Chester homicide victim, 11 months, was just learning how to walk

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comSeptember 23, 2013 

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    Friends of the Stewart family have started a fundraiser to help raise money for Madison Stewart’s burial expenses. To donate, visit

— Madison Stewart had just learned how to put one foot in front of the other.

The 11-month-old girl, whose brown hair covered a strawberry birthmark on the back of her head, was working hard to “get the hang of” a baby walk using a walker that helped her stand up straight, her aunt said on Monday.

The little girl won’t be learning to walk anymore. “Madi Cakes,” whose deep blue eyes were “always glowing with happiness,” will be laid to rest at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Liberty Baptist Church in York.

Authorities say she is Chester County’s third homicide victim this year.

“A lot of prayer went into having Madison,” said her aunt, Kimberly Stewart. “Her mom worshipped the ground she walked on...crawled on, in this case.”

Last Friday, at 3:42 p.m., Madison died. She had been in the intensive care unit of Levine Children’s Hospital on life support for two days after paramedics found her suffering from severe injuries last Wednesday.

Those injuries, police have said, came at the hands of Jeffery Todd Bradley, a 27-year-old Iraq War veteran who is now jailed at the Chester County Detention Center. He is charged with homicide by child abuse, a felony carrying a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

He is the boyfriend to Madison’s mother, Penny Stewart. Madison’s father was Michael Sanders, according to her obituary.

According to deputies, while the girl was in Bradley’s care, she suffered from a fractured skull, kidney injuries and internal bleeding in her brain.

A police report released Monday shows that deputies initially learned about the incident when dispatchers relayed a call about a baby being electrocuted. When deputies went to Madison’s Hardin Strait Road home, near Lowrys, no one was there. A neighbor told police that he saw a baby get taken away in an ambulance.

Deputies later received a call from a Department of Social Services worker, who said Madison suffered from “non-accidental life-threatening internal injuries,” according to the report.

Her injuries were not “consistent with a fall,” which is what Bradley originally claimed happened, Sheriff’s Office Major Mary Anne Tolbert said. He also told police Madison was electrocuted after putting a phone plug in her mouth.

On Monday, deputies interviewed Bradley again. This time, he told deputies a story that proved to be consistent with what doctors said likely happened, Tolbert said.

She would not elaborate, only saying that he is now willing to cooperate with the investigation.

Army officials last week confirmed that Bradley served nine years in the military, serving two overseas deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. He received at least 10 awards and commendations during his service, and was last stationed at Fort Riley in north-central Kansas.

His rank was an E-1 private. Records indicate that he had been on reserve status. On Saturday, he limped into a courtroom and said he has a pending disability case with Veterans Administration.

Penny Stewart had been trying for more than six years to have a child, said Kimberly Stewart, Madison’s aunt and Penny Stewart’s sister-in-law.

If she had a girl, she wanted to name her Madison.

“She had that name picked out since she was a kid,” Kimberly Stewart said. “She always wanted to give her that name.”

Finally, on Oct. 17, 2012, her little girl came.

“So many people came into the hospital to hold (Madison) and meet her,” she said.

One of those people was Patricia Noe, Madison’s grandmother. Before Penny Stewart gave birth, Patricia Noe joked that the girl would be born on her birthday, also in October.

“No, she won’t,” Penny Stewart would say. “That’s Madi’s day.”

“She was my chunky monkey,” Patricia Noe said. “She was an angel. That smile will just make you melt.”

“She had the cutest laugh and the prettiest, prettiest eyes,” said Jennifer Noe, Penny Stewart’s stepsister. “Penny called her a miracle baby.”

Madison spent her days with Kimberly Stewart, a stay-at-home mother of five children, while Penny Stewart went to work. She never went to sleep without her favorite toy – a glowworm baby doll, her aunt said.

“That girl doesn’t believe in sleeping” without the doll, she said. “She had to have it.”

And, she did – “from the day she was born.”

The girl’s favorite game was patty-cake. That’s why Kimberly Stewart called her niece “Madi Cakes.”

“She was one of the happiest babies that I’ve ever seen,” Kimberly Stewart said. “She always smiled. She would open her mouth wide open and say, ‘Hey!’”

“Hey,” one of the few short words she knew, was her way of telling loved ones that she wanted to be picked up.

Penny Stewart and Jeffery Bradley have known each other since high school, family members said. During a Saturday bond hearing, Bradley told a judge he and Penny Stewart had been living together since April.

“The boy fooled us all,” said Madison’s grandfather, Tony Stewart. “We thought he was a good” man because “he served in the Armed Forces.”

Penny Stewart is “trying to hang in there,” Kimberly Stewart said. “It’s not working that great. She’s devastated. She left for work that day. Madi was playing and laughing. That was the last time she got to see that pretty smile on her face.”

“Penny never got to hear her say, ‘I love you,’ nothing like that,” Jennifer Noe said. “I think that’s the hardest part.”

Madison’s family wants “justice served to the fullest,” Patricia Noe said. “No baby on God’s green earth deserved what Madi went through.”

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