Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Trinity Bray, the Mother Who Went Missing with Three-Year-Old Son, Could Face Charges of Child Endangerment and Felony Hit and Run

Trinity Bray minutes after being found accompanied by California Highway Patrol officers [Picture by KMUD’s Lauren Schmitt]

California Highway Patrol’s Sergeant Matthew Harvey revealed that new information investigators have gathered since Trinity Bray and her son were found on Friday, December 4 have prompted a criminal investigation that could lead to Bray being charged with child endangerment and felony hit and run.

Trinity Bray is the mother who went missing in northern Mendocino County along with her three-year-old son after a single-vehicle accident on November 30. Four days later, Bray and her son were found on the side of Highway 101. 

Sergeant Harvey said an analysis of the crashed vehicle indicated that Trinity Bray, was, in fact, the driver of the vehicle. Inside of that vehicle, Sergeant Harvey said a “controlled substance was found.” He would not be specific as to which substance. 

Sergeant Harvey also said that since the first day of the search for Bray and her three-year-old boy, Child Welfare Services has been investigating the circumstances and confirmed they had continued their investigation at the hospital Bray and her son was taken to after they were found. 

Trinity Bray’s mother speaking with Mendocino County Sheriff Deputy Jason Logan about finding her daughter and grandchild [Picture by KMUD’s Lauren Schmitt]

Sergeant Harvey said Bray has told investigators that after the single-vehicle car crash, she and her child fell down a steep embankment, falling into the Eel River, and found an abandoned marijuana grow across the river to take refuge in throughout the four days they were missing. Investigators have been unable to corroborate these claims, said Sergeant Harvey.

Another piece of information from Harvey was the circumstances of finding Trinity Bray. He said that on December 4, CHP dispatch received a flurry of calls regarding a naked woman sitting in the middle of Highway 101.

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Sergeant Harvey said initial reports on November 30 indicated at approximately 12:00 p.m., a single-vehicle accident occurred when a gray Toyota Sienna crashed into a tree going northbound on Highway 101. Officers reporting to the scene found one adult male in the vehicle who had sustained major injuries later transported to an area hospital. 

Witnesses told dispatch an adult female was seen walking away from the single-vehicle accident either carrying or walking with the child. Based on these reports, CHP officers canvassed Highway 101 assisted by Leggett Valley Volunteer Fire Department who hiked the embankments alongside the highway. 

After being unable to locate the missing mother and child on the day of the accident, Sergeant Harvey said CHP’s “initial thought and hope was mom had solicited help from a driver to take her son to a hospital.” Sergeant Harvey explained that as time went by, “we did not get any phone calls from local hospitals and when we contacted those hospitals, no hospitals had received the mom and child.”

As night descended on the first day of Bray and her child’s disappearance, Sergeant Harvey said CHP officers used a thermal imaging camera, used to detect body heat, to scan the areas alongside Highway 101 making several passes near the area the mother and child had last been seen.

On December 2, Sergeant Harvey said CHP deployed a helicopter to survey the area for any signs of the missing mother and son to no avail. 

That day, Sergeant Harvey said CHP received information from a witness that substantially increased the urgency to locate the mother and child: the child was visibly injured when he was walking away from the scene with his mother. 

Mendocino County Search and Rescue’s briefing about the search for Trinity Bray and her son [Picture from the Garberville CHP Facebook page]

At the point of learning about the possibility of an injured child, Sergeant Harvey said CHP employed Mendocino County Search and Rescue to assist in locating the missing pair. Mendocino County Search and Rescue conducted a “detailed, two-day search of the area using ground searchers, aerial drones equipped with infrared cameras” yet nothing substantial was found. 

It was at approximately 11:00 a.m. on December 4 when CHP began to receive reports of a naked woman sitting in the middle of Highway 101, according to Sergeant Harvey. A driver stopped to speak with the distressed woman who indicated there was a child down the embankment. Upon receiving these reports, Sergeant Harvey said CHP officers were “confident that it would be Bray and the child.”

Sergeant Harvey said first responders found the child significantly down the embankment along Highway 101 and one witness had told CHP the child was “holding onto a log.”

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Trinity Bray speaking with California Highway Patrol Officers while waiting to be taken to an area hospital [Picture from KMUD’s Lauren Schmitt]

After the pair were found, both were taken to a nearby hospital. When asked whether either Bray or her son had injuries, Sergeant Harvey said they both appeared to be “in good shape.”

Sergeant Harvey said this case is specifically difficult to speak about because “we have a young child who is potentially the victim of a crime. We want to be sensitive with that information. Initially, we put out more information about the child than we would because he was missing.”

He said that California Highway Patrol’s goal is transparency and his agency has to navigate the “fine line between transparency and maintaining the integrity of an active and sensitive investigation.”

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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