Thomas Bragg took his young daughter from home, packed his car with pillows, blankets, and a garden hose, and drove to an empty parking lot telling the then-3-year-old girl that they were going camping.
But rather than set up a tent on July 9 in the darkened lot, he created a "death chamber," Assistant Lucas County Prosecutor J. Christopher Anderson said in Lucas County Common Pleas Court yesterday.
Bragg, 46, of 4129 Willys Pkwy., pleaded no contest to attempted murder and will face up to 10 years in prison when sentenced Feb. 25. At the sentencing, a second count of attempted murder and one count of felonious assault will be dismissed.
He was convicted of attempting to asphyxiate his daughter by attaching a hose from the vehicle's exhaust pipe to the interior of the car. The hose, authorities said, was positioned just inches from the girl's head.
"He took substantial steps to cause the death of his daughter," Mr. Anderson said after outlining Bragg's conduct on that July night. "He took all preparative steps in Lucas County, and it was a continuous course of conduct."
Attorney Jack Viren had challenged Lucas County's authority in prosecuting the case, saying that the incident occurred just yards over the state line in Michigan. However, Judge Linda Jennings denied a motion to dismiss the charges, based on Mr. Anderson's argument that Bragg engaged in a continuous course of conduct that began in Lucas County.
"The court finds that the defendant's criminal conduct began at his home at 4129 Willys Parkway, Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio. Although defendant may have actually committed or attempted to commit these offenses in the state of Michigan, he formed the requisite intent in Lucas County," the judge wrote in an order released Friday.
Mr. Viren said his client will likely appeal that ruling and so entered a no contest plea, which is not an admission of guilt.
According to Mr. Anderson, Bragg learned in early July that his wife of four years, Trista, was planning to file for divorce. He said that just days later, on the day before the incident, Mrs. Bragg had filed a police report against her husband and had planned to stay out of the house that night at a shelter for battered women.
Mrs. Bragg knew her daughter was with Bragg, and the couple agreed that the girl would be returned to her mother the following day, Mr. Anderson said.
Instead, Bragg returned to the Willys Parkway residence where he gathered supplies and left a note indicating what he was about to do, Mr. Anderson said.
The note indicated that Bragg took his daughter because, "She is my life and now that you 'don't love me' and decided to tear my world apart I didn't want her to go [live] in poverty with you since that's where you'll be again."
Bragg told his daughter that they were going camping and drove to the northwest corner of Telegraph and Stateline roads at about 4 a.m., Mr. Anderson said. He parked the car about 22 feet over the state line, taped over the car's running lights, and attached a hose from the vehicle's exhaust pipe to the rear passenger window.
"The car constituted basically a death chamber back there," Mr. Anderson said, adding that fortunately a truck driver noticed the running vehicle and called for emergency crews.
"The driver's side rear door was open; that's where Mr. Bragg was. His daughter was right behind where the hose was placed," Mr. Anderson said.
Toledo police arrived at the scene and forcibly removed Bragg from the car.
Mr. Viren said his client is a 15-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and has served several times overseas.
He said that Bragg left the military because of injuries he sustained while deployed and that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mr. Viren added that although Bragg was declared competent to stand trial by the court, he hopes Judge Jennings takes his mental state into consideration during sentencing.
The judge ordered both a presentence report and an evaluation by the Court Diagnostic and Treatment Center to assist in crafting a sentence.
Mrs. Bragg, who had appeared tearfully at previous court hearings, was not in the courtroom yesterday. Mr. Anderson told Judge Jennings that she was aware of the plea and approved of the agreement.
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