A man accused of stabbing his girlfriend to death after years of abusing her showed little emotion as he stood before a judge Friday night.
It wasn't the first time in court for Lee Dell Bradley, 59, of Bushey Lane near Summerville. He had been arrested five times since 2006 after complaints that he beat or threatened to kill Frances Lawrence. She was found dead of a stab wound last week at age 59 in the house they shared.
Its an all-too familiar story in this state. South Carolina leads the nation in the number of women killed by their partners. Various efforts are being kicked around in the Legislature to make sure offenders stay in jail longer.
The longest Bradley ever stayed in jail before this incident was 81 days - after he appeared before a judge on a domestic violence charge for the fifth time, according to court records.
This time, however, he's charged with murder. Berkeley County Magistrate James Polk couldn't set bail on that charge Friday and sent him back to jail.
Bradley claims he and Lawrence were fighting May 23 and she fell on a knife, according to the arrest warrant. He fled to Charlotte, where he was arrested and sent back to Charleston Thursday.
History of abuse
Lawrence was living in fear for her life, according to incident reports.
The first report of alleged abuse was on March 5, 2006, at around midnight, when Bradley wanted her to drive him to a friend's home in Summerville, but Lawrence refused, according to an incident report.
As the couple argued, Bradley slapped Lawrence and grabbed her by the neck, demanding she drive him there, according to the report.
Bradley then held a knife to her throat and demanded she get behind the wheel, the report stated.
He held the knife against her as she drove, authorities said, and when Bradley got out of the car, she ran away.
Lawrence did not return to her home until 4 p.m. that day, when she heard a phone message that Bradley had suffered a heart attack and he was being treated at Summerville Medical Center.
Bradley was arrested two days later and charged with criminal domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature and kidnapping, but the charges were dropped. Frances declined prosecution of the case, according to court records.
About three years later, Lawrence reported another attack she said occurred at her home, according to court records.
Once again Bradley had threatened to kill Lawrence along with her mother on Sept. 19, 2009, an incident report said.
Bradley slapped Lawrence's face and pushed her to the ground, according to the report.
She told investigators Bradley said he wasn't afraid of going back to jail, the report said.
Bradley was charged with first-offense criminal domestic violence.
A month later, he pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay $55 in court costs.
Less than a year later, on July 22, 2010, deputies were back at the home. Bradley had threatened to kill Lawrence again, despite an order of protection placed against him, according to an incident report.
Bradley had hit Lawrence in the face and pushed her to the ground, the report stated.
Lawrence trembled as she recalled the incident to investigators, authorities said.
Bradley was arrested and charged with second-offense criminal domestic violence and violation of the order of protection. He was sentenced to the 42 days he had already served and was released from jail on Sept. 2, 2010.
The next day, he was back at Lawrence's home, violating the order of protection, according to sheriff's records.
Deputies arrested Bradley, and later that month he pleaded guilty to violating the order. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail.
Two years later, Lawrence called deputies on Sept. 19, 2012, after she said Lawrence had slapped her again, according to an incident report.
Lawrence said she waited for Bradley to go to bed to call 911. Deputies arrested Bradley and charged him with second-offense criminal domestic violence. He pleaded guilty in November 2012. He was sentenced to the 81 days in jail he had already served and was released from custody.
Lawrence reported to investigators that Bradley was intoxicated in at least three of the alleged attacks, according to incident reports.
The next attack would end in Lawrence's death, according to sheriff's officials.
On May 23, Bradley called 911 and told authorities he awoke to find Frances dead, according to authorities.
The couple fought over a knife the night before, Bradley told investigators over the phone.
He was not at the home when authorities found Lawrence dressed in a blood-soaked nightgown and lying on her back between
the closet and bathroom, the report stated.
Dave Munday and Christina Elmore contributed to this report. Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.