Braeden Collins was supposed to be having a fun Saturday night out with friends in Delaware County, Oklahoma when the 18-year-old recent high-school grad disappeared in a town about an hour away from home.
Days later, sheriff’s deputies found an unidentified body in a burned vehicle not far from where Collins was last seen—and they now believe the remains belong to the teen. Authorities have already taken two persons of interest into custody amid the ongoing homicide investigation.
Collins' mom, Jennifer Bump, said she last heard from her son on Saturday evening. “It doesn’t feel real yet,” Bump, who’s spent many sleepless nights since Collins vanished, told Tulsa World on Wednesday.
According to local CBS affiliate KOTV-DT, Collins had gone to a party where he got into an altercation and left intoxicated, then crashed his car in the wee hours of the morning Sunday. It appeared that he had plans to be taken to a nearby convenience store so he could get a ride home from friends or family members after the crash.
Peggy Philpott, an employee at the Log Store, told local NBC affiliate KJRH-TV that she was at the shop when Collins’ family went looking for him.
“About 3 o’clock a family member came in and was asking… showing his pictures, asking if we recognized him, knew anything. Of course we hadn’t heard anything, so we let them put pictures and flyers up around the store area,” Philpott said.
The family reported Collins missing later that morning. In the aftermath of his disappearance, Cherokee County Sheriff Jason Chennault told Tulsa World that Collins never made it to the convenience store.
During a search for Collins on Monday, deputies reportedly found remains in a burned vehicle that did not belong to the teen within five miles of his alleged crash.
“They found a burnt vehicle with a burned body inside. We don’t know positively that this was Mr. Collins, but due to the area where this vehicle was located in, in close proximity to the party site and the crash, we believe is probably him,” Chennault told KJRH-TV.
The case is now being examined as a possible homicide as Bump awaits confirmation from the state Medical Examiner’s Office that the body belongs to her missing son. The ME told The Daily Beast on Thursday that the body has yet to be identified.
At least two persons of interest have been identified and are in custody in connection with the case.
Chennault told FOX23 that Kiah Pritchett, who was initially arrested for outstanding warrants and is currently in the Muskogee County Jail, is now considered a primary suspect in Collins’ disappearance.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office later told the network that a second person of interest in connection with Collins’ case, Bradley Davis, was also in custody Thursday. He is being held on a series of charges, including second-degree burglary and failure to appear.
Meanwhile, Collins’ mom is anxiously awaiting a definitive account of what happened. She told Tulsa World that her son planned to meet with a Marine Corps recruiter next week, and while he projected the image of a “tough guy” he never hesitated to show her affection “whenever, wherever—and it didn’t matter who else was around.”