An 18-year-old man was arrested Thursday in connection to the murder of Britney Ujlaky, a 16-year-old girl in rural Nevada who vanished after getting a ride from the suspect, who was one of her friends from the rodeo.
Bryce Dickey, of Spring Creek, was cuffed on one count of open murder. He was scheduled to appear before a judge on Friday afternoon.
The Elko County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release announcing Dickey’s arrest and assuring that the homicide probe continues. “Investigators continue to conduct follow-up in the case which remains active,” the agency said on Friday. “At this time, the tip line has been closed.”
Britney’s father, James Ujlaky, said he was angry he’d never see his daughter again—and that a teenager she trusted ended up taking her life. The two were friends through the rodeo circuit in the ranching community, James said. They’ve known each other for years.
“There’s no worse betrayal than this,” James told The Daily Beast. “Because she really thought he was a good friend.”
“She did trust everybody. She always saw the good,” the grieving dad continued. If someone did wrong, “She would call you out in front of everybody. She was going to expose you for who you were, come hell or high water.”
“How dare you?” James said. “How dare you do this to a girl like that? She was real and honest…”
Britney (born Gabrielle Lynn Ujlaky) went missing on the afternoon of Sunday, March 8. Her body was discovered three days later in Burner Basin, a secluded desert where kids speed around on quads and hunters pursue coyotes.
Police and Britney’s family were initially told Dickey gave Britney a ride to Spring Creek High School. She was then supposedly picked up by a mystery man in a cowboy hat who was driving a green Ford pickup truck.
But that yarn was apparently spun by the murder suspect. James told The Daily Beast that Dickey made up the story, and that he never believed it.
Dickey seemed to be mourning Britney on social media last week.
“Yesterday, we all recieved [sic] news that made us hit the floor,” Dickey said in a March 13 Facebook post. “Around 8 in the morning we all started meeting up at my house to grieve an 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. Just know you won't ever be forgotten.”
On March 11, the day Britney's remains were discovered, Dickey shared a link announcing she’d been found and that a fundraiser for her family was being organized.
Britney’s close friend, Cheyenne Fry, was shocked to hear Dickey was accused of killing her.
“It crushes me,” Fry told The Daily Beast. “He acted like her friend and she talked to me about him like he was her friend. She called him her big brother.”
As news of Dickey's arrest spread on Friday, angry commenters took to his Facebook page. "If this is true, I'm so disturbed that people like that aren't just on documentaries or tv... they are in our home town," one woman wrote. "Seriously disgusted."
One friend of Britney's chimed in, "Piece of crap! I hope you rot in prison for the rest of your life for what you did to Britney!!!!"
Before Britney disappeared, she’d spent the day watching her dad’s metal band practice, and only stepped out to pick up KFC. “She was with me all day that Sunday,” James said. “When I called 911, they started to treat her as a runaway. I said, she’s not a runaway. She calls me every hour. She always kept in touch.”
Britney was supposed to hitch a ride home with Dickey after James’ band practice. The father and daughter said what would become their final goodbye around 3 p.m., and James headed to a restaurant with his bandmates. “I’ll beat you home,” Britney said. “Bryce is going to give me a ride.”
It was the last time loved ones saw or heard from Britney again.
James called police to report Britney missing around 8:30 p.m. Her phone had been going straight to voicemail for hours. “I knew immediately something was wrong if she wasn’t answering the phone,” James said.
The handful of days after James phoned cops were excruciating. He wondered if Britney had been killed or kidnapped into a sex-trafficking ring. “Just the stuff that goes through your mind—if I slept two hours it was a lot,” he said.
Authorities didn’t issue an Amber Alert because Britney’s disappearance wasn’t believed to be an abduction, James said.
James said it was hard for him to believe Britney would willingly get into the vehicle of a stranger she’d only just met. He taught his daughter self-defense tactics, and they’d had many conversations about not leaving her drinks unattended and otherwise protecting herself from harm. “She was very well educated on what could happen to you,” he said.
“She was a very strong young lady,” James told The Daily Beast. The dad, who worked in construction before taking a job in a local gold mine, said Britney was tough enough to put him in a headlock. “She was full of life, a protector. She always stood up for people who wouldn't stand up for themselves.”
Britney loved horses and often went riding with friends and volunteered at 2U Ranch to care for them. The high-schooler had two of her own in her family’s lot, too: Miss, a big wild mustang, and Ireland, a cattle herding horse.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Fry said Britney “made sure [the horses] were rode every single day.” She added, “They were her babies. She said she wanted to run for rodeo queen here but something always came up.”
Britney was a familiar face at rodeo events. “My daughter was very, very popular,” James said. “Just beyond popular and well-liked by everyone.”
She also had her eyes set on the future. James said Britney was considering joining the U.S. Navy and working toward a career in medicine.
“The best thing about my daughter—she was absolutely gorgeous. She had the personality to fit her gorgeousness. She had a heart probably the size of this world. She was putting friends before herself,” James said. When James would tell her she needed to spend more time at home, Britney would say, “That’s my friend. She needed my help!”
Britney was a daddy’s girl who loved to be goofy, James said. She’d do the Sprinkler dance in front of the TV until he laughed—in a dance-move standoff.
Even trips to the grocery store were fun with the cowgirl. “We’d be giving each other guff. I would stop anybody shopping and say, ‘Can I have that? Do you need that in your cart?’ She would go along with it.”
Britney’s favorite colors were purple and yellow because like her dad, she was a Minnesota Vikings fan. “She would outdo me every Sunday dressing up in more Vikings gear than me.
I said Britney, ‘I’ve been a fan since I was 6,’” James added.
“She was always caring and giving. She could never see the bad in anyone. She could only see the good.”