On October 26, 2014, 22-year-old Chelsea Bruck attended a huge outdoor Halloween party at a rural property in Frenchtown Township, Michigan. Her loved ones did not realize it would be the last time they ever saw her.
Reports indicate there was an excess of 600 people, even up to 1000 party-goers, at the Halloween bash at Post Rd in Newport, MI. Chelsea was wearing a green ivy leaf costume she made herself, of the character “Poison Ivy” from Batman. Photos of her from that night show she was wearing a dark colored wig. Sometime in the early morning hours of October 27th, Chelsea became separated from her friends. They would later have remorse for the decision to leave without her. They reported that Bruck did not seem inebriated or drugged and appeared happy while chatting with people at the party. Within two days, her family reported her missing and a massive search ensued.
The Bruck family, coordinating with police efforts, launched an exhaustive effort to find Chelsea. Hundreds of searchers became involved and media coverage expanded quickly. On November 11th, the Purple Ribbon campaign began, including distributing more than 1 million flyers. One witness said she saw Chelsea walking away from the party with a man and Police released a composite sketch of a man with glasses. The sketch did little to move the investigation forward. But the first big public break in the case came when Chelsea’s handmade Halloween costume was found on April 5, 2015, at a vacant industrial site in Flat Rock, MI.
Six months after her disappearance, in the afternoon hours of April 24, 2015, a construction crew found a woman’s skeletal remains while working in a heavily wooded private property residential work site. The property was close to train tracks near Briar Hill Rd. in Carleton, approximately 12 miles North from where Chelsea disappeared. The next day, Monroe County Sheriff Dale Malone confirmed the remains belonged to Chelsea Bruck. Dental records verified her identity. The Sheriff announced few details of the case but stated “evidence at the scene indicated it was a homicide” and it was likely the crime was committed at or near where her body was found.
An excerpt from Chelsea’s obituary reads: As a hostess, [Chelsea] was employed by Olga’s Kitchen at the Mall of Monroe for four years. Her favorite pastimes included: watching movies, especially musicals; listening to music, of which Queen was her favorite band; enjoyed playing videogames, including Final Fantasy VIII; and her favorite television show, Doctor Who. She also enjoyed reading and baking, and had a special love for her dog and cats. She was raised very close to her siblings and loved being a part of the “Bruck girls.”
On July 22, 2016, twenty-one months after Chelsea’s disappearance, 27-year-old Daniel Allan Clay was arrested at his girlfriend’s mobile home in Frenchtown Villa Mobile Home park. A few days later, Clay was arraigned for the murder of Chelsea Bruck. “We got him,” said Major Jeff Kemp. Clay’s girlfriend told Detroit’s Free Press that he confessed to the crime in a phone call the day after his arrest. It was later revealed that DNA collected from Daniel Clay during an unrelated robbery of a backpack linked him to Chelsea’s Poison Ivy costume.
In June 2015, prior to his arrest for the murder charges for Chelsea, Daniel Clay committed an assault of another woman in a separate incident inside a Monroe apartment. On August 8, 2016, he was arraigned on 1st degree home invasion and 1st degree criminal sexual conduct charges in connection with that assault.
On Sept. 22, 2016, the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office filed an additional charge in the case against him for Chelsea’s murder: concealing the death of an individual, otherwise known as disposing of a corpse.
During the trial, Monroe County Sheriff Detective Brian Sroka testified that after Clay was arrested, he admitted he had killed Bruck but maintained it was an accident. Clay claimed that he saw Chelsea walking on the side of the road and pulled up next to her to ask if she wanted a ride. She agreed. He stated that after driving up the road a little bit, they proceeded to have consensual sex and she asked him to choke her. He claimed that her death was a rough sex accident and that she had stopped breathing after 20-30 seconds of choking her. He further claimed that he attempted CPR but could not revive her. He stated that he “freaked out” and just began driving around, ultimately coming to some train tracks. He carried her body into the woods and covered her with tree branches. Forensic experts testified and evidence was presented throughout the trial that Chelsea had blunt force trauma to the head and injuries consistent with a violent attack, including chipped teeth.
The trial lasted approximately one week, and on July 17, 2017, it took about three hours for the jury to come back with the guilty verdict. Daniel Clay was sentenced to life in prison. Monroe circuit Judge Daniel S. White 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 him or brought up something new… It was very clear to me, Mr. Clay, you are a liar, a rapist and a killer.”
Chelsea’s mother spoke at the sentencing and gave Clay a Bible. She said: “Today, with the strength from Jesus Christ, I forgive Daniel Clay. I do not want my Lord to ask why I could not offer forgiveness to Mr. Clay.”