Crime

She vanished after an argument with her ex-boyfriend. Police just found her body

Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer at a press conference about Breanna Bradford at police headquarters on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.
Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer at a press conference about Breanna Bradford at police headquarters on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017. apanoo@fresnobee.com

Fresno police found the body of woman who had been missing for two days inside a parked car early Sunday in southeast Fresno. Police now believe her ex-boyfriend, who is already in custody for the attempted carjacking of a mail truck on the day she went missing, may have killed her.

Breanna Bradford, 22, was found inside her silver Volkswagen GTI around 4 a.m. Sunday, after someone reported a foul odor coming from the vehicle parked near Ventura Avenue and Ninth Street. Officers found she died of a “traumatic injury,” said Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Bradford’s family reported her missing on Friday around 2:40 p.m., after they say she didn’t show up to her first day of work at 7 a.m. at the IHOP on Tulare Street, and they could not find her anywhere else.

Police say on Thursday Bradford’s ex-boyfriend, James Matthew Gonzalez Gay, 35, showed up at her apartment on Ashlan and Marks avenues around 11 p.m. and the two began arguing. Family members who live at the home with Bradford say Gay wanted Bradford to drive him to Sanger, where he’s from, and Bradford refused. At one point, Dyer said, Gay allegedly pulled out two handguns, placed them on the table and told Bradford, “these are not for you.” Dyer said the two went into a bathroom where they continued their heated argument.

Dyer said Bradford and Gay left the apartment around 12:30 a.m. Friday, but it’s unclear if Bradford left of her own will or was forced. One family member said he heard the two arguing in the bedroom and heard what he thought to be a struggle inside. When he entered the room, the sliding glass door leading out into the parking lot was open, and they were gone.

breanna
The body of Breanna Bradford, 22, was found early Sunday morning in a vehicle in southeast Fresno. This image is from flier asking for information about her disappearance. FRESNO POLICE DEPARTMENT

Bradford left without her phone, police said, and suspicious transactions were made on her credit cards in the hours after.

Mid-morning Friday, less than a mile away from where Bradford’s body was found Sunday, police say Gay allegedly attempted to carjack a U.S. Postal Service truck on Maple Avenue between Huntington Boulevard and Kings Canyon Road.

Gay allegedly got into the van through the driver’s side door, pulled the carrier from the driver’s seat and threw him to the ground. Fresno police Lt. Stephen Viveros said that as Gay started to drive away, the carrier caught up to the van and was able to shift the transmission into park and remove the ignition key.

Viveros said Gay got out of the van and chased the carrier to get the key back. But when nearby residents saw the chase and came to help the mailman, Gay ran off through the neighborhood as police arrived. He was nabbed by officers, and the mailman and witnesses identified him.

The carrier didn’t realize during the encounter that Gay had a gun. Officers found the gun’s magazine on the ground next to the mail van, and Gay had the other half of the gun when he was caught, police said.

He was booked into the Fresno County Jail on suspicion of felony carjacking and weapons charges, police said.

It wasn’t until hours later, when Bradford’s family reported her missing and gave Gay’s name to police, that authorities began investigating Gay’s connection to Bradford.

Gay has not yet been charged with the death of Bradford, said Dyer, as police continue to investigate.

Gay has an extensive criminal history, including burglary, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and gun possession. He is also on parole for weapons charges and had just been released from prison in September 2016.

Dyer said officers canvassing the neighborhood over the weekend were able to obtain video that established a timeline between the time Bradford left her apartment and the time her body was found.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact Detective Miguel Alvarez at 559-621-2145.

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPan

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