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Man charged with attempted capital murder in 1990 abduction

  • Story Highlights
  • 40-year-old held on $1 million bail in girl's abduction, rape, attempted killing
  • He could get life in prison if found guilty
  • "I want to see this through the end," victim says
  • DNA and other tests led to suspect, police say
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(CNN) -- A man arrested in connection with the 1990 abduction, rape and attempted murder of an 8-year-old girl appeared before a judge Thursday on an attempted capital murder charge, according to CNN affiliate KTRK.

Jennifer Schuett was kidnapped, raped and left for dead in a field in 1990.

Dennis Earl Bradford, a 40-year-old welder, was arrested after DNA tied him to the crime, police say.

Dennis Earl Bradford waived his right to a court-appointed attorney when he appeared Thursday, saying he would retain his own. For security reasons, the hearing was held at the Galveston (Texas) County Jail and not in a courtroom, the station reported.

The judge ordered Bradford to undergo a physical and mental evaluation and set bail at $1 million. His next court appearance was set for Wednesday, according to KTRK.

Upon conviction, an attempted capital murder charge could result in a sentence of life in prison.

Bradford, a 40-year-old welder, was arrested early Tuesday in Little Rock, Arkansas, in connection with the 1990 incident involving Jennifer Schuett, who was abducted from her bedroom, raped and left for dead in Dickinson, Texas.

Schuett shared her story with CNN two weeks ago in hope of someday bringing her attacker to justice. CNN normally does not identify victims of sexual assault, but Schuett decided to go public with her story to increase the chances of finding and prosecuting her attacker.

"It's not about me anymore," she told CNN in September. "It's about all the little girls that go to sleep at night. I know there are so many girls out there who have been raped and hurt. You have to fight back."

Bradford's arrest came after DNA and other forensic tests led police to him, authorities said.

"This is a huge day for me," Schuett told CNN on Tuesday. "And I want to see this through the end. The rest will come out during the trial."

Schuett said she was alone in her bed August 10, 1990, when a man crept in through a window. She remembers waking up in a stranger's arms as he carried her across a dark parking lot. She said he told her he was an undercover cop and knew her family.

He drove her through the streets of Dickinson, pulling into a mechanic's shop next to her elementary school.

"Watch the moon. The moon will change colors, and that is when your mom will come to get you," she recalled him saying. "Oh, it looks like she is not coming."

Schuett said he drove her to an overgrown field next to the school and sexually assaulted her.

She passed out. When she regained consciousness, she was lying naked on top of an ant hill with her throat slashed from ear to ear and her voice box torn.

She was found at 6 p.m. on a hot August day after lying in the field for nearly 12 hours. She was rushed to a hospital in critical condition.

"Three days after the attack, I started giving a description. The doctors told me I would never be able to talk again, but I proved them all wrong," Schuett said.

She believes that she got her voice back so she could tell her story.

Houston FBI Special Agent Richard Rennison is one of the lead investigators in the case, along with Dickinson Police Detective Tim Cromie.

Both men were discussing the case when Rennison received a memo from the FBI's Child Abduction Rapid Deployment (CARD) team, seeking child abduction cases that had gone cold and could be retested for DNA evidence. Schuett's was one of the cases selected.

"This is the only one that I can think of that the victim has suffered some traumatic injuries and survived," Rennison said. "The main reason the CARD team picked this case was because she was alive. In cases of child abduction, it is rare that the child is recovered alive. Frequently, you recover a body. And most times, you never find them."

The investigators found evidence collected 19 years ago, which was retested. It included the underwear and pajamas Schuett was wearing, as well as a man's underwear and T-shirt, which were found in the field where Schuett was found.

The clothes were tested in 1990, but the sample wasn't large enough for conclusive results. But now, modern techniques allow DNA to be isolated from a single human cell. They were still awaiting the results when CNN featured Schuett's story in late September.

CNN's Mayra Cuevas-Nazario contributed to this report.

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