The Miami Strangler, Part 2
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.
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.
When Maycock opened her eyes, she was lying in the Lincoln's spacious back seat. Braddy was driving. Quatisha was in the front passenger seat. Maycock looked out the window and recognized the neighborhood. They hadn't driven very far.
Maycock reached into the front, grabbed Quatisha, and pulled her into the back. As Braddy turned, Maycock opened the door and jumped out of the moving car, cradling the little girl in her arms. They slammed into the concrete, rolling over and over. Braddy stopped the car and turned around. Maycock struggled to get to her feet and run, but her abductor was right behind.
He threw her to the ground, wrapped his fingers around her neck, and squeezed until her world turned black once again.
Braddy placed her body in the trunk, she later reported. He drove northwest on U.S. 27 the same road where a previous captive, aspiring gospel singer Griffin D. Davis, had barely escaped with his life after Braddy kidnapped him.
About an hour later, Maycock regained consciousness as the trunk opened. It was nighttime. They were in a wooded area on a secluded road. Maycock lay lifeless, her eyes closed. Braddy discarded her body on the side of the road, leaving the young mother for dead. She was conscious but not moving, and could hear Quatisha sobbing in the front seat. Braddy drove away. Quatisha's screams slowly faded into the night.
A few hours later, two men on vacation from New Orleans noticed a body alongside U.S. 27, near the guardrail. They stopped. Mud and dirt covered Maycock. Bruises marked her neck and face. The whites of her eyes had turned blood-red. She was alive.
"He's got my baby," Maycock whispered. "He's got my baby."
Maycock soon learned she was in western Palm Beach County, about five miles north of the Broward County line. An ambulance rushed her to Glades Medical Center in Boca Raton about 50 miles from the state prison where Braddy had spent thirteen years for strangling a prison guard.
Maycock's neck was so swollen she could barely speak. But she found the breath to give police a name:
At 2:30 a.m. around the time doctors were treating Maycock at Glades General Cyteria Braddy awoke to a racket in the laundry room of the Carol City home. The washing machine was oscillating with soapy water. Inside were the clothes Braddy had worn earlier that evening. Outside her husband was using wet cloths to wipe down the inside of the Town Car.
"He said he had been to the lake and he was cleaning out the fishy smell, or something like that," Cyteria told investigators.
She didn't think any more about the incident. About 9:00 a.m. the next day, Braddy and his wife drove to a church function in their Dodge. Miami-Dade Police, in an unmarked car, followed them. Braddy pulled into a gas station just off the Palmetto Expressway and began to pump fuel. He was wearing khaki pants, a white T-shirt, and dusty brown boots.
Police pulled in behind. Det. Juan Murias approached Braddy. "I want to ask you several questions concerning a missing five-year-old girl by the name of Quatisha Maycock," Murias said.
Braddy bowed his head, Murias later recalled. Tears streamed down the man's face and he began sweating profusely. He stumbled, almost losing his balance. A detective handed a bottle of water to Braddy, who agreed to come to the police station.
At 10:00 a.m., Homicide Det. Fernando Suco sat down in the interrogation room. Braddy explained to him that he worked in construction and did not do drugs. In fact, he said, he didn't have any vices.
Then Braddy paused and said something that startled Suco: "Moses was a murderer, and John, who was related to Moses, was an adulterer. That, in itself, did not make them bad men."
While being interviewed, Braddy kept changing his story. At first he said he hadn't seen Maycock the night before. A few hours later, his excuse changed: He'd seen her, alive and well, on the side of U.S. 27 in Palm Beach County, he said.
Suco asked if Braddy had a sexual relationship with Maycock. "He became very angry," Suco said. Every time the detective asked about sex, Braddy would demean Maycock. He said Maycock "never offered to have sex with him, but she would sit on his lap and take off her clothes," Suco recalled.
Braddy also became increasingly irritated as the interview dragged into the evening. Another detective joined Suco in the interrogation room.
"I was afraid to be in the room with him, because Mr. Braddy is a very, very large person," Suco said in a deposition. "He is very strong. He lifts up blocks for a living. The man has muscles in places that I wouldn't even know where to find.... If he would have wanted to take us out with his bare hands ... he probably would have broken our necks."
Suco told Braddy he knew he was involved in Quatisha's disappearance. He asked again: Where is the girl?
"I can't tell you," Braddy replied. "Even if I'm found innocent, my family won't talk to me again."
Braddy looked to the floor.
"Listen, we need to find her," Suco said. "If she's alive, we need to find her. Tell us what happened. We need to find Quatisha. There's a five-year-old out there. If she's alive, tell us."
Braddy shook his head, no.
The next morning, two fishermen found a little girl's body floating in a canal near Alligator Alley. She was wearing Care Bare pajamas. Alligators had ripped off some of her flesh and taken an arm. An autopsy revealed that Quatisha had died from blunt trauma to the head and a lacerated liver beaten to death by strong hands.
On November 11, 1998, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office charged Braddy with the killing.
Eight years after his arrest, no jury has heard Braddy's case. Since 1998, he's fired a series of attorneys, which has prompted judge after judge to grant him delay after delay. Braddy, an intelligent man who trained to be a paralegal while incarcerated from 1984 to 1997, has played the legal system like a banjo. The longer he stalls, the more difficult it becomes for prosecutors to prove their case. Already two potential witnesses have passed away.
Braddy's first lawyer, Edith Georgi, an assistant public defender, lasted the longest. She handled his case for about eighteen months despite Braddy's repeated attempts to fire her. "He's a very colorful character, a great talker," Georgi recalls. "But he wants to run his own show. I just spent so much time dealing with Harrel's issues. He couldn't be the boss of his case, and that created so much tension between us I finally agreed to leave the case."
Prosecutors and former defense attorneys agree that, whether through calculated maneuvers or legal luck, Braddy has had an astonishing ability to delay his capital case for eight years. Now Braddy has elected to represent himself. And until last week, it seemed his murder trial might finally begin. Jury selection had been slated for Monday, July 24. Owing to scheduling conflicts, Judge Glick was expected to hand off the trial to Judge Reemberto Diaz.
At the July 17 hearing, as Braddy stood in the jury box, reading glasses on his face and legal papers cradled in his large hands, Judge Glick announced that a problem had surfaced: Judge Diaz was a former attorney of Braddy's. Diaz, who declined to comment for this article, was required to recuse himself. And that gave Braddy what he apparently wanted: another continuance.
His trial has been rescheduled to begin October 10 before Judge Glick.
Miami-Dade prosecutor Abbe Rifkin, who has handled Braddy's case for the eight years since Quatisha's body was pulled from the swampy canal, has suffered through too many continuances to pin her hopes on that date.
"If I have to come out of retirement to prosecute Harrel Braddy," she says, "you better believe I will."
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