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Officials say child's death was no accident

TAMPA — By the time an emergency room doctor first saw 2-year-old Makaila Thompson, it appeared she'd been dead an hour.

That's according to new information released by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, a day after deputies charged a man with first-degree murder in the toddler's death.

Robert Bradwell, 36, remained in Orient Road Jail without bail, accused of beating Makaila to death. Bradwell was caring for Makaila and her 4-year-old brother the night of Sept. 5, when deputies say she suffered blunt impacts to her torso causing a laceration of her heart.

She had a bruise on the outside corner of her left eye and another mark nearby. Her cheek was swollen, and her nose appeared to have been bleeding.

"The injuries are not consistent with an accident," Hillsborough sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

The blows were caused by a person, the Medical Examiner's Office determined.

But Bradwell told investigators any harm that befell Makaila under his care was nothing but accidental.

She was his girlfriend's daughter. They all lived together at 14204 N 20th St., Apt. B.

Bradwell said Makaila and her brother were taking a bath while he was outside drinking beer and smoking marijuana with friends, according to Carter.

That's when he said Makaila fell, authorities say.

Bradwell took her to University Community Hospital about midnight, Carter said.

"They have the wrong person," said Bradwell's ex-wife Sandra Bradwell, who has entrusted her grandchildren to his care for years. "Robert would never hurt a child."

She said Bradwell called her the night of the incident and told her his version of what happened:

He took Makaila's mother, Monique Thompson, to her job at Wal-Mart about 9 p.m. When he and the kids got home, he put them in a bath, then went outside to drink and smoke.

Next, by his account, the 4-year-old boy came outside and told him Makaila had fallen. Bradwell found her with a bloodied nose, Sandra Bradwell said. He cleaned the her up, dressed her and put her to bed. Later, he noticed she was having trouble breathing, and so he brought her to the hospital.

Sandra Bradwell said he was saddened by the death.

"He said, 'I can't sleep in this house,' " she recalled Tuesday. "He said, 'Every time I close my eyes, I just see Makaila.' "

Robert Bradwell has been arrested 20 times in Florida, state records show. Both he and Monique Thompson filed domestic violence charges against one another earlier this year.

In March, he called deputies after he said she punched him in the head and scratched him. The charges were dropped in May.

In July, she called deputies after she said he punched her in the jaw. That case is pending.

Sandra Bradwell said her ex-husband loses his temper. Court records show she got restraining orders against him twice. She said that during their eight-year marriage, he broke the windows in her cars and threw her furniture around, causing her to call deputies.

But tussling with a spouse is different than laying a finger on a child, she said: "He ain't going to hit no kids."

Times news researcher John Martin, and staff writers Alessandra DaPra and Justin George contributed to this report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Officials say child's death was no accident 10/07/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 9, 2008 3:42pm]

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