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Brad Childers

Other Texas Robbery Exonerations
At 1 p.m. on June 3, 2002, 33-year-old Mohammad Jamal was working alone in his ice cream store, Marble Creamery, in Plano, Texas when a white man entered the store. After asking about the prices of various products for a long time, the man ordered an ice cream cone.

While Jamal was ringing up the purchase, the man came behind the counter, pulled out a pistol, and ordered Jamal to open the register. Jamal complied and the man took $100 in cash. The man then asked for a bag, put the money in it, and left. Jamal locked himself in his office and called police.

At approximately 1:19 p.m., a white man entered Parkland Cleaners, located three or four minutes by car from the creamery. The man asked 31-year-old Tara Ricklefs if he could apply for a job. When Ricklefs handed him a piece of paper and a pen, the man lifted his shirt, pulled out a black gun, and announced a robbery.

The man told Ricklefs to open the cash register. When she complied, the man grabbed a bag and took $360 from the cash register. A customer came in as the man ran out the front door. The customer went back outside and watched the robber flee before calling police.

About a half hour later, at 2:00 p.m., 45-year-old Sheela Singh was working in her General Nutrition Center store in Plano when a white man entered and began looking at some products. When Singh approached him, the man said, “This is a hold up” and showed her a black pistol. Singh unlocked the cash register and the man took more than $100. He also took Singh’s phone and two bottles of nutritional supplements before leaving the store. Police focused their investigation on 20-year-old Brad Childers because he was suspected of committing similar robberies in April and May of 2002 in Denton and Dallas, Texas.

Jamal, Ricklefs, and Singh were separately shown photographic lineups and all selected Childers as the robber. Childers was arrested on June 10, 2002, and charged with three counts of aggravated robbery.

Childers went to trial in Collin County Criminal District Court in April 2004. By that time, Childers had been convicted of three robberies in Denton and five robberies in Dallas, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Jamal testified that Childers was “very close” in appearance to the robber. Singh and Ricklefs both identified him as the robber of their stores.

All three said the robber had brown hair. The prosecution introduced a driver’s license photograph of Childers showing that he had brown hair.

The defense called Childers’s father, who testified that the photograph was taken when Childers was 18. Since then, he said that Childers had grown his hair long and bleached it blonde. However, the defense failed to submit a booking photo of Childers, which showed his hair at the time of his arrest nearly two years earlier was shoulder length and blonde. Childers’s father also said that at the time of his arrest, his son had serious facial acne that was “almost repulsive,” a fact that none of the witnesses ever mentioned.

On April 23, 2004, the jury convicted Childers of three counts of aggravated robbery. Collin County District Judge Charles Sandoval sentenced Childers to 50 years in prison.

In October 2005, the Fifth District Texas Court of Appeals upheld his convictions. Childers’s family hired investigators to try to determine if there were other robberies committed at about the same time in the same geographic area by anyone whose physical description was similar to Childers.

In 2014, the investigators identified Jonathan Clark, who had brown hair, was about the same height and weight, and was three months younger than Childers. Clark was in prison serving a 20-year prison term for robberies.

He had been arrested in July 2002—a month after Childers was arrested—and was convicted of robbing the same GNC store that Childers was convicted of robbing on June 14, 2002. He was also convicted of a July 2002 robbery of the same Marble Slab Creamery that Childers was convicted of robbing.

In addition, Clark had been convicted of robbing the Cold Stone Creamery and the Old Town Creamery, both in Plano, on July 1, 2002. Clark also had been linked to robberies of two tanning salons in Allen, Texas, about six miles southwest of Plano.

On November 14, 2014, during an interview in prison with private investigators, Clark admitted that he had committed the robberies that Childers was convicted of committing. He said he wanted “to get right with the Lord.”

Subsequently, Childers filed a state law petition for a writ of habeas corpus. During a hearing in 2015, Clark testified that he was responsible for the robberies of the Marble Slab Creamery, the dry cleaners, and the nutrition store. He also testified that he admitted to those crimes when he was arrested in July 2002.

Ultimately, while the petition was pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Childers hired a new attorney, Gary Udashen, who was granted permission to remand the case back to the trial court and file an amended habeas petition.

This petition said that police reports had been discovered showing that three witnesses—including Singh from the GNC store and Ricklefs from the dry cleaners—said that the robber had brown eyes. The petition noted that Clark had brown eyes while Childers had blue eyes.

Following a hearing, during which the prosecution conceded that the police had concealed evidence favorable to Childers, the trial court judge recommended that the writ be granted.

On May 18, 2018, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ and vacated Childers’s convictions. “Based on the habeas court’s findings and conclusions and our own review, we hold that the State withheld evidence that was both favorable and material” to Childers’s case, the appeals court said.

On June 26, 2018, the prosecution dismissed the charges.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/1/2018
Most Serious Crime:Robbery
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2002
Sentence:50 years
Age at the date of reported crime:20
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No