Death of young woman who went missing hits friends hard

Breanna Bradford was found dead in the car shown here. Her ex-boyfriend is being investigated for her murder.
Breanna Bradford was found dead in the car shown here. Her ex-boyfriend is being investigated for her murder. Fresno Bee file

The apparent homicide of Breanna Bradford, 22, allegedly at the hands of her former boyfriend, sent an emotional shock wave from Fresno to Hanford, where she went to high school.

She was found dead in a vehicle early Sunday in Fresno after being reported missing Friday by her family.

Bradford was “an integral member of the Hanford West High School family her freshman through senior years,” Hanford Joint Union High School District Superintendent William Fishbough said in a statement. She was active in cheer, student government and the Black Student Union club, he said.

“She was very involved with class activities and sang a solo at her high school graduation,” Fishbough said. “Breanna had many talents.”

Her ex-boyfriend, James Matthew Gonzales-Gay, 35, was arrested Friday for the unrelated carjacking of a mail truck in Fresno and remains behind bars in Fresno County Jail.

Besides carjacking, he’s being held for carrying a loaded stolen gun and being a felon or drug user in possession of a gun. The case was still under investigation as of Monday and had yet be submitted to the District Attorney’s Office for charges to be filed.

Breanna had many talents.

William Fishbough, superintendent, Hanford Joint Union High School District

She was in the class of 2013, said Alissa Radcliffe, a high school friend who graduated the same year.

“She was hilarious,” Radcliff said. “She had the jokes. She always had some type of witty remark.”

She stayed in Hanford after high school for a couple of years, then moved to Fresno and was living with relatives. Bradford worked for several months as a food server at Denny’s at First and Shaw, she said.

She went to church often and sang in the church choir, she said.

On social media, Bradford was hailed as a friend to many.

“Her smile was contagious and with the outpouring of love that is shown today on social media, she made such a positive impact on so many,” states a message by the Hanford West Huskies Cheer group on Facebook.

Another Facebook message posted by a friend identified as “Meliah Vanessa” said, “Bre could make you smile and laugh on your worst day ... Let's not forget she was extremely talented and had a beautiful voice that touched people’s hearts ... her voice had so much soul.”


She also took dance lessons and made an impact in the dance community.

“She had such a kind and loving spirit, was so full of life, and had the biggest passion for dance,” Dancers Edge studio wrote on its Facebook page. “We cannot remember a day that Breanna walked into the dance studio without a big smile on her face. We are so incredibly heartbroken by this news and we send our deepest condolences and prayers to all of Breanna’s family and friends.”

Police said Gonzales-Gay arrived at Bradford’s apartment about 11 p.m. Thursday and the two started arguing.

Family members told police Gonzales-Gay wanted Bradford to drive him to Sanger, where he is from, but she refused. Gonzales-Gay allegedly pulled out two handguns and put them on a table and told Bradford, “These are not for you.” The two went into a bathroom and continued their heated argument.

A family member heard what sounded like a struggle in a bedroom, but when he entered the room, the sliding glass door was open and they were gone. They had left the apartment about 12:30 a.m. Friday.

She had such a kind and loving spirit.

Facebook posting by Dancers Edge studio

She was supposed to go to her first day of work that morning at an IHOP restaurant. She did not show up and her family said they could not find her. The vehicle with her body was found about 4 a.m. Sunday near Ventura and Ninth.

Gonzales-Gay was arrested the day she disappeared when he tried to carjack a mail service truck on Maple Avenue between Huntington Boulevard and Kings Canyon Road.

He went into the van from the driver’s side door, pulled the carrier from the seat and threw him on the ground. He tried to drive away, but the carrier was able to shift into park and grab the ignition key.

Gonzales-Gay started chasing the driver, but neighbors intervened, and he ran off when police arrived. Gonzalles-Gay was nabbed by officers and identified by the carrier and witnesses.

He had a gun and the gun’s magazine was found on the ground.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold