SAN ANTONIO, Texas - When a long-haul truck driver called his fiancee Sunday from a jail more than 1,000 miles from home, he had only a few minutes to describe the gruesome events that led to him being charged with a crime in which he could face the death penalty.
Darnisha Rose said James Matthew Bradley Jr., who she described as a generous person, claimed he had no idea how so many people - maybe 90 or more - came to be crammed inside his pitch-black trailer in the Texas heat, taking turns to breathe through a hole in the wall. Ten of the immigrants died.
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The 60-year-old Bradley, a diabetic with a criminal history that includes a conviction in a felony domestic violence case, told Rose that he'd stopped his truck at a Walmart in San Antonio and went inside to use the bathroom. He claimed that when he returned to his truck, he noticed the trailer rocking back and forth. He said he'd heard nothing before that, though the people in the back later told police they'd been frantically banging on the walls.
Bradley opened the door.
"He said he saw the people in there, laying everywhere," Rose said Monday from her home in Louisville, Kentucky. "He said he didn't know what to do, which way to go. He was crying, distraught. He was scared. You could tell it in his voice."
Court documents say that Bradley did not call 911 after discovering the suffering immigrants in the trailer, even though at least one of them was already dead and others were in such grave condition they had to be hospitalized for dehydration and heatstroke.
Rose defended her fiance as a good man who would always try to help people in need, though she acknowledged he has a criminal history. Documents show his record dates back until at least the 1990s and spans multiple states.
In 1997, Bradley pleaded guilty in a felony domestic violence case in Colorado and was sentenced to two years' probation, said Rich Orman, chief deputy district attorney for the 18th Judicial District in suburban Denver. Records indicate supervision of Bradley's probation was transferred to Gainesville, Florida.
Then in 1998 he was arrested in Ohio and extradited to Colorado for violating his probation, Orman said. Records show that at that time, Bradley also was wanted by a Texas agency for an unknown charge. Another probation violation complaint came in 1999, but Bradley wasn't arrested and returned to Colorado until 2003. He was sentenced to three years in a halfway house, but he violated terms of that sentence - apparently walking away from the facility - and in 2005 was sentenced to one year in a Colorado prison, Orman said.
He was released in 2007, according to the Department of Corrections, and remained on parole until 2009.
Authorities list Bradley as being from Clearwater, Florida. Rose said Bradley has been staying in Louisville for a couple years.
He grew up in Florida and moved around, spending most of his time on the road. She said he had spent more time in Louisville lately as he recovered from having his leg amputated in the spring.
Bradley had diabetes that he hadn't properly treated, got a prosthetic leg earlier this month and wanted to get back to work, Rose said.
As for his latest truck trip, she expected him to be gone about two weeks.
Rose apparently missed an earlier call from Bradley, who faces charges of illegally transporting immigrants for financial gain, resulting in death. He told investigators he didn't call 911 but that he did get back in his truck and called his wife, who didn't answer.
Bradley often referred to Rose as his wife, though they were not married.
Rose said she tried calling him back after that overnight call, but didn't reach him. The next time she heard from him was Sunday morning when he called from jail.
She said he did not explain during their brief conversation how the immigrants might have been loaded into his trailer without him knowing about it.