Advocacy born after Chester baby’s death

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comOctober 6, 2013 

— Never again.

Patricia Noe never wants to hear news of another child being killed by an adult. Kimberly Stewart never wants what happened to the blue-eyed baby girl she babysat to happen to another child.

Samantha Redmond and Jennifer Noe never want another family to experience the same anguish that’s rippled through their lives these past several weeks.

“We don’t want another kid to go through this, or even anybody that lost someone to go through this,” Redmond said.

To make sure everyone knows child abuse and this family don’t mix, some of Madison Stewart’s relatives are donning t-shirts with the baby’s face emblazoned on the back and a blue ribbon on the front that utters a message they hope to spread: Stop Child Abuse.

“There’s child abuse out there and it can happen to you,” Patricia Noe said. “You never think it will happen to you...but it can.”

Eleven-month-old Madison Stewart died Sept. 20 after police say she suffered severe head injuries inflicted by Jeffery Todd Bradley, a 27-year-old Iraq War veteran now charged with homicide by child abuse. He is being held at the Chester County Detention Center without bond.

Deputies and family members have said that Bradley was the boyfriend of Penny Stewart, Madison’s mother. They had lived together since April in a mobile home on Hardin Strait Road near Lowrys.

On Sept. 18, Madison Stewart was taken by helicopter to Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte. Bradley initially told police she had been electrocuted after putting a phone charge cable in her mouth. He later told investigators she had fallen.

After he called for help, Bradley performed CPR on Madison for about 11 minutes, according to a recording of the 911 call he made. Police charged Bradley when his account of what happened to Madison was not consistent with her injuries – a fractured skull, internal brain bleeding and kidney injuries.

Madison died two days later.

Patricia Noe was at church praying that Wednesday night when an emergency call flashed on her phone. She quietly walked away and learned what happened to the baby she loved “with all my heart.”

Before Madison’s burial, Patricia Noe said bruises —impressions from Bradley’s fingers— were clearly seen on Madison’s face.

Her theory: Bradley grabbed her the baby’s face and slammed her against the floor or some hard surface, cracking her skull “from front to back,” Patricia Noe said.

Now, left with only memories and a makeshift wreath of pink and white ribbon surrounded by pictures of Madison, members of the girl’s family have taken to advocacy.

Their message is educational, they say: Know who you allow around your children.

But, Jeffery Bradley had never been abusive to Penny Stewart or Madison as far as family members knew.

“We didn't see this coming,” Patricia Noe said.

“It took a long time for (Penny Stewart) to trust him,” Redmond said, because she had already been in several bad relationships.

When Penny Stewart went to work, she dropped off Bradley and Madison at her sister-in-law’s house. Kimberly Stewart would then be responsible as Bradley watched Madison.

“He was good with Madi when we were around,” Patricia Noe said.

Bradley was the only adult at home with Madison the night she was injured, police said. Her mother, a certified nursing assistant at White Oak Manor in York, was at work.

Nearly a week after Madison died, Tony Stewart, her grandfather, said the family thought they could trust Bradley because he served in the Armed Forces.

According to Army officials, Bradley received at least 10 awards and commendations in his nine-year military career that included service in Afghanistan and Iraq. He worked as a combat engineer and was last stationed at Fort Riley in north-central Kansas. He left the military last year as an E1 private.

“There are several reasons why he could have been an E1 ... anything from him ... having a reduction to him re-enlisting, a break in service,” or disciplinary actions, an Army spokesman said last month. “He could’ve gone AWOL.”

Army officials would not comment on any possible disciplinary actions imposed against Bradley. Efforts to reach Bradley’s family have been unsuccessful.

“I’ve met with him, talked with him, talked with his family,” said Sixth Circuit Public Defender Mike Lifsey, Bradley’s lawyer.

He declined to comment further aside from saying he’s “looking at all facets of the case.” It’s unclear when Bradley will next appear in court.

Whatever day that may be, Patricia Noe and her family plan to be there.

“I want to wear the shirt,” she said, but “every time I see it, I want to cry.”

Still, she’ll wear it.

“I do not want anybody on God’s green earth to go through this crap,” she said. “It’s awful...I don’t think me and her grandfather will ever get over it.”

Penny Stewart and her mother have gone to Florida to get away, Patricia Noe said. Penny told Patricia Noe, her stepmother, that “she doesn't know if she’ll ever be able to trust anybody else again.”

“She wanted that baby for so long,” Patricia Noe said. Penny Stewart had been trying for at least six years to have a child.

And, while she hopes the shirts spread the message, the grieving mother has told family she doesn't want to profit from them, Redmond said. The shirts are not for sale.

“It’s really rare for a family of survivors to go to the extent that they say, ‘I can’t help what happened to my child or my loved one, but I want to help others,’” said Laura Slade Hudson, executive director for the S.C. Crime Victims’ Council.

“That’s a very selfless thing to do,” she said.

Though everyone deals with grief differently, Hudson said victims often “choose to go within themselves, and it may take as many as eight years to really come out of a major depression.”

“Many people will give it a year or two...wait until somebody is convicted,” she said, “then they’re done because it becomes too painful to deal with other people’s pain. They have to sit it down and drop it and not continue because it’s just too help other people because it opens those wounds.”

Holidays, birthdays and special occasions make the pain “almost unbearable,” she said.

Victims experience plateaus after a loved one dies. Those plateaus can come when an arrest is made, if a body is found or if a defendant is convicted, Hudson said.

“Then, you go through all the rehashing of going through parole hearings every two years,” she said. “There’s really not an end to it. It’s never really over. You can’t ever get over it, but you do learn how to cope.”

“All loss is significant,” Hudson said, but “the loss of a child seems to cause the most pain with crime victims because you don’t expect to outlive a child.”

“You think, ‘I’m going to leave this world before they do. You have all these dreams of the potential of that child. Not only have you lost a child, you've lost the experience of them coming out of the first grade, watching them play soccer, their first girlfriend, their first boyfriend, marriage, them having children —all that is gone.”

Madison was just learning how to walk when she died, family said.

“We’re coping,” Kimberly Stewart said.

“Trying to cope,” Patricia Noe added.

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