On the stand, Hardy offered excuse after excuse for Bradley?s torture and murder. She said she was abused as a child and beaten by Coe. The shameless sob stories didn?t work with the jury. She was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 30 years. Coe was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse and sentenced to life in prison.
Due largely to Kip Liles? efforts, Bradley?s murder led to reform of Florida?s custody and child welfare laws. Parents across the country sent toys and teddy bears and childhood mementos that still adorn Bradley?s gravesite in Lakeland, Fla.
But justice has not yet been served. Sheryl Hardy was released after nine years due to prison overcrowding and moved back to her home state of Illinois. She gave birth to another little boy, now 3. Like Bradley, the child named Billy has been in foster care for most of his life. Like Bradley, Billy has now been put back in the custody of a woman who has no business being anywhere near children. Earlier this month, the Illinois Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower court ruling that there wasn?t enough evidence to prove that Hardy was a negligent or abusive parent.
Bradley's battered body and tot-sized coffin should have been proof enough.
The court put its faith in Sheryl Hardy's "rehabilitation" and completion of parenting classes. But the people most familiar with her crimes know best:
''She's an evil person, a murderess,'' Paul Schaill of the Fort Meade, Fla., police department, told the Associated Press. "[Billy] is going to end up dead, too.''
Kip Liles is doing all she can to warn the public: "There is no sound, no cry in all the world, that can be heard unless someone is listening."
Unless more concerned parents open their eyes, ears and hearts, another life may be in danger.