Queen Shahmia Trial: Bradshaw Takes Stand, Refutes Former Associate's Testimony

Naples Daily News, Saturday, July 1, 2000
By Mary Kelli Bridges

Testifying for the prosecution Friday, Ismael Castilleja told the court that Bradshaw ordered him and two other manservants 'to go plunder the earth' FORT MYERS - It'll be up to a jury to decide next week if it should believe the word of a woman who claims to be the daughter of God, or one of her so-called manservants in determining if the woman is responsible for orchestrating a series of Lee County robberies.

Richell Denise Bradshaw, 34, has been on trial since Wednesday on charges that she masterminded five robberies of Fort Myers businesses around New Year's Day. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning, after which the jury will begin deliberations.

Testifying for the prosecution Friday, Ismael Castilleja, 26, told the court that Bradshaw ordered him and the other two manservants, Lawrence Ansaroff, 20, and Anthony Menendez, 21, to steal.

"We were given an instruction that it was the turning of the tables, that we were to go plunder the earth," Castilleja testified.

Bradshaw, who calls herself Queen Shahmia, refuted Castilleja's testimony when she took the stand later.

"I never used the word 'plunder' or insinuated in any way that I wanted them to go out and steal from anyone at any time," Bradshaw testified.

Castilleja said the group traveled across the country "ministering" to people with problems. He also said he bowed before her on a regular basis, made financial offerings to her with money donated to him, ate on the floor when she ate at a table, slept on the floor when she slept in a bed and, in general, lived to serve her.

"We do not do anything without her permission," he testified.

Castilleja said "the almighty spoke his desire and I heard his voice." Asked by Assistant State Attorney Felicia Wilcox if it was Bradshaw who was the one who spoke, he said "true."

Castilleja also testified that when he was 8, angels took his spirit before God, at which time he saw Bradshaw as she looks now.

He said he met her three years ago when he was working as a chef in Texas.

He was in search of the truth and was immediately attracted to her.

"It was love at first sight," he testified. "It was like seeing my mother for the first time."

He said he was first instructed to "plunder the earth" when the group was staying in Boca Raton, and after a couple of FBI agents told him that they would not give Bradshaw diplomatic immunity or money.

He said she was present when he spoke with Menendez and Ansaroff about how they shouldn't hurt anyone or use weapons. He said they decided it was OK to push people, if necessary.

No weapons were used in the robberies, but several victims and witnesses were pushed or struck, according to earlier testimony.

Defense attorney Mark Ahlbrand asked Castilleja if he entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors before agreeing to testify. Castilleja said that in exchange for his testimony, if he pleaded no contest to a robbery and accessory charges, prosecutors would recommend he serve two years in prison.

Bradshaw is charged with five counts of robbery, one count of conspiracy to commit robbery and one count of grand theft. She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted as charged.

The state's cases against Ansaroff and Menendez are pending.

Under cross examination by Ahlbrand, Castilleja admitted lying about the robberies to deputies when he was first arrested on Jan. 2.

Bradshaw repeated Friday what she told Lee County sheriff's deputies in a taped statement taken hours after her three manservants were arrested in early January.

She testified that she didn't know about the robberies and that she didn't participate in planning them.

Calling the robberies and their aftermath a "dreadfully uncomfortable situation," Bradshaw admitted that she mentioned a turning of tables and that "it was a time to go forward and for swords to be drawn." But she said she meant those swords to be words and not robberies.

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