LEWES, Del.– Every day last week, State Police detectives arrived at a different front door in this seaside resort on the same heartbreaking mission.

They brought with them a captured video image, carefully cropped to show nothing but a young face, that confirms another family’s nightmare: Their child might be a victim of Earl Bradley, a popular local pediatrician who now stands accused of sexually molesting scores of young patients.

More than 100 victims have been identified from the 13 hours of video Bradley allegedly made of the assaults. And Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden last week announced a 471-count indictment against the physician. But as one of the largest sex-crime investigations in U.S. history works through more than 7,000 case files removed from Bradley’s office, hundreds of other parents remain suspended in an agony of waiting.

”There are definitely more to come,” said Patricia Dailey Lewis, the deputy attorney general who runs the victims’ service office the state has set up a few doors from Bradley’s cluttered frame house. ”I had a woman call yesterday just screaming, ‘I want to know right now if my daughter is on a video.’ It’s horrible for them, just horrible.”

Winter is normally a tranquil time in Lewes, a town known to summering Washingtonians as a sleepy ferry port. But residents say the alleged betrayal of trust has shattered that calm and threatens to split the small town over questions of blame.

Lewes’ off-season of anguish began two months ago when police, acting on a complaint from a young patient, arrested Bradley, 56, and searched his garishly decorated office on Route 1. Amid the miniature carnival rides and elaborate toys, investigators found a network of video cameras, computer files and other evidence they said documents a history of brazen and systematic pedophilia dating back at least 11 years.


Since 1998, according to the indictment and interviews with attorneys, Bradley violated children ranging from 18 months to 14 years of age, many of them on multiple occasions. The charges include rape, sexual exploitation, continuous sexual abuse of a child and reckless endangerment. All but one of the victims identified so far are girls.

Bradley is being held with bail set at $2.9 million. His attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

Many of the alleged assaults reportedly occurred in the presence of parents, disguised as part of an examination under a privacy sheet. Bradley might have also used a camera concealed in a penlight or a cell phone he was known to place on the exam table, according to one couple briefed by investigators.

At other times, Bradley would take the child on a brief visit to the basement or a nearby outbuilding, ostensibly to fetch one of the post-exam toys he was famous for giving his patients.

”He took her down to the basement one time, but it was for less than two minutes,” said one distraught mother whose 7-year-old daughter had been a patient of Bradley’s since birth.

”He told me it was too messy down there,” the woman said. ”I waited right at the top of the stairs.”

This woman and her husband, who asked not to be identified to protect their family’s privacy, agreed to meet at a library to talk about the case.

The couple said investigators have told them that several of the counts in the indictment relate to crimes against their daughter. Bradley said he was treating the child for a recurrent urinary tract infection, which they now see as a ruse.

”It was just a way for him to examine her private parts every time we took her,” said the husband. ”We have laid in bed until 3 o’clock in the morning to review every visit from birth to now, looking for clues.”


In retrospect, they said, there were some: He lavished hugs and nose rubs on their daughter while being businesslike and perfunctory with their son, now 2 years old; the kisses on the cheek that their daughter had lately begun to complain of; that quick visit to the basement.

But at the time, Bradley struck them as accommodating and competent. He frequently met them at off-hours and sometimes didn’t charge for minor consultations.

”He had a very good reputation,” the mother said.

There were always two schools of thought about the doctor who buzzed around town in a series of bright yellow Volkswagen Beetles. To some, he was a disheveled oddball, socially awkward and overly ostentatious, with an office that featured a statue of Buzz Lightyear on the roof.

But to others, including many medical professionals who put their kids in his care, he was a talented doctor with a unique gift for relating to children.

”They all said he didn’t talk well with parents, but with kids he was the best they’d ever seen,” recalled the mother of the 7-year-old, who said she chose Bradley based on the recommendation of nurses at the hospital the day her daughter was born. ”I look back now and realize that was the day I could have changed a lot of things.”

The charges against Bradley have rocked the town of 3,100. Public meetings have been filled with angry accusations that authorities should have uncovered Bradley’s alleged crimes earlier (there reportedly were complaints dating back many years). Other professionals, from teachers to preachers, say a new wariness affects every contact with a family.


”You second-guess going to a dentist office now,” said Anna Moshier, who did not take her two children to Bradley. ”My son had to go back for an X-ray, and I said, ‘No way he’s going without me.’ This has always been like a village, but our sense of trust has been broken.”

For victims and their parents, it might be years before recriminations give way to healing. The 7-year-old’s parents said it was impossible to shield their daughter from talk of the case, which has saturated local media and sidewalk gossip. It adds to their agony when bloggers, strangers and even friends who don’t know their involvement blame parents for being careless guardians.

The father recently had to hold his tongue when he was in front of two chattering strangers in line at Dick’s Sporting Goods, both of them heaping blame on ”those kids’ parents.”

”I wanted to turn around and say, ‘If that monster could fool me, he could fool you,’ ” the father said. ”You hear that stuff, it’s like an arrow in your heart.”To some, he was a disheveled oddball, socially awkward and overly ostentatious. But to others, he was a talented doctor with a unique gift for relating to children.


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