A Nevada man accused of raping and killing his 16-year-old friend last month appeared before a judge in a nearly empty courtroom this week.
Bryce Dickey, 18, who allegedly strangled his friend, Gabrielle “Britney” Ujlaky, and dumped her body in the desert, entered an Elko County courtroom in shackles and a red prison jumpsuit Wednesday, flanked by his legal counsel.
Prosecutors played hours of police interview footage and called upon forensic experts, as well as Ujlaky’s friends and family to testify during the two-day proceedings, which Oxygen.com watched via Zoom. The general public was barred from attending the hearing over concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Ujlaky, who was reported missing on March 8, was allegedly “choked,” “stabbed,” and sexually assaulted by Dickey, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com. Her body was found abandoned in the desert and wrapped in a tarp.
Dickey told investigators he spent the afternoon with Ujlaky the day she vanished, but claimed he last saw her getting into a green Ford pickup truck with a “tall” cowboy. For almost two weeks, detectives searched for the green Ford, which they now believe Dickey fabricated.
“Bryce called me and said Britney got into a dark Ford pickup truck, something was wrong, and that I needed to call her,” Cheyenne Fry, Ujlaky’s friend, told the court from the witness stand on Tuesday, according to the Elko County Free Press. “I continuously tried to call her.”
Jim Ujlaky, the teen’s father, also testified about the moment he realized his daughter may be missing in early March.
“I was repeatedly calling her all the way home and I sent a text, ‘Why aren’t you answering my calls?’” Ujlaky said.
The teen’s father stated Dickey was a known family friend but wasn’t dating or intimately involved with his daughter. Ujlaky thought of Dickey as her “big brother,” the teen’s family and friends previously told Oxygen.com.
“She didn’t like him like that,” Cheyenne Fry testified, the Elko County Free Press reported.
Fry told the court Ujlaky messaged her on Snapchat the day she was killed. Ujlaky appeared disoriented in her final messages, Fry previously told Oxygen.com.
“She looked pale and I asked if she was OK,” Fry recalled. “She said she was having a day.”
When Ujlaky’s body turned up beside an isolated desert road on March 11, Dickey publicly mourned the slain teen with her friends and family.
“He told me he was sorry,” Fry recalled. “He hugged me and comforted me, and I hugged him back because I thought I could trust him. I had no clue any of this happened. I thought he was her friend because that’s how Britney talked about him.”
However, a used condom containing both teens’ DNA was later recovered nearby Ujlaky’s body. Dickey, who initially denied having a sexual relationship with Ujlaky, eventually admitted to having intercourse with her the day she was killed. Ujlaky, whose body was found stuffed in a tarp, had been suffocated and raped, an autopsy revealed.
“She was wrapped up like a burrito,” Eric Thacker, who was involved in search and rescue efforts, and helped discover Ujlaky’s body, testified on Wednesday.
A pair of bloody boots — seized from Dickey’s closet — further linked him to the Ujlaky’s killing, investigators said. Detectives also retrieved a knife and found a blood-stained sweatshirt in his truck’s toolbox, the Elko Free Press reported.
This week’s preliminary hearings were held to establish whether sufficient probable cause existed to proceed with a trial against Dickey. Judge Mason Simons found there was and turned the case over to the Fourth Judicial District Court, which will hold a formal arraignment.
Dickey, who is charged with open murder and rape in Ujlaky’s slaying, could face the death penalty if prosecutors can prove the killing was premeditated. The 18-year-old will enter his plea at a later date.
“It felt like a great first step for my daughter,” Alisha Ujlaky, Gabrielle's mother, told Oxygen.com moments before the hearing was adjourned. “I’m still in this state of shock with a lot of armor up. It’s overwhelming on every single sensor.”
The Nevada mom, still reeling from the loss of her daughter, watched the court proceedings remotely. The sight of Dickey, who she previously described as "shy cowboy," made her “sick to [her] stomach,” she said.
“I didn’t want to look at him,” she added.
Dickey’s lawyer, Gary Woodbury, who previously served as Elko County’s district attorney, didn’t respond to Oxygen.com’s request for comment this week.
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