Defendant, 7-year-old son take stand
Final arguments are set to be heard by the prosecution and defense at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the case of State v. Thorpe Thomas Bradley.
Bradley is on trial for a charge of second-degree unintentional murder as a result of committing third-degree assault against Thomas Charles Hensel, 52, Menahga, on Sept. 16, 2006.
During the fourth day of trial, the prosecution called Bradley's 7-year-old son as a witness. He was with his father and his grandfather, Hensel, on Sept. 16, and recalled some details from that day. At that time, the boy was 6 years old.
He recalled going with his father and grandfather to the Mary Brown Bridge and said there was a fight. He told prosecutor Eric Schieferdecker that his dad kicked his grandpa. The son recalled later going to Yaerdly Lake and walking with his grandpa on a board walkway to the water. When asked if he saw his grandpa fall anywhere, he responded "no."
The boy thought people were drinking and remembered his grandpa, Thomas Hensel, drinking. He couldn't remember if his father, Thorpe Bradley, was drinking.
He remembered his father poured whiskey or something on him at one point, he said, but he didn't know why he had done that.
The next morning, he saw his grandpa Hensel passed out in the van and knew something was wrong, he said.
During cross examination, defense attorney Joe Parise asked if he remembered going to different houses on Sept. 16. He didn't remember going to some of the places. He remembered jumping in the sand near the river at the Mary Brown Bridge and going to Yaerdly Lake and holding his grandfather's hand while they walked.
The boy was read parts of a testimony he gave to an officer two days after his grandpa had died to refresh his memory of what he had said at that time.
He then said that helped his memory. He remembered his grandpa back-hand his dad and then he said he remembered his dad kicking his grandpa. The boy told an officer just after the incident that his dad hit his grandfather once.
The boy said his grandpa Hensel was the best grandpa ever. He then said he thought his dad tried to kick his grandpa but maybe he missed. He said he would never forget the funeral and when his grandpa died.
The prosecution then called Danielle Kopp and Rachel Sass to support the 7-year-old's testimony.
They each remembered seeing Bradley's son on Sept. 16, when they were at Robert Wagner's home. Kopp said the 7-year-old told her he saw his dad and grandpa fighting and demonstrated by rolling around on the ground, punching and kicking. Sass said the boy told her his dad beat up grandpa.
The prosecution then called Dr. Michael McGee to finish the testimony he started Friday afternoon. McGee performed the autopsy on Thomas Hensel.
Photos of Hensel's injuries and autopsy photos were shown to the jurors. He said when he first saw the body, it looked like an assault had occurred. McGee provided detailed information about where bleeding had occurred around the brain and said the autopsy report showed a right-to-left shift of the brain due to swelling on the right side.
Hensel's blood alcohol content was .141, according to a test performed during the autopsy. This was lower than the .314, according to a test performed at the Park Rapids hospital.
McGee attributed Hensel's cause of death to a multiple traumatic injury due to an assault.
Dr. McGee said he would have expected to see bruising on the extremities, such as a knee, if Hensel had fallen. The defense asked if Hensel could have fallen on softer ground, such as a swampy area near Yaerdly Lake, and not have had bruises. McGee said that was possible. There was nothing that led McGee believe the death was caused by something other than an assault, he said.
The prosecution then rested its case.
The defense then called three witnesses.
First, Robert Wagner of Menahga was called. Thorpe Bradley came to his house to see his daughter's baby on Sept. 16. Thomas Hensel arrived with Bradley and got out of the vehicle they were in and went to the driver's side.
A criminal investigator for the defense, John Edwards, was also called as a witness. He investigated the Yaeger Lake area, in particular the dock that extends from shore to the open water. He described there being planks with logs underneath, attached using nails and screws. There were also perpendicular posts underneath those logs, Edwards said. Those posts were longer and extended 2 feet on either side of the platform although they were not seen easily in photographs.
Thorpe Bradley then took the stand in his own defense. The 29-year-old described growing up with a lot of alcohol abuse in his family. He and his two sisters were placed in foster care. After graduating high school, he lived with his mother for a while and then with his father.
He met Anna Hensel in about 1999 and had two children with her. He said his father, Thomas Bradley, got along with the Hensel family and his sister, Gladys Hensel, also knew the family well.
Thorpe Bradley described the events of Sept. 16, 2006. He recalled going to the Thomas and Merrie Jo Hensel residence that morning with his sister and they started drinking beer. They then jumped into his sister, Gladys's truck and went to get diapers for his daughter and more beer.
Later, he went to Barb Hadler's home to see Anna Hensel and his 6-year-old son. Thorpe Bradley said he was told to leave and he left with his dad, Tom Hensel, Merrie Jo Hensel, his sister and his son. They returned to the Hensel home and continued drinking.
Bradley said at some point he decided it wasn't good to have his son there with everyone drinking and he wanted to take him to his aunt Josephine Thomas's home. On the way to her home, they met her vehicle in the road. She said she couldn't take the boy. Tom Hensel got out and started picking a fight and being rude with her, Thorpe Bradley said.
They kept the boy with them and went to the Mary Brown Bridge. Present there were Thorpe Bradley, his son, Merrie Jo Hensel, Thomas Hensel and Thomas Bradley. Thorpe Bradley recalled playing near the water with his son, getting his shoes wet and taking them off to put in the van. When he returned to the van, Bradley said he smarted off and Tom Hensel backhanded him. Thorpe Bradley said he then went off to finish a cigarette when Tom Hensel came up behind him and swung at him. Then, Thorpe Bradley punched Tom Hensel, he said. The man took a few steps back and grabbed the van for support, Bradley recalled.
The group continued drinking after that, he said. Tom Hensel was "pretty lit" at that point, Bradley said.
Then, the group drove to the Wagner home to see a baby. While there, Tom Hensel got out of the passenger seat and tried to drive. Thorpe Bradley said he saw his son pull the keys out of the ignition so his grandfather couldn't drive. Bradley said his son knew his grandpa was drunk.
Thorpe Bradley got in the driver's seat and they went to Yaeger Lake. While there, the group continued to drink and smoke. Tom Hensel got out of the vehicle and staggered around into the weeds, Bradley recalled. His son helped his grandpa walk around and at one point, came back and told his dad that grandpa had fallen down, Thorpe Bradley said.
Bradley remembered seeing a knot on Tom Hensel's face after he punched him at the Mary Brown Bridge area but didn't notice him drooling until they were at Yaeger Lake, he said.
After the group was at Yaeger Lake, they went to Barb Hadler's home again to see Anna Hensel, Bradley said. When they arrived, two guys came up and kicked the van and said they wanted to fight, Thorpe Bradley said.
He couldn't find one of his shoes in the van so he went to a friend's house to borrow some before fighting, he said. He returned and assaulted one of the men, Thorpe Bradley said. Then, they went back to the Hensel residence. At that point, Tom Hensel was passed out in the passenger seat, Thorpe Bradley said, so they left him there overnight.
At some point during the night, Bradley said he went to the van to check on him and look for more beer in the vehicle. He threw a coat on him and then went back inside, he said.
Thorpe Bradley then went to bed. The next morning, he woke up and spoke to his dad and Merrie Jo. When they left with his son to see his sister, he went back to bed. Thorpe Bradley then woke up when the police came and arrested him.
The prosecution, during cross examination, asked Thorpe Bradley about incidents in 2001 and 2002, when he was accused of beating up Merrie Jo Hensel and Anna Hensel. Bradley said Merrie Jo Hensel had scratched her own neck and said Anna Hensel had gotten hurt while he was fighting someone else.
He was asked to demonstrate how hard he hit Tom Hensel and how Tom Hensel had hit him. When asked why he poured booze on his son, Thorpe Bradley said it was an accident and happened while he was passing alcohol to his dad and his son was between them.
Bradley said he noticed Tom Hensel's face was hurt at the Wagner residence but he wasn't drooling until after they were at Yaeger Lake.
The defense rested after Thorpe Bradley's testimony.
Judge Jay Carlson said final arguments were set to be heard at 9 a.m. Wednesday. He told jurors they would likely begin deliberations Wednesday and should bring a change of clothes in case they didn't reach a verdict by the end of the day. Jurors will need to be sequestered until they reach a verdict, he said.