On the evening of July 20, a concerned aunt drove her 26-month-old nephew to a Department of Human Services office in Little Rock to show caseworkers the bruises on his buttocks and back. The child had been spending the night at his aunt’s when she changed his diaper and discovered the marks.
The DHS worker on duty took photos of the boy, but told Amanda Allen, the aunt, to return the child to his mother.
Exactly a month later, Aug. 20, Freddy Bradford was taken to Arkansas Children’s Hospital with a fractured skull, detached gallbladder, internal bleeding and bruises all over his body. Doctors said it was as if he’d hit a brick wall at 65 miles per hour.
His mother and boyfriend had earlier told police they’d spanked the child with a belt and an extension cord, a report says.
The mother and boyfriend were apparently living with the boyfriend’s mother, Carla Rucker.
Rucker worked for DHS’ Division of County Relations, but resigned her job Aug. 8, agency spokesman Julie Munsell said.
Rucker told an interviewer for KATV Channel 7 that they didn’t take the boy to a doctor for his injuries — which she claimed came from a fall and from bumping his head on a door — “because he didn’t show any signs of trauma. He appeared to me to be OK.”
Doctors operated last week to remove Freddy’s gallbladder. He’s in stable condition, but on Saturday developed aspiration pneumonia, the family said. He has a feeding tube.
DHS is reviewing the handling of Freddy’s case, Munsell said. The agency filed a petition Monday to place the child in foster care; a juvenile court hearing is set for next Tuesday. Freddy’s grandfather, Randall Bradford of Solvang, Calif., is seeking custody. Bradford arrived in Little Rock Thursday. The child’s great-aunt, Tanya Bradford, was granted emergency custody by Circuit Judge Richard Moore last week, but DHS’s petition superseded the order.
Anne Orsi Smith, attorney for Tanya Bradford and Randall Bradford, said she’s handled child abuse cases for the past 15 years and that she’d seen “some pretty bad cases. This one ranks way up there.”
Police were alerted to the abuse after two employees at the Harvest Foods grocery store on Rodney Parham called to say they’d seen a boy with two black eyes. The boy was wearing sunglasses, but the employees saw the bruises and asked the adults with the child — two women and a man — what had happened to him. They were told he’d fallen. The boy, the women and the man then left the store, walking toward Shackleford Road.
Police tracked the group to an apartment at 1601 N. Shackleford. Their report said officers “observed severe bruising around the child’s eyes and head. They also discovered bruising and loop marks covering his entire back and bruising on his arms and legs.” The boy’s mother, Brittany Bradford, 17, and her boyfriend, Brandon Bellows, 22, were charged with second-degree domestic battery and placed in the Pulaski County jail. Both are being held on $100,000 bonds. Brittany Bradford has a Sept. 2 court date.
DHS had initiated an investigation into child abuse after seeing Freddy on July 20. But the family said a DHS worker called Amanda Allen, who first reported the abuse, two weeks after the visit to ask directions to Brittany Bradford’s home.
The incident comes hard on the heels of the investigations of four deaths of children placed in foster care by DHS. DHS has declined to provide any information on the children or how they died while it’s investigating.
Brittany took a bus from Solvang, Calif., in June to Little Rock to be with Bellows, whom she’d met on a previous trip to Arkansas. She’ll be 18 on Sept. 11.
Randall Bradford is the former chief information officer for the state who was fired by Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2002 after Bradford made public troubles with the state’s computer system.