The Miami Strangler, Part 2

Eight years later, a dead girl's family awaits justice

 Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read the first in our online archives.

It's 1:30 p.m. Monday, July 17, and Pinkie Braddy waits nervously on a bench in Judge Leonard E. Glick's courtroom at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building. In a few minutes, the 84-year-old mother will be able to see her son Harrel when he enters in shackles. It will be as much contact as they've had since he was jailed on murder and kidnapping charges in November 1998. "A mother loves her son, and that's all I have to say about this," Pinkie comments in a low voice.

The prisoner's chains clank in a waiting area adjacent to the courtroom. He's coming. A door opens. Two jailers escort the well-built 57-year-old to the jury box. Wearing a red prison uniform, an emotionless Braddy looks over at his mother.

Harrel Braddy was arrested one day after he allegedly murdered a five-year-old girl
Trevor Aaronson
Harrel Braddy was arrested one day after he allegedly murdered a five-year-old girl
The room where Braddy was interrogated
Trevor Aaronson
The room where Braddy was interrogated

Pinkie waves and offers a quick smile.

After eight years and ten attorneys, Braddy is finally scheduled to stand trial October 10. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. They allege he abducted Shandelle Maycock and her five-year-old daughter from their Miami home, beat them, and left both for dead in a remote area near the Broward-Palm Beach county line. Maycock survived the attack. Her daughter was found floating in a murky canal in the Everglades. Her skull had been crushed, and alligators had ripped apart her lifeless body.

It all began in fall 1998. Because of Florida's overcrowded prison system, authorities had freed Braddy after he served less than half of a 30-year prison sentence for the kidnapping and attempted murder of a Miami-Dade jailer in 1984. Braddy was living with his 49-year-old wife Cyteria and their four children in a three-bedroom house in Carol City. They all shared a 1995 Dodge Neon, and every morning Cyteria would drop off her husband at Miami International Airport, where he worked construction. At six feet and 220 pounds, Braddy seemed an ideal employee: an incredibly strong, tireless worker with an expertise in bricklaying.

Every Sunday he and his family attended services at the Panorama Christian Center in Hialeah. That's where he met Maycock, an attractive 22-year-old African-American single mother who lived in a small studio apartment in Miami with her five-year-old daughter Quatisha. Maycock first became friendly with Braddy's wife at church functions. When the younger woman said she was having difficulty fixing things around her apartment, Cyteria volunteered her husband.

Soon Braddy began to arrive at Maycock's place unannounced. He wanted to be more than just helpful. He wanted a relationship.

She rejected him. But Braddy was persistent, according to Maycock. Braddy has pleaded not guilty but has not told his story.

One night in October 1998, about a month before the alleged murder, Braddy arrived at Maycock's apartment. He insisted on spending the night. "She said she did not invite him there," Miami-Dade Homicide Det. Salvatore Garafalo recalled in a deposition. "He told her he was going to stay there. They split the sofa bed."

Braddy wore boxer shorts and a T-shirt, Maycock a nightgown. The young woman placed pillows between their bodies.

Nothing happened that night on the sofa. But that didn't deter Braddy from pursuing the much younger woman.

On Friday, November 6, 1998, Maycock asked Braddy for a favor: She needed a ride that evening to her mother's house to pick up Quatisha. Braddy was happy to oblige. That day his father Joe had rented a brand-new Lincoln Town Car for his son. Braddy explained to his wife he needed the extra car for the weekend.

"With the one car and with everyone having something to do, it would have been difficult for him to go to the [church] meeting," Cyteria told investigators.

That evening, after work at MIA, Braddy was in a hurry to leave the house, his wife remembered. He showered and changed. "I knew he had talked to his father about getting the rental, and I think he had made arrangements to go [to the car lot] so they could go and get it," she said.

Wearing black pants, a gray shirt, and black loafers, Braddy left his father and drove the rented Lincoln alone to Maycock's apartment. He and Maycock then traveled to her mother's house, where they picked up Quatisha. When they loaded her into the back seat of the Town Car, the little girl was wearing Care Bear pajamas.

It was nearing midnight when they returned to the apartment. Braddy insisted on coming inside, Maycock said. Braddy later told police he never pursued a romantic relationship with Maycock — claiming he was not excited by the "thing between her legs" — though the accused killer had trouble sticking to one story when interrogated.

Once inside the apartment, according to Maycock's version of events, the phone rang. She answered. It was the brother of Quatisha's father. They argued for a few minutes. She hung up.

Maycock asked Braddy to leave. "I have a friend coming over," she told him.

Braddy began yelling. She shouted back. Suddenly he lunged at her, punching her and pushing her to the floor. Braddy grabbed her by the neck — just as he had the Miami-Dade jailer fourteen years earlier — and strangled the young mother to unconsciousness.

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