Chelsea Bruck's story begins at a raucous Halloween bash on a sprawling Monroe County, Michigan farm. More than 600 spirited and costumed revelers celebrated at the October 26, 2014 party. Many partiers, according to the sheriff, were in their own real-life "altered states."
Friends say Chelsea was more the quiet, timid type. She was not open to strangers, and didn't even drive. The 22-year-old blonde with an infectious smile lived at home with her parents. Still, Chelsea was eager to go to the party, and she hopped a ride with a friend and showed up at the huge affair, donning her own homemade costume: the villainous character "Poison Ivy" of Batman fame: black pants, leaf top, dark wig.
A friend told Crime Watch Daily affiliate partner WXYZ that Chelsea was there -- and then she wasn't. One picture, taken at 1:30 a.m., according to another friend, shows Chelsea still wearing the costume and still at the party. But Chelsea never made it home. No call, no message. Nothing. She simply vanished.
Law enforcement in southeast Michigan launched an investigation and a call to action. Someone at the party reported they saw Chelsea walking toward the parking area at 3 a.m. with a man wearing dark glasses and a black hooded sweatshirt. A composite sketch is immediately drawn up and released.
And then cops get what they think is a break in the case: A woman named Kerri Ann Carr brings hopes of a solid lead. She tells police her ex-boyfriend claimed he murdered Chelsea Bruck. Turns out it's all a lie. Police say Carr fabricated the story to get her ex in trouble for a crime he didn't commit.
Then, Harlin Bird would revive hopes for a good clue. Bird told police he saw two men harassing Chelsea at the party, then drive off with her. But cops say Bird's story too was another false lead.
Months pass without a suspect, without justice for Chelsea. A 23rd birthday had come and gone. As the mystery marked a six-month milestone, a real break in the case, a tragic one.
First, a piece of Chelsea's "Poison Ivy" costume is found on an abandoned lot. Three weeks later, construction workers excavating a secluded property find Chelsea's remains. According to police reports, Chelsea's body was nude and partially decomposed, covered in logs and limbs.
But police had no face of the killer to complete the horrific picture.
A frustrating 14 long months would pass. Then, 27-year-old Daniel Clay, a man with an extensive criminal record, falls into the hands of police on felony theft charges. He's questioned by investigators and reportedly tells police he was at that party the night Chelsea disappeared.
Police say a DNA sample taken from Clay matches samples taken from crime scene evidence.
Clay was charged with second-degree murder. The accused killer allegedly confessed to the crime, reportedly telling his girlfriend, Kelli Richter, that it was all a terrible accident that happened during rough sex with Chelsea Bruck.
Clay has undergone a mental competency test and has been ordered to stand trial for the murder of Chelsea Bruck. Since his arrest in the Bruck case, he faces additional charges of criminal sexual contact and home invasion in a separate case involving another Michigan woman.
Police are left wondering who else may have fallen victim to Daniel Clay.
If convicted of the murder of Chelsea Bruck, Clay faces life behind bars.