Delaware pediatrician Earl Bradley's office looked like a fun place to visit: a merry-go-round and a miniature Ferris wheel twirled in the yard, a statue of Buzz Lightyear perched on the roof, and a purple hippo swung from a sign. But prosecutors say the office on Route 1 in Sussex County was more like a house of horrors.
For years, they say, Bradley used his office to sexually abuse scores of mostly female patients, videotaping some of the abuse in exam rooms decorated with images of Pinocchio and the Little Mermaid.
Bradley, a graduate of Temple University School of Medicine, faces hundreds of charges when he goes on trial Wednesday in Georgetown, Del. So far, however, information about the trial has been sparse. A gag order by Judge William Carpenter Jr. has prevented Bradley's attorneys, prosecutors, and others involved from talking. What is known comes largely from court documents, a state-ordered review of the case, and a few hearings.
"Answers are going to come out at the trial. You just don't know if that's going to satisfy all of people's questions," said psychologist Joseph Zingaro, who ran a support group for area parents after Bradley was arrested in 2009 but was speaking generally about the case. "I suspect some people are going to be pretty frustrated with the outcome, no matter what it is."
Already, Bradley's defense team has had a major defeat. His attorneys had argued that graphic videos of Bradley abusing children should not be presented at the trial because police obtained the homemade footage during an illegal search. But Carpenter ruled in April that the videos could be shown.
After the ruling, Bradley agreed to have the case heard by the judge, not a jury, meaning the trial will likely last days rather than weeks. Experts speculated that Bradley's attorneys would consent to a so-called stipulated trial, essentially conceding the taped evidence.
According to an independent review ordered by Gov. Jack Markell after Bradley's arrest, the first documented allegation of improprieties surfaced in June 1994 in Philadelphia, where Bradley began to practice medicine after graduation. That allegation was dismissed, but Bradley moved to Beebe Hospital in Lewes, Del., soon after, and there were new allegations in 1996.
Scattered reports of abuse continued to surface over the years as Bradley moved and eventually opened a private practice, BayBees Pediatrics.
In 2004, his sister Lynda Barnes, who was his office manager, contacted officials, saying her brother needed medical help. Barnes, who did not respond to a phone message, said parents had complained that Bradley inappropriately touched girls he treated. Police in Milford, Del., interviewed her in 2005, but authorities decided not to prosecute the case.
Police investigated three complaints against Bradley in late 2008. Prosecutors say he had abused many other patients by the time he was arrested.