The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

September 20, 2012

Sex-assault case heads to the jury

BEDFORD — A Bedford County jury began deliberations late Thursday evening in the sexual assault case of a traveling preacher charged in the April 2, 2009, molestation of an 11-year-old girl.

The Rev. Walter Bradshaw, 63, of Lexington, N.C., faces 24 charges related to the sexual abuse of the girl, now, 15, who along with her mother was befriended by the minister while he was preaching at the Alum Bank God’s Missionary Church.

Bradshaw, a carpenter by trade who conducted revival services for years throughout Pennsylvania, including the Cambria-Somerset region, stopped in Bedford the day of the alleged abuse to visit with the girl and her mother, according to his testimony.

He helped the girl with homework at a motel and then the mother left. The next morning, Bradshaw and the girl traveled to the Erie area, where they sang at church services over that weekend.

Bradshaw, testifying in his own defense, spent much of Thursday on the stand, at times emotional, denying doing anything wrong or inappropriate to the girl, who called him Poppa.

He adamantly responded “no” four times to defense attorney Thomas Crawford’s questions if he molested the girl, touched her or penetrated her.

Bradshaw admitted she spent the night in his motel room but said they slept in separate beds after he tucked her in and kissed her goodnight.

“She stayed at the motel with me ... ,” he said.

“She asked if she could sleep with me, but I would not allow it.”

Much of Bradshaw’s time on the stand had him responding to questions and attempting to explain statements he made in a late 2010 state police-recorded telephone conversation with the girl.

In explaining statements in which he seemed to be apologizing to her, he said he was explaining how sorry he was that the friendship had turned sour and she lied.

“It was never an admission. I was

not guilty. I did not have to admit to anything.”

In response to his taped statement: “You asked for it, you pushed on me,” Bradshaw told the jury he was having trouble hearing on the cellphone.

Early in the day, a nurse practitioner with the Children’s Research Center in Harrisburg testified that a physical examination of the girl showed normal findings, meaning it could not be determined whether she had been violated.

“I didn’t find anything abnormal about her genital area,” Mary Twoomy said.

“It didn’t suggest that there was penetration, it didn’t suggest there wasn’t penetration.”

In testimony Wednesday, the girl told the jury that Bradshaw had attempted to rape and molest her.

In closing arguments, Crawford told the jury the girl’s life has been filled with lies and inconsistent statements to the point that she put her mother in jail.

“Rev. Bradshaw is a man of God and a minister of God and he feels an obligation for these people who are in need,” Crawford said.

Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins said in closing that despite discrepancies in testimony, there is much more to the case than what the girl said.

“There is absolutely no question that for a long time, she cared for this man,” Higgins said. “She liked being with him.

“He was part of her life and then it stopped.”

Higgins referred to evidence submitted by the defense Thursday showing numerous birthday cards and letters the girl sent Bradshaw expressing her affection, but after April 2, 2009, there was nothing more sent by her to Bradshaw.

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