September 23, 2014

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Trouble preceded Sheffield Township couple’s alleged rape trap

Steve Fogarty and Adam Wright, The Chronicle-Telegram

SHEFFIELD TWP. — September was a troublesome month for a Sheffield Township couple accused of trying to frame a man for rape.

Bracken

James Bracken

Gabrielle Bracken

Gabrielle Bracken

That Sept. 23 incident, in which Gabrielle Bracken allegedly lured a Cleveland man to her home so that her husband, James Bracken, could harm him, has landed both Brackens in trouble with the law.

The couple allegedly hatched the scheme so that Gabrielle, 18, could squelch her husband’s fear that she was attracted to the man.

James Bracken, 27, has been charged with tampering with records, forgery, assault, criminal damaging and falsification.

Gabrielle Bracken was charged with tampering with records, forgery and falsification.

Just 12 days earlier, they were both arrested outside Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights after James Bracken allegedly caused a disturbance and stole hospital equipment while his wife acted as lookout, according to a Mayfield Heights police report.

The Brackens were at the hospital because James’ mother was in the intensive care unit. James was allegedly causing a scene by moving around medical equipment, telling the nurses how to do their jobs and repeatedly asking hospital staff when he could return to visit his mother after family was asked to leave so an assessment could be done.

The couple walked outside the hospital so James could calm down, and police were called to monitor the situation.

When James Bracken was told he could not come back inside without approval from the nursing supervisor, he became combative, saying he was a Sheffield Township firefighter and EMT for a private ambulance company, which he said gave him the right to enter “through the roof” if he had to, the report said.

When he was eventually allowed to re-enter the hospital, officers told him to remove a tool belt that contained a knife and scissors.

He took a folded knife from the belt, opened it and displayed a 4-inch serrated blade.

Officers drew their guns on James Bracken, prompting Gabrielle Bracken to grab the knife and give it to officers.

James Bracken was commanded to drop the tool belt, but when he refused, Gabrielle jumped between her husband and the officers while James Bracken stood in a combative stance, holding a pair of scissors, according to the report.

Officers pushed Gabrielle out the way and grappled with James Bracken, taking him to the ground, while Gabrielle Bracken jumped onto the back of one of the officers.

They were both brought under control by the officers and handcuffed, the report said.

Police found medical equipment from the hospital in the Brackens’ vehicle and security camera footage showed that James Bracken stole the equipment and brought it out to the car while his wife stood watch.

James Bracken was charged with aggravated menacing, theft and obstructing official business and later pleaded no contest to the charges in Lyndhurst Municipal Court.

His wife was cited with complicity and obstructing official business and also pleaded no contest to both charges.

She was found guilty on the obstruction charge, according to Lyndhurst Municipal Court records.

On Sept. 12, while the couple was in Mayfield Heights Jail following the hospital incident, the grandmother of Gabrielle Bracken’s younger sister called the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office to check on the sister, who was staying at the Bracken’s Fleming Avenue home.

The girl was found at a playground near the house, and when deputies returned the girl they spotted what looked like a bomb sitting on a garage work bench, according to Lorain County sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Donald Barker.

The neighborhood was evacuated while Lorain County Bomb Squad investigated.

The “bomb” turned out to be a fake, with what looked like sticks of dynamite and a timer that was actually seven red cylinders with the word “dynamite” printed on the side. The tubes contained rocks, Barker said.

Gabrielle Bracken told Mayfield Heights police the item was actually an alarm clock that happened to look like a bomb.
No charges were filed from the incident, Barker said.

After the bomb scare, James Bracken resigned from his position as volunteer firefighter and EMT with Sheffield Township Fire Department, citing personal problems, according to Sheffield Township Fire Chief Joe Bandagski.

The man whom the couple allegedly tried to frame for rape, Joseph Melendez, 35, was able to escape the home after Gabrielle Bracken allegedly led him into the master bedroom and James Bracken appeared with a metal object to attack him, according to records. Melendez ran to a neighboring home and called 911.

Melendez was later charged with attempted rape, but court records show the charge was dismissed Sept. 30, due in part to statements from a female co-worker of Gabrielle Bracken who was at the home at the time of the incident, Barker said.

Melendez has filed a lawsuit against the couple, also alleging that the Brackens caused more than $2,000 damage to his vehicle.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com or Adam Wright at 329-7155 or awright@chroniclet.com.