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Convicted killer found guilty in rape that occurred 10 years ago

The woman had no idea who raped her.

Neither did Niagara Falls police.

But DNA evidence was collected from the woman's body, waiting to be used. The wait lasted more than nine years.

Last fall, a match turned up. And now an admitted killer whose DNA matched that saved in a police rape kit has been convicted of first-degree rape and second-degree burglary.

A Niagara County Court jury Monday found Darren A. Bradberry, 36, guilty of the April 8, 1997, attack on a woman who said a stranger pounced on her as she slept in her bed, covered her face with a pillowcase and raped her. She said she never got a good look at the man's face.

"She only saw his arm," Assistant District Attorney Claudette S. Antholzner said.

Bradberry, formerly of Spruce Avenue, Niagara Falls, never was a suspect in the rape until a state crime lab unearthed the match between Bradberry's DNA and that collected by police when the woman was treated after the rape.

Bradberry was required to give the state a DNA sample after he was sentenced to 18 years in prison June 23, 2005, for the Oct. 13, 2004, shooting death of James A. Fadel, a 24-year-old Niagara Falls bartender gunned down outside the bar his father owned in that city.

State law requires everyone convicted of a felony or one of 18 specific misdemeanors to give a DNA sample to be included in the state database. To defray the cost, judges are required to charge such criminals a $50 fee when sentencing them.

The rape kit was first processed by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services lab in Albany, after Niagara County received a grant to pay for some processing of DNA in cold cases. Once a match with Bradberry was found, the Erie County Central Police Services lab repeated the test for use in the prosecution.

Bradberry, who had pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter, was serving his time in Attica Correctional Facility. He was eligible for parole in March 2020.

Now, with his convictions for rape, second-degree burglary and petit larceny, he could have up to 25 years added to his sentence. Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza, who presided over the four-day trial, scheduled sentencing for Sept. 11. The jury deliberated only about an hour before finding Bradberry guilty.

Antholzner said it appeared the rape was a spontaneous move. "Apparently there was some drug activity in the neighborhood. [Bradberry] broke in to steal some drugs," the prosecutor said.

Antholzner said a few other Niagara County cold cases have been cracked with DNA, but this was the first such rape case -- and the first time a suspect caught by use of DNA has declined to plead guilty.

Assistant Public Defender Christopher A. Privateer said what he thought was a good plea deal was placed on the table, but Bradberry declined.

Antholzner said she offered to recommend a sentencing range of six to 12 years if Bradberry would plead guilty to a reduced charge.

As for the victim, who is now in her early 30s, Antholzner said, "She's very glad [about the verdict]. This obviously has haunted her for many years."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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