Published June 27, 2014 by Florida Today
The mother of a man convicted of killing a Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy gave her son’s attorneys a collection of photos and keepsakes to help them better know the man they were defending. Though never shown in court, they depict Brandon Bradley’s childhood: a skinny boy running with a football in shoulder pads and helmet, wearing Melbourne PAL green and white. Bradley and his half brother posing with Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
Bradley will probably be sentenced to death at 1:30 p.m. today in a hearing at the Moore Justice Center in Viera. The same jury that convicted Bradley in April recommended death by a 10-2 vote days later, a recommendation which Judge Morgan Reinman is required to strongly consider when making her decision.
Public vitriol has been heavy since Bradley and Andria Kerchner were arrested not long after Pill was shot in early 2012. Kerchner pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to first-degree murder, grand theft and burglary. Some comments on FLORIDA TODAY’s coverage of the trial call for his execution, including calls for him to be shot, hanged or electrocuted.
Bradley’s mother, Tiffany Taylor, avoids online comments about her son on media websites. She quit watching the news after the March 2012 incident.
“Brandon is not the monster that he’s portrayed to be,” she said.
The 24-year-old was born at Holmes Regional Medical Center. Apart from a year and a half in Atlanta, his childhood homes fit within a 10-mile radius in Melbourne.
Bradley’s real last name is Brantley, his mother doesn’t know where the other title came from. He was quiet as a kid, kept to himself. His family nicknamed him “Rat” because he scrounged for snacks, often chips. He loved football and played with the Melbourne Police Athletic League. His mother remembers him running for touchdowns and winning trophies. He once made the academic honor roll at Creel Elementary School.
Bradley’s mother knows the death penalty is likely. His lawyers have already talked about the appeals process.
“There are days when I would have complete meltdowns and I would just cry about it,” she said. Sometimes she feels nauseous.
She saw her boy change in his senior year of high school, when they were living in a home on Elena Way. Bradley started getting into fights. His friends were skipping school, smoking weed. He started dealing drugs, he wanted to make money.
She insisted he finish school. He was 17 when he graduated from Eau Gallie High School in May 2007 with a 2.6 GPA. But after that, he left home and she didn’t see him much.
His first felony was in September of that year — burglary of a car, grand theft. He was caught with cocaine and cannabis in May 2008 and committed a robbery the next month.
Carrie Ellison met him in June 2010 and they soon started dating. She said she loved him.
“He was probably one of the most caring boyfriends I’ve had,” she said. He’d bring her favorite foods after a long day of work or school, he’d tell her the truth even if it upset her.
Following the murder of a cousin and the miscarriage of a child he had with Ellison, Bradley turned to drugs.
“He started taking a lot of ecstasy, codeine, promethazine, smoking more weed. He was just numbing himself. He wasn’t himself after those events.”
They split up, but remained close friends. She saw him about two weeks before the shooting. She hugged him and felt a gun, he said some guy in Cocoa was after him and he had to protect himself.
At some point, Bradley started hanging out with his future co-defendant, Kerchner. His mother doesn’t know when that happened, and didn’t know about her until after Pill’s death.
His mother feels Kerchner got off easy with a 12-year plea deal.
“She practically got nothing,” Taylor said. “She got a slap on the wrist…”
She said Bradley wouldn’t steal from a motel room and didn’t do hard drugs before Kerchner.
Bradley’s attorneys presented evidence that he took psychedelic mushrooms and cocaine the night before the killing and was on Xanax and marijuana at the time.
“This is not Brandon, this is something he would never do,” his mother said of the shooting. “Had he been in his right mind, he would never have done that.”
The lives of Deputy Pill, and arguably Bradley, ended just a few steps from the home on Elena Way where he lived in high school.
Ellison saw it on the news. She dropped to her knees, crying.
“Sometimes I still don’t believe it. I know it happened, but it’s hard to fathom that somebody you know could do something so horrible.”
When Ellison went to visit him in jail two weeks after the killing, he broke down, shaking and weeping, she said.
“We both cried the whole time,” she said. “The whole hour.”
In court, Bradley appeared expressionless. He broke one time, when he wiped tears from his teardrop tattoos as his half brothers testified about their abusive childhood.
Bradley’s mother sat through most of his trial, and she plans to be in court today.