw and attempted murder of Penny Waldroup.
Defense attorneys Shari Young and Wiley Richardson painted a picture of Waldroup as an irrational, frustrated and intoxicated man who snapped and was not in control of his actions. In closing arguments, Richardson said the case was not a “whodunit,” but a “why-done-it.”
Judge Carroll Ross presided over the trial, which began Tuesday afternoon after a day and a half in Bradley County for jury selection. The jury was made up of ten women and two men, plus four alternates instead of the normal two.
According to testimony, five bullets were removed from Bradshaw and she received several blows to the head; Penny Waldroup was shot, cut with a pocket knife, struck with a shovel and cut with a machete.
Penny testified that she took Bradshaw with her to the residence of Brad Waldroup on Kimsey Mountain Highway to drop off the couple’s four children because she was afraid to go by herself. “I was afraid he would start arguing or want to hit me.” She had left word with a friend to contact police if she and Bradshaw did not return by a certain time. It was that call that sent Polk County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Price to the scene.
Penny testified that upon their arrival, Brad came around from the back of the trailer holding a .22 rifle and a picture of a bear that he showed to the kids and to Bradshaw. She said after unloading luggage and groceries, she and Bradshaw went to get back into the van, but that Brad said he wanted to talk about their marital problems. Penny testified that when she told Brad she did not want to talk then, he grabbed her shoulder and pulled her keys out of her ignition. She said she did not know what he did with the keys and begged him to let her leave.
According to Penny’s testimony, Brad became frustrated and angry that she would not talk with him and accused Bradshaw of causing problems. Penny said Bradshaw was standing next to the passenger side with the door open, smoking a cigarette. She said as the arguing continued, Brad pulled the gun up and started shooting. Penny said she jumped from the driver’s seat to the middle of the van and out the side door, where Bradshaw was lying on the ground.
Penny testified she hunkered down and told Bradshaw, “Leslie, we need to get out of this. You’re gonna have to get up, going to have to run.” She said it looked as though Bradshaw tried to move her arm and leg, but did not respond. Penny testified that when she saw Brad come around the van, she took off running but was knocked down by a shot in the back. She said Brad then got on top of her and pointed the gun at her head, but she kicked the butt of the gun out of his hands.
According to her testimony, Brad then went for his pocket knife, which the two fought over, resulting in the loss of Penny’s left pinkie finger and a cut on Brad’s thumb. Penny said she got the knife and threw it and was able to jump up and run again, but Brad then came after her with a square shovel. She said she was able to try to escape again when Brad’s dog distracted him, but he then grabbed her by the hair and began hitting her with a machete.
Penny testified that Brad then dragged her over to Bradshaw’s body and began to cuss Bradshaw, kick her body and hit her with the machete. Afterward, Penny said, Brad led her back to the trailer.
Once inside the trailer, Penny said she began passing out, was unable to stand for any length of time, and was asking her daughter to bring her some towels and keep bringing her water because she was very thirsty. She testified that Brad wanted to have sex with her and told the children to tell their mother goodbye. She said she hugged her two oldest children, but that the younger two were too frightened to hug her.
Penny testified that Brad asked her to take a shower but that she refused because she thought it would make it easier for him to clean up everything. She said Brad threw her on the bed, but that as soon as he did, her oldest daughter came in and said she saw headlights coming. Penny said Brad went to the door and opened it, and she pushed past him and ran toward the car, which turned out to be Deputy Greg Price.
In testifying for his own defense, Brad denied he wanted to have sex with Penny. He also denied asking her to take a shower, stating he had been fixing up the trailer and that the shower did not work. Brad said his dad had given him the .22 rifle so that he had some protection from bears.
Brad said he had only been staying at the trailer in Greasy Creek for about a week, and that he had left the couple’s home in Meigs County the week before because Penny had not come home from work and did not show up for a family outing he had planned. He said he had learned from his daughter the Thursday before the incident that Penny had been seeing another man and had contacted a divorce lawyer. Brad said he stayed with his uncle and father some during the week preceding the events because he did not want to be alone, was depressed and suicidal and not able to sleep.
According to Brad’s testimony, he left work early on the afternoon of the incident because his depression and lack of sleep was affecting his work. He said he got groceries, then stopped for a bottle of George Dickel, stopped at The Duff for a couple of beers and also stopped for a six pack of Budweiser tall boys before heading home. He said he did not expect to see Bradshaw, that she was not welcome, and that he was mad that she was there. Brad said Penny previously admitted to having a lesbian affair with Bradshaw and had promised not to be friends with her anymore. Penny denied there was ever an affair with Bradshaw.
Brad testified that he asked Penny for the truth about the marriage and the man she was seeing. He said Penny was smirking and Bradshaw told him Penny did not want him anymore. He said he felt like they were having a laugh at his expense and told Bradshaw she was putting ideas in his wife’s head. He said he was enraged, that his ears were ringing and his head was roaring and the next thing he knew, he had started firing the gun. Brad said he did not recall shooting Bradshaw but he was certain he did. He said he did not have much memory of the events that came afterward and that his memories were like still pictures.
“I don’t know why I snapped,” Brad said, “I don’t know why the level of violence, I just know I wanted her and loved my kids.”
The Waldroup’s oldest daughter testified she did not see her dad shoot Bradshaw, but saw him with the knife, saw him get the machete and saw him grab the shovel and bash in her mother’s head. She said she screamed for him to stop, and heard him say “I’m the devil and I’m here to do the devil’s work.”
Deputy Price testified that when he pulled up to the trailer, Penny came running out without her shirt or bra on and covered in blood. He said Penny told him Brad had a gun and was trying to kill her. Price said he put Penny in the back of his patrol car and began to back out but stopped when Penny said her kids were still in the house. He said Brad came out of the trailer saying “I murdered her,” and showed him Bradshaw’s body. A 911 recording of Price radioing in to dispatch to ask for detectives was played in which Brad could be heard in the background saying “I murdered her.”
As part of the defense, Young and Richardson introduced testimony from Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. William Bernet, who said he had examined Brad Waldroup to determine his state of mind during the offenses committed. Bernet said he believed Waldroup suffered from a severe major depressive disorder with single episode psychotic features and an intermittent explosive disorder, causing extreme anger that was out of proportion. Bernet said some of Waldroup’s problems dealt with alcohol dependence, but he did not believe they were the root problem.
After a lengthy debate, Judge Ross allowed the defense to introduce genetic testing results. Dr. Bernet testified that genetic testing showed issues with both seratonin levels and transmitters in Waldroup’s brain that rendered him unable to engage in the reflection and judgment necessary to premeditate the crimes. Bernet said his diagnosis was not based on the genomic testing, but the tests confirmed his initial diagnosis. He cited dozens of studies and articles written on genomic research and said results of the initial studies had been replicated more than 36 times since 2002.
Prosecutors put on rebuttal witnesses Dr. Robert Brown, a Forensic Psychologist and Dr. Terry Holmes, Clinical Director of Moccasin Bend, who listed alcohol addiction as the main issue and a moderate depressive disorder, that was likely brought on by alcohol dependence. Brown said Waldroup was primarily paranoid and secondarily antisocial but that he had no data to support the idea that psychotic features were present at the time of the crime. Holmes said he did not believe genetic testing held much weight and that the science was “not old enough to be considered in its infancy.”
All four of the doctors testified that Waldroup was sane and competent to stand trial. They also agreed that Waldroup was not faking disorders, but disagreed as to the nature of the disorders. Holmes said he believed the fact that Waldroup reloaded his weapon showed his intent. Waldroup testified he reloaded the weapon in order to shoot himself. The Waldroup’s oldest daughter testified Waldroup said he was going to take Penny to get help and then kill himself.
Also testifying for the State during the trial were Polk County Sheriff’s Detective Kevin Cole, Paramedic Russell Parsley, Forensic Pathologist Dr. Staci Turner, Erlanger Trauma Surgeon Dr. Vicente Mejia and Steve Scott, with the TBI Firearms Identification unit.
The jury began deliberations late Friday afternoon and continued until late in the evening, when they asked to re-hear the testimony and cross-examination of Penny Waldroup as well as the testimony of Brad Waldroup, beginning at the point when the van pulled up to his house. The testimony was replayed Saturday morning, and the jury continued to deliberate until around 3:30 Saturday afternoon.
Jury members were sequestered throughout the trial. Family members were permitted to bring changes of clothing and phone calls were permitted as long as an officer was present and the call was on speakerphone. Jurors were permitted to watch television, as long as they watched sports programming or sitcoms, but they were not permitted to watch any news broadcasts or crime dramas such as CSI or Law and Order.
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