Oxygen.com spoke to friends and family of Britney Ujlaky, a murdered cowgirl who spent time at ranches and rodeos in Nevada. The case has a trial pending.
On March 8, 2020, Jim Ujlaky’s 16-year-old daughter Britney tagged along with him to his band practice and she was picked up later by a friend. Jim would never see his daughter again.
That evening, he could no longer reach Britney and the following day officials filed a formal missing persons report. On Wednesday March 11th, authorities discovered Britney Ujlaky’s body in the desert.
The teen was allegedly raped and stabbed to death, according to court documents. As the investigation continued, family and friends began to honor the teen. Then came an arrest.
Britney Ujlaky: More Than A Cowgirl
Elko County is nestled in the Northeast corner of Nevada, about a six hour drive from Las Vegas. It’s home to rodeo circuits packed with events and locals on the weekends. Britney's friend, Cheyenne Frey, recalls meeting her at a rodeo in Elko.
“It’s like a family event that everyone goes to and just hang out,” Frey told Oxygen.com.
A sentiment echoed by Britney’s mother, Alisha Ujlaky, who told Oxygen.com her daughter was not a typical arena cowgirl.
"This girl was the real, legit, nitty gritty Nevada cowgirl... Very rarely was she in an arena. She was out doing ranch work,"
March 8th, 2020
On the day of her disappearance, Britney told her father her friend Bryce Dickey was picking her up.
Dickey, 18, was one of her close friends. Alisha previously described him as a “shy cowboy.” He was also dating another teen at the time.
“He had a girlfriend,” Alisha said. “Not just a new girlfriend, he had this girlfriend for two and a half years.”
Britney looked at Dickey as a “big brother,” according to both Frey and Ashby.
“She would say that he was like one of her closest friends and she cared about him a lot, but besides that she didn’t really talk about him,” Ashby said.
Dickey picked up Britney in Elko and the pair drove around for three and a half hours before she asked to be dropped off at Spring Creek high school to meet a “new friend,” Dickey told a patrol deputy during the initial investigation when reached by phone. Dickey also said she had walked over to a green Ford F-150 pick up truck, according to a criminal complaint obtained by Oxygen.com.
Dickey claimed to investigators the friend Britney was meeting was a tall man wearing a cowboy hat, according to a probable cause statement.
March 11th, 2020
On Wednesday, investigators discovered a female body in the area of Burner Basin. Officials later confirmed the remains were identified as Britney and that her death was being investigated as a homicide, according to a release from the Elko County Sheriff’s Office.
Dickey took to social media and wrote, “Yesterday, we all received news that made us hit the floor. Around 8 in the morning we all started meeting up at my house to grieve an[d] to mourn Britney’s life. Which was taken far too soon. That day I had tears of pain and joy. I wish she could have seen the amount of us that came together to honor you sis. We love you so much….”
However, investigators with the Elko County Sheriff’s Department now allege there were inconsistencies in Dickey’s statements along with video surveillance that contradicts what he told authorities, including video that shows a car matching his drive east, past the high school parking lot entrance.
Detectives now allege the unknown “tall” cowboy with the green pick-up truck was fabricated.
A condom found at the scene where Britney’s body was found allegedly matched both her and Dickey’s DNA. He was taken into custody on March 19th.
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.
Friends and family previously told Oxygen.com Britney was not sexually active or interested in Dickey romantically.
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.
The arrest came as a shock to some of those closest to Britney, who spoke with Dickey in the days before his arrest.
"He saw me and he dropped his head and he started to cry and I hugged him then I said it's okay Bryce,"
Alisha says she trusted Bryce.
“She would say hey mom, there’s group of us doing this and this and this and I wanna go and I’d say oh I don’t know,” Alisha said. “And [Britney would] say Mom, Bryce is the gonna be the one that drives me and I’d say oh okay then you can go because, you know, there was no absolutely no inclination that you couldn’t trust this kid.”
As parts of the country dealt with new restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court system had to shift as well. A preliminary hearing in April for the case was held by teleconference with only those necessary to court proceedings called into court.
Prosecutors played hours of police interview footage and called upon forensic experts, as well as Ujlaky’s friends and family to testify, which Oxygen.com watched via Zoom. The two-day proceeding determined there was sufficient probable cause to move forward with a formal trial.
Dickey later pleaded not guilty to the charges against him in court, including open murder and sexual assault.
If convicted, Dickey could face life in prison or the death penalty. Oxygen.com has reached out to his attorney, public defender Gary Woodbury, with requests for comment, but have not heard back.
Remembering Britney Ujlaky
Those closest to Britney describe the pain of losing their vibrant daughter and friend. A loss exacerbated by goals and common milestones Britney had planned.
“She was supposed to get her license Monday,” Alisha said.
Britney had plans of enlisting in the Navy, according to her parents.
"She was going into the Navy without fail that was her goal. She wanted to be either a psychiatrist, wanted to help vets, or a nurse..."
Her parents describe her as a teen with strong morals and someone who wouldn’t stop trying to make others laugh.
“If anybody was sad or anything, it was flowers…,” Alisha said. “Flowers makes everything better, mom.”