• Crime In The Mitten

The Murder Of Chelsea Bruck

The Murder of Chelsea Bruck

Happy spooky season everyone, it’s time for another true crime case and this one just so happens to have taken place at a Halloween party years back, with a search going on for 6 months and a tragic ending. I actually remember seeing headlines about this around the time too. Sometimes I have cases where I have to really research hard to get all the information I could, but in this case, there was so much information that it was a little overwhelming at first but the more information the better. That just means I’m giving you the full story, right? There’s a lot to cover so let’s not waste anymore time and get straight to it. This is the story of Chelsea Bruck.

22 year old Chelsea Bruck worked hard on her Poison Ivy costume for the Halloween party taking place in Frenchtown Township, MI. The party started around 12 pm and lasted until 6 am in the morning. Chelsea, dressed in her costume with a bottle of wine labeled “Poison” gets a ride to the party with her coworker from Olga’s Kitchen, Laura Taylor. When they got to the party, Chelsea left her phone in the car. I’m not sure if it was by accident or by mistake. Another friend, Penny Williams, said that Chelsea was distracted that night. She even walked right into a wooden structure and hit the bridge of her nose. She took a few sips of vodka and kept on with her night. Around 1-1:30 am, Jessica Pribyl, sees her child’s father and his friend walk up to Chelsea (coworkers) and her friend group. She didn’t personally see them talk though. She later on ends up smoking with her child’s father at the party. Just to mention Rebecca Brinson, a coworker, says that Chelsea was always leery of strangers and would have never just gone off with someone she didn’t know. Laura was ready to go and texted Rebecca that Chelsea’s phone was in her car. Rebecca told Chelsea to wait there while she grabbed her phone and when she came back to the spot she left her in, she was gone. She tried to look for her friend but at that moment the bonfire was lit and traffic was coming at her, which made it hard to search. I mean there were over 600 people at this party. Her ride was leaving at the time and she said didn’t want to be stranded, so she left hoping she’d hear from Chelsea the next day. Although she has Chelsea’s phone. Around 2:30 am, Penny received a call from Chelsea from an unknown number and she was asking for a ride. Before she left, she saw Chelsea in the parking lot with an unknown man. Penny was already home at this point and way too intoxicated to go back out, she couldn’t help Chelsea.

The last known sighting of Chelsea was at 3:00 am October 26, 2014. Her mom, Leanndra Bruck, made a missing persons report when her daughter never came home. Deputy Thomas Faver of Monroe County responded to the missing persons report. He was given her cellphone to contact her friends to see if they knew of her whereabouts. With her friends not having heard from her, the search for Chelsea begins. The party was held in a field where Cornstalk was as high as the people who attended. People from the party and the community along with her family and friends search for hours for anything that means Chelsea was there. The Purple Ribbon is started to bring awareness to her disappearance 3 weeks later. It was Chelsea’s favorite color. People would put purple ribbons in their hair and even on their home. They wanted to believe the power of purple would bring her home. Early November, police tried to find the security guards hired at the party, not as suspects but just to question, but they received no helpful information. Michael Williams, who threw the party, felt very guilty about what had happened and was very cooperative with investigators. He said he knew many people at the party but he didn’t know Chelsea. He tried to reach out to her mom but to no avail.

On April 5, 2015, investigators finally had a big break in their case. They find a piece of her costume in the area of Peters Rd and Vreeland in Flat Rock. That very next day they fly helicopters and bring the K-9 unit to help search in Flat Rock. After a long 6 months of searching, remains are uncovered in a heavily wooded area by a construction crew building a house on the land. The crew member said that he was examining one of the machines when he saw a body and called the police right away. This was 10 miles from where the party was. The next day, the remains were identified as Chelsea’s remains. As devastating as this news was to her family, they now had another part to their fight, who did this? There was blood and skin cell DNA on her costume and that was sent into Forensics to be analyzed. They were able to find a match and it belonged to Daniel Clay. Before continuing the story let’s talk a little about 27 year old Daniel Clay from Newport, MI. He’s the one who had a 6 year old child with Jessica. He has been in and out of jail since he was 18 for misdemeanors. He was also in family court for failure to pay child support for 2 of his sons, a total of over $21,000. Within the last 9 years Daniel has been to jail 10 times for crimes such as B&E, Assault, retail fraud, larceny, marijuana possession, resisting arrest and failing probation. When the match came back as a match to Daniel’s DNA back in June he was being charged for a separate crime of home invasion and criminal sexual conduct in Monroe.

With the DNA being a match, police set up surveillance at the residence he lived in which was a trailer park in Frenchtown Villa where he stayed with his girlfriend. When police came to the door, Daniel ran out the house from the back door. He was caught and police brought him in for questioning. Police even found some of Chelsea’s items inside the house. His girlfriend Kelly Richter says she had no idea he did this and that she wouldn’t expect this from him. Daniel denied knowing Chelsea at first, and then he began his confession and according to him this was an accident. Daniel said Chelsea was walking down the road and he pulled over to the side and asked if she wanted a ride, she accepted and got into the car. They drove for 10 miles before pulling over to have sex. While having sex, he claims that Chelsea told him to choke her and he did for about 20-30 seconds and then he felt her body go limp. He said he tried to revive her with CPR but it didn’t work. Instead of calling the police or taking her to a hospital, he panicked and drove around for about 30 minutes, trying to figure out what to do next. He drove to the train tracks and carried her body from the car and hid her under the trees. I guess he just needed to catch his breath because he picked her up again and carried her to a more heavily wooded area before taking off. He spent two hours telling investigators how he did this and how he covered up the crime. The only thing is, although he claimed it was an accident, there were a lot that showed this night went a completely different route. When her costume was analyzed, the strap and crotch area was ripped. Daniel claimed that it was like a passion of the moment thing but her mom said she worked too hard on that costume to ruin it. Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Leigh Hlavaty testified that she found fractures near her nose, eyes, and jaw. She also had two broken teeth. Her cause of death was blunt force trauma, not from being choked like he claimed. And even if that was the case Dr. Leigh testifies that 20-30 seconds would make you unconscious but 2-3 minutes will kill you. Even if his story was true though, he would still be guilty of felony murder.

The day after Daniel was arrested, he made calls to his child’s mother and left her 2 voicemails. He said things like, “I’m extremely sorry", "I f**cked up bad”, “I’m going to be gone a really long time” and, “tell my son I love him” she said by the second voicemail, Daniel was in tears at that point. His girlfriend received the same call from him as well. Daniel was charged with 2nd degree murder and a month or two later an additional charge 1 count of concealment of body was added. A few months after that in November, his murder charge was upped to Open Murder. Open murder is when a prosecutor hasn’t decided between first or second degree murder and allows the jury to chose the most appropriate option. During the trial the Defense argued that he had no motive to kill her so why would he? Defense also asked her friends about her sex life. At first the prosecution tried to shut this down because Chelsea’s sex life had nothing to do with it, but defense says yes is it do if she asked to be choke, so the judge allowed it. Rebecca responded that no she didn’t go along with rough sex, that she knew of. The defense then tried to ask about sex partners and that was shut down immediately by the judge. In the end the prosecution said in closing statements, “A fair examination of the facts of the evidence proves the defendant murdered Chelsea, not by some erotic asphyxiation, by multiple blunt force traumas to her face.” He also said there are 3 reasons that show this wasn’t an accident. 1) The torn straps and torn crotch area of her costume. 2)Blunt force trauma to the face. 3)Blood inside of her costume. Daniel Clay was found guilty of first degree murder May 16, 2017. During the sentencing on July 13, 2017, Leanndra Bruck gave Daniel a bible and told him that he’s forgiven. Daniel told her, “I thank you for the Bible and I will keep it as long as I’m able to. Sorry for everything.” The judge then steps in and calls out his so-called remorse. He said, “I spent 10 days in trial with Mr. Clay and I listened to countless hours of him changing his story every time the detectives questioned or brought up something new. It’s very clear to me Mr. Clay you are a liar, rapist, and a killer.” He was sentenced to life in prison. And guess what happened after that? He was escorted down the hall to family court because of his two warrants for failure to pay child support. He was also sentenced to 45 days.

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