Lewes doctor released on bail

Hearing set on toddler rape charges
December 18, 2009

Fri, Dec 18, 2009

In 2001, when Dr. Earl Bradley opened his pediatrics office on Route 1, he said he wanted to create a place where people would feel like family.

The office featured a theater where cartoons were shown and a Disney-themed examination room, and Bradley told the Cape Gazette he liked to distribute bumblebee snugglers to his tiny patients. One room he said he was fond of was dedicated to painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell.

“One of the things that attracted me to pediatrics was the old Norman Rockwell depiction of a doctor,” Bradley said. He also said he “wanted to have people wonder what crazy Dr. Bradley will do next. I want kids, as they grow up, to have all different memories of coming here.”

His patients are likely to have memories, but some may not be the kind Rockwell depicted.

On Wednesday, Dec. 16, the Lewes pediatrician was arrested on felony charges relating to an alleged rape of a 2-year-old female patient.

Bradley, 56, of BayBees Pediatrics, was arrested on charges filed by Delaware State Police Troop 4 late Tuesday, Dec. 15, after state officials interviewed the victim. Detectives from Troop 4 placed Bradley into custody Wednesday, Dec. 16. Police received a warrant to search Bradley’s Lewes office, and detectives removed several computers and medical files.

Cpl. Thomas Guarini, state police spokesman, said Bradley has been charged with second-degree rape, first-degree unlawful sexual contact and first-degree endangering the welfare of a child. All three charges are felonies.

Bradley was arraigned at Justice of the Peace Court 3 in Georgetown Dec. 16, where he was read his rights and obligations. The case has been transferred to the Court of Common Pleas in Georgetown for a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 23. Bail was set at $36,000. According to Justice of the Peace Court 3, Bradley posted bond Dec. 16 through Court 7 in Dover.

As part of his release, Bradley is subject to a no-contact order that prevents him from having any contact with anyone under 18. If Bradley were to violate the no-contact order he could be rearrested.

Guarini said the charges are the result of a yearlong investigation. The three charges Bradley faces relate to an incident between Oct. 28 and Dec. 7. The rape charges against victims younger than 14 years old can carry enhanced penalties.

Guarini said Bradley had no prior history, but other charges could be filed as a result of the investigation.

Detectives began investigating Bradley after complaints to state police, Guarini said. He said police did not arrest Bradley sooner because they did not have evidence until the current complaint surfaced. In a search of Bradley’s offices, detectives seized medical records of patients involved in the investigation. Guarini said police hope to go back and look at the medical records and computer files to determine whether additional charges should be filed. He said he did not know and did not want to speculate if any security or surveillance cameras were seized.

In light of the charges, Beebe Medical Center has suspended Bradley’s privileges.

“Dr. Bradley’s privileges at Beebe Medical Center were temporarily suspended Wednesday, Dec. 16,” said Wallace Hudson, Beebe Medical Center vice president of corporate affairs. Hudson said Beebe does have a patient referral service, 645-3332, available for anyone looking for a new pediatrician to call.

According to court documents, in an interview with the Children’s Advocacy Center, the victim, three months shy of her third birthday, went to visit Bradley’s office Dec. 7 for a checkup on a condition she has had since birth. Bradley examined the victim with her mother in the room. After the examination, Bradley carried the victim out of the room. Her mother stayed in the examination room because she trusted Bradley as her child’s doctor.

Bradley took the victim to a toy room in the basement of the office, something he often did to allow children to get a toy or candy after an examination. The two returned to the examination room two minutes later, and then headed back down to the basement, according to court documents. When they returned, the child had candy.

After lunch with her mother, the victim told her mother Bradley had hurt her while in the basement. The mother called the father, who said his daughter had complained of the same thing after being examined by Bradley Oct. 28.

State police said patients of Bradley who are not in communication with detectives could still obtain their medical records by contacting Bradley’s office.

Parents with concerns and questions should call Troop 4 detectives at 302-856-5850 Ext. 216.

Experts: Stay with child

By Leah Hoenen

A child should never be out of a parent’s sight during visits to a doctor. That’s the advice of Kelly Phillips, a pediatric nurse practitioner working at the Pediatric Analysis Center in Milton.

She said if allegations of rape against Lewes pediatrician Dr. Earl Bradley are true, the case is appalling. “It is practically unheard of for any pediatrician to hurt a child, so this case is particularly disturbing,” Phillips said. It’s extremely rare for pediatricians to be accused of hurting children, she said.

Phillips advised parents always to trust their gut instincts: if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

“There is no reason for a child to be alone with a pediatrician for any exam, especially in their private areas,” she said. Phillips said during such an exam, a nurse should always be present. She said she typically explains to children that it’s OK for her to conduct exams because their mothers or fathers are present.

“That helps teach children to protect themselves and parents to protect their kids,” she said. The ride home after a doctor’s appointment can provide the perfect setting for parents to talk to their children about what interactions are appropriate – such as explaining it is OK for doctors to look at them when their parents are present, because it is for their health.

Although the case against Bradley could arouse fear among parents, Phillips also said it is very important for children to see pediatricians, and not family doctors, because pediatricians are specialists in children’s medicine.

Should a child report abuse or molestation, parents should never interrogate the child, said Susan Woodward, a licensed social worker and certified play therapist who works with Survivors of Abuse in Recovery.

Woodward said if a child reports abuse or molestation, parents should praise the child’s courage in reporting the abuse and assure the child he or she is not at fault. Instead of interrogating a child, parets should call police and seek assistance, she said.

Family abuse is dealt with through the Department of Social Services, while law enforcement handles abuse outside the family, Woodward said.

For child victims of assault and molestation, Woodward said recovery is possible through therapy. Play therapy is often used with children, she said, because they use play as their primary form of communication.

For more information on Survivors of Abuse in Recovery, go to or call 302-645-4903.

If your child has been a patient of Dr. Bradley, the Cape Gazette would like to hear your story. Contact news editor Laura Ritter at 302-645-7700 or email her at

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