HENDERSON COUNTY–A Henderson County jury sentenced Robert Clayton Bradley, 30, to 30 years in the Texas Department of Corrections, Institutional Division, Feb. 4. Earlier in the day, the jury returned their verdict finding Bradley guilty of murdering Rodney Abbott in 2018.
The jury was selected Jan. 21 and began hearing evidence the following day, beginning with the 9-1-1 phone call from a man working on a pipeline on FM 2709 east of Eustace at around 8 a.m. May 30. He had just given water to Abbott who left walking westbound toward Bradley’s home approximately a quarter mile away.
The caller described seeing a Ford F 250 that had just passed him heading back west traveling at around 100 miles per hour before hearing a thud, and seeing where the truck crashed into a tree about 100 yards off in an adjoining pasture.The witness located Abbott’s body lying in the roadway and informed the 9-1-1 operator that he was dead.
By the time first responders reached the scene several minutes later, Bradley had already crawled out of the badly damaged truck, and fled the scene leaving his injured passenger lying on the floorboard. He was found approximately 30 minutes later by Henderson County Deputy Joshua Shoemake, and placed in custody before transporting him back to the scene where Department of Public Safety and Sheriff’s Office personnel were gathering information.
The female passenger of the truck told paramedics and law enforcement that Abbott had thrown a rock at the truck as they passed. Bradley told the passenger that he was going to “kill him” and drove about a quarter mile to the top of a hill, turned around and “floored” it, according to the witness, who had heard loud arguing coming from inside the truck as it passed by the first time.
The female testified that she was hitting Bradley in the face and arm as he drove toward Abbott, and lay down in the seat just prior to impact.
DPS performed forensic mapping and speed calculations based on the tire marks prior to impact, and after Abbott was struck. The Texas Rangers conducted a 360 degree scan of the area while Sheriff’s investigators collected evidence and interviewed both the female and Bradley who had been taken to the hospital with several broken ribs.
Throughout the investigation, Bradley maintained that the female had been driving, but at trial, his attorney admitted that was a lie and the defendant was indeed the driver.
Henderson County District Attorney Mark Hall said, “This was a truly horrible and senseless crime. By all accounts, these two had been friends for a while, and although there was some animosity between them over the female passenger who both men were having a relationship with, I think the real common denominator was their use of methamphetamines, which they had both used in the days and hours leading up to the murder. Meth destroyed both of them. It cost Abbott his life and Bradley his freedom .”
The case was heard in the 392 District Court with Judge Scott McKee presiding. Jurors had the choice to convict on a lesser charge of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide, but after a short deliberation returned a guilty verdict on the charge of murder.