Bradley and two other officials were about to deliver a bad news after a fatal car wreck on Halloween night. However, they were left speechless when the door finally cracked open and standing before them were four young children dressed in their Halloween costumes.
They learned that no other adult was home and that the nearest relative of the couple was a grandmother — seven hours away in Florida — who couldn’t get there until the following morning.
As the troopers left broken, Bradley decided he would withhold the full truth from those costumed children, a 13-year-old Freddy Krueger, a 10-year-old Dracula’s daughter, an 8-year-old wizard, and a 6-year-old firefighting ninja turtle, until their grandmother arrived.
They said their parents had gone out to buy face paint and Halloween candy, and they were due back any minute.
The 24-year-old who had never had to be responsible for children before told the children that they go get something to eat and hang out until their grandmother arrived.
“The first thing I said was, ‘Hey, let’s go get something to eat,'” Bradley recalled. “They said, ‘My parents will be here soon.’ I said, ‘Your grandma wants you to hang out with me ’til she gets here.”
Through the night, as Bradley waited on their grandmother, he became more than just the children’s temporary caretaker — he became their friend.
He drove the kids to each of the places they wanted to eat, to McDonald’s then to several miles in the opposite direction to Burger King.
On the ride back to the station, the kids talked about their favorite show “Law and Order” and expressed their intelligence, which showed that they were wise beyond their years.
He had succeeded in preserving the children’s Halloween. They would now associate November 1 with a terrible day rather than Oct. 31.
Though the younger children seemed to be unaware of what was going on, the eldest, Justin, began to catch on.
When grandmother Stephanie Oliver arrived by dawn, Bradley explained what happened to her son and her daughter-in-law, who had been together for more than 15 years. Investigators said their 2015 Dodge Journey went too fast on a curve, and the SUV wound up careening into a ditch and hitting a tree.
The trooper was told by the eldest son that the transportation of the parents’ remains and other funeral costs would amount to $7,000. With the willingness to help, he started a GoFundMe page for the children with hopes of raising the $7,000. By Thursday afternoon, it had raised that and more — with the more than $200,000 going toward a trust fund for their higher education.
By early Friday, it passed the $350,000 mark, not far from the goal of $375,000. And at least one donor was anxious some people would not get their turn to give once it was reached.
The children’s grandmother was touched by the way Bradley bonded with the siblings — she told news outlet he managed to be a bright spot on what was actually a dark day.