Jury Finds Queen Shahmia Guilty On All Counts

Naples Daily News, July 4, 2000
By Mary Kelli Bridges

Jurors weren't as mesmerized by Richell Denise Bradshaw as they apparently thought her followers were.

After 1 hour and 20 minutes of deliberation, a jury of four men and two women found Bradshaw, the 34-year-old woman who says she's the daughter of God, guilty of five counts of robbery, one count of grand theft and one count of conspiracy.

In a written statement, prosecutors said each robbery charge carries a maximum 15-year sentence and the other two charges each carry five years. A judge could order that she serve her time concurrently or that she serve one after the other. She will be sentenced Aug. 9.

Bradshaw, who is called Queen Shahmia by her followers, remained silent as the court clerk read the verdict, but during closing arguments she looked back to her husband, Phillip Bradshaw, occasionally shaking her head in disagreement or rolling her eyes.

Bradshaw wasn't convicted of walking into the five Fort Myers businesses between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2 and grabbing money.

Prosecutors said her "manservants," Lawrence Ansaroff, Ismael Castilleja and Anthony Menendez did that.

Instead, prosecutors argued that Bradshaw wanted to live a life of luxury, but since neither she nor any of her followers had full-time steady jobs, she told her manservants they needed to resort to robbery to fulfill her wishes.

"Richell Bradshaw wanted to live like a queen, the only problem is she didn't have the means or the money to do it," said Assistant State Attorney Felicia Wilcox during closing arguments. Defense attorney Mark Ahlbrand urged the jurors to consider that the most damaging evidence prosecutors had was a statement from Castilleja, who said that he heard God tell him to plunder the Earth and that Bradshaw repeated those same words. Bradshaw denied, when she testified in her own defense on Friday, that she ever told anyone to "plunder the Earth."

Ahlbrand tried to convince jurors that Castilleja wasn't a credible witness, bringing up the fact that Castilleja said during his testimony that when he was 8 years old angels took his spirit to heaven where he saw Bradshaw the same as she looks now.

"Sounds to me like the man's not totally balanced," Ahlbrand said.

But Wilcox quickly reminded jurors that Bradshaw, who admitted that her manservants treat her as the daughter of God, including bowing at her feet and sleeping and eating on the floor out of respect for her, couldn't cast stones.

"She has delusions of her own," Wilcox said.

And though Ahlbrand never uttered the name "Jesus," in his final words to jurors he compared Bradshaw's case to the case of a man who "many years ago" chose to surround himself with followers and minister to the sick and poor, but was accused of having other motives.

"This case is nothing more and nothing less than an analogy to that situation," Ahlbrand said.

As Ahlbrand left the courtroom Monday, he handed notes to both Phillip Bradshaw and Richell Bradshaw's maiden servant, Christine Garcia, that Richell Bradshaw had written and then folded into triangles.

Phillip Bradshaw said he thought the trial was religious discrimination and said he would continue to fight for others' civil liberties.

But it was also evident that the cracks have widened in what Richell Bradshaw referred to as her family.

Though Garcia, who also goes by the names Nirishi or Christine Ramirez, said everything was fine and they were all still very devoted to each other, Phillip Bradshaw admitted that he felt Castilleja, Garcia's common-law husband, had turned on Richell Bradshaw by lying.

"I'm not happy with Ismael," he said.

Castilleja last month entered into a deal with the state in which he entered a no-contest plea to one count of robbery and three counts to being an accessory after the fact. In exchange for testifying, Castilleja was promised a recommendation from prosecutors for a two-year prison term. He'll also be sentenced Aug. 9.

The cases against Menendez and Ansaroff are still pending court-ordered psychiatric evaluations to determine if they're competent to stand trial.

The jurors declined to comment after the trial.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.