Daniel Clay sentenced to life in prison for 2014 murder of Chelsea Bruck

Clay admitted to killing Bruck during sex after Halloween party

MONROE, Mich. – Daniel Clay was sentenced to mandatory life in prison without parole for the murder of Chelsea Bruck.

Bruck, 22, went missing after a Halloween party on Oct. 26, 2014 in Frenchtown Township. Her body wasn't found until April 24, 2015 in a wooded area near train tracks in the village of Carlton. A construction crew was doing excavation work on a piece of property where a man was planning to build a house. The crew discovered the body while checking on a piece of equipment, police said.

Clay admitted to killing Bruck during a police interrogation in April 2016. However, he testified that it was an accident during rough, consensual sex. The prosecution argued that even if that's true, he's still guilty of felony murder. A jury agreed and found him guilty of first-degree murder in May. Michigan law requires the court to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole. 

READ MORE:  Full transcript of Daniel Clay's interrogation

Daniel Clay's trial

During closing arguments in May,  the prosecutor hammered home the facts of the case, no matter how difficult they were to hear.

"A fair examination of the facts of the evidence proves the defendant murdered Chelsea, not by some erotic asphyxia, by multiple blunt force traumas to her face," said Michael Roehrig, of the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office.

But the defense argued the massive damage to Bruck's facial bones wasn't caused by Clay.

"Clay doesn't know how Chelsea's injuries were sustained," Defense Attorney Russell Smith said. "They could have occurred three hours after death."

Clay admitted he hid Bruck's body after he panicked when he realized she was no longer breathing.

"It was not Clay's intention to kill Chelsea," Smith said. "He tried resuscitation techniques. What motive did Clay have to kill Chelsea? There was no motive."

"I go back to his response when asked about taking Chelsea anywhere for help," Roehrig said. "He didn't because they would've seen her injuries, the damage to her costume, the blood and his response, if they had looked."

The prosecution said three things show this was not an accident: blunt force trauma to her face, blood on the inside of her costume and the torn straps and crotch.

The jury had to decide between first-degree murder charges and involuntary manslaughter charges. They chose to convict Clay of felony murder. 

Timeline of events in Chelsea Bruck murder

Oct. 26, 2014: Chelsea Bruck vanishes from Halloween party in Monroe County
Bruck went missing on a Saturday night during a party on Post Road in Frenchtown Township. She was last seen wearing a Poison Ivy costume consisting of black pants and a leaf-covered top.

Oct. 29, 2014: Bruck's family, friends continue search

Nov. 2, 2014: Chelsea Bruck case: Police search for guards
Police searched for the security guards who were hired for the party.

Nov. 4, 2014: More info sought from party goers about missing Chelsea Bruck

Nov. 12, 2014: Reward now $5,000 in Chelsea Bruck case

Nov. 17, 2014: Chelsea Bruck's family appeals for help

Nov. 24, 2014: Reward grows to more than $17,000 in case of missing Chelsea Bruck

March 19, 2015: Authorities search Michigan game area for missing Chelsea Bruck
Dozens of law enforcement officers searched Pointe Mouillee Game Area in southeastern Michigan amid an effort to find Bruck.

April 5, 2015: New clue in missing Chelsea Bruck case
Police said they found what they believed to be a portion of Bruck's costume in the area of Peters Road and Vreeland in Flat Rock.

April 6, 2015: Helicopter, K9 search for Chelsea Bruck in Flat Rock

April 8, 2015: Family of missing Monroe County woman awaits information from police

April 24, 2015: Construction workers find body in rural Monroe County
Construction workers found the body around 2 p.m. Friday in a wooded area near train tracks in the village of Carleton. Officers from the Michigan State Police Crime Lab and Monroe County Sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene.

The construction crew was doing excavation work on a piece of property where a man is planning to build a house. The crew discovered the body while checking on a piece of equipment, police said.

April 25, 2015: Remains found in Monroe County identified as Chelsea Bruck
Dental records were used to confirm the remains belonged to Bruck, and investigators Saturday said evidence at the scene indicated a homicide.

April 22, 2016: Man denies seeing her, then says he accidentally killed her during sex

June 9, 2016: Witness comes forward after pictures released in connection to Chelsea Bruck case
After the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office released photos of a person who was at the party and may have had information, the witness made contact with authorities.

July 22, 2016: Monroe County Sheriff: 27-year-old Newport man in custody in Chelsea Bruck case
After an exhaustive investigation over nearly two years, a 27-year-old Newport man was taken into custody.

July 25, 2016: Suspect in Chelsea Bruck slaying: 'I don't want a bond'
At Daniel Clay's arraignment, he told the judge he didn't want a bond.

Nov. 2, 2016: 15 witnesses testify in Chelsea Bruck murder case
Fifteen witnesses testified during a preliminary hearing for Daniel Clay.

May 16, 2017: Jury finds Daniel Clay guilty of felony murder, concealing body in Chelsea Bruck murder case

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About the Authors:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.