ELKO – Jurors found Bryce Dickey guilty of murder in the first degree and sexual assault with a deadly weapon in the death of 16-year Gabrielle “Britney” Ujlaky two years ago.
Jurors deliberated about four hours Thursday in Elko District Court before returning their verdict following closing statements from the prosecution and defense counsel.
The trial lasted seven days and included 20 witnesses and about 200 pieces of evidence.
Prosecution and defense attorneys gave closing arguments to the jury early Thursday afternoon, summarizing testimony and evidence provided by witnesses called by Elko District Attorney Tyler Ingram and Chief Deputy District Attorney Chad Thompson.
Attorney Gary Woodbury and Elko County Public Defender Matthew Pennell, who are defending Dickey, rested their case Thursday morning without calling any witnesses.
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Dickey, 20, was charged with felony open murder, sexual assault with the use of a deadly weapon, and an alternate charge of sexual assault. He was the last person to see Ujlaky alive on March 8, 2020, after he picked her up at Angel Park.
After Ujlaky was reported missing, Dickey told investigators he saw her get into a green Ford F150 pickup truck with a tall man wearing a cowboy hat at the Spring Creek High School parking lot.
Ujlaky’s body was discovered March 11, 2020, by a search team in Burner Basin wrapped in a blue tarp.
Dickey was arrested eight days later after an interview with detectives, who questioned him on conflicting statements made to investigators in the days after Ujlaky’s disappearance.
Nearly two years after Ujlaky was found, Dickey’s murder trial started on May 10 with presentation of evidence and witnesses from prosecutors.
On Wednesday it was revealed that a cellphone belonging to Ujlaky disappeared after being turned over to the Northern Nevada Cyber Center at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office days after it was found smashed into the ground.
An investigator testified the phone was swabbed for DNA and then sent to the Cyber Center to download data in a forensic investigation. He said he was told by the Center officials that the phone needed its circuitry repaired and it might need to be shipped out to another entity. When he checked on the status of the phone in January, detectives couldn’t locate it.
Another check on the phone in April showed a recommendation to ship it out was on file, but it was not found in their system or in their evidence storage.
Additionally, a witness testified she had been choked by Dickey with one hand around her throat for a few seconds from the front about four times during their 18-month relationship, all occurring prior to his arrest.
She told jurors during three occasions, the pressure was about “two or three” on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least amount of pressure. The final time, it was about a “four or five,” which she said caused “a little bit” of pain afterward.
When asked by Ingram if Dickey asked permission or if she gave permission for him to put his hand on her throat, the witness said, “no,” adding he would remove it immediately after she asked him to do so.
The fourth time occurred on the day of the candlelight vigil for Ujlaky, she said.
When she moved his hand away and told Dickey “she didn’t like” it after each occurrence, she said he apologized each time.
Public Defender Matthew Pennell asked if she “perceived or knew” if Dickey physically abused anyone else. She responded, “No.”
At the start of the trial, defense counsel led by Woodbury asked jurors to pay close attention to testimony, which would show that evidence provided at the trial would not prove Dickey had killed or sexually assaulted Ujlaky.
“You will not hear any evidence that anybody anywhere saw Bryce Dickey kill or rape Britney Ujlaky,” he said on May 10.
Woodbury also called the prosecution’s case “entirely circumstantial” with pieces of evidence not entered as exhibits by the State.
He also pointed to lack of evidence for the sexual assault charge against Dickey.
Washoe County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Julie Schrader testified during the trial that she saw no sign of trauma related to sexual assault in her autopsy of Ujlaky.
In his closing statement, Ingram asked the jury to remember that Dickey was 18 years old at the time of his arrest.
“He was an adult and the State is asking you to hold him accountable as an adult,” Ingram said.
Ingram added that the state was not required to provide evidence, DNA or physical, “in order for you to find Bryce Dickey guilty of sexual assault.”
Ingram said the state also wasn’t required to provide an eyewitness to the crime.
“I want you to think about whether crimes like murder or sexual assault are crimes often committed in front of other people. That wouldn’t be very smart,” Ingram said.
“You have to decide whether the state has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Bryce intended to do what he did,” he added. “You will find that there is no way for you to know exactly what Mr. Dickey was thinking when he committed these crimes.”
Addressing Woodbury’s statement that the case was circumstantial, Ingram pointed to a juror instruction “that says circumstantial evidence and direct evidence are not given greater weight than one another.”
“You can look at the circumstantial evidence to decide whether the state has proven the intent beyond a reasonable doubt,” Ingram said. “You can look at circumstantial evidence for every single element that the state is required to prove.”
Ingram also asked jurors to look at the bigger picture in their deliberations and remember the case was about 16-year-old Britney Ujlaky.
“This is about holding Bryce Dickey accountable for what he did to Britney,” Ingram said. “That is what this case is about.”
Jurors will convene on Monday for the penalty phase as a result of the first degree verdict.