When Lori Bray went missing from her hometown of Laurel, Montana, on October 1, 2019, the police and her loved ones hoped for her safe return. However, the case soon turned into a homicide investigation when Lori’s body was discovered inside a ditch beside Yard Office Road in East Laurel. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Murder In The Heartland: Killer Casino’ chronicles the gruesome slaying and follows the police investigation that finally brought her killer to justice. If you are intrigued by the details surrounding this case and want to find out where the perpetrator is at present, we have you covered.
How Did Lori Bray Die?
A resident of Laurel, Montana, Lori Bray was 54 years old at the time of her death. People who knew Lori described her as a hardworking and kindhearted individual who loved helping around in the community and welcomed everyone with a smile. Known for her amicable and friendly nature, Lori barely had any enemies and was pretty well respected in society. She also worked at the Cedar Ridge Casino but had no idea that her work would eventually make her come face to face with her murderer.
Lori was last seen on the night of October 1, 2019, when she closed up the Cedar Ridge Casino before driving back home. The following day, she failed to turn up for work, and her worried colleagues immediately informed her son, Justin Smith, about the strange occurrence. Anxious about his mother, Justin drove down to Lori’s house only to find it empty except for the 54-year-old’s dog, who was left unattended. Justin also came across his mother’s car with the sunroof open and found her phone, purse, and clothes inside, although there was no sign of the missing woman. Hence, without wasting any time, he reported her missing to the police and began cooperating with the search efforts.
Once detectives were informed of the incident, they organized search parties and discovered Lori’s body inside a ditch beside Yard Office Road on October 3. The ditch was located around five kilometers away from where Justin found Lori’s car, and once first responders reached the site, they found the victim to be completely naked. Later, an autopsy determined that Lori was strangled to death, while investigators found a foreign DNA sample under her fingernails, indicating a possible struggle.
Who Killed Lori Bray?
The initial investigation into Lori’s murder was pretty challenging as the police did not have a lot of leads to follow. They canvassed the area where her body was found and even interviewed several of Lori’s acquaintances, but to no avail. Since Lori lived a peaceful life and was friendly with most, people had no idea why she would end up being the target of such a gruesome crime. Hence, the case saw little to no progress, and detectives found themselves back at square one.
Interestingly, detectives reached their initial breakthrough when they decided to trace Lori’s movement through CCTV footage. Since the police had an idea about the time she left the casino on October 1, they poured through hours of surveillance footage to find her locking up and leaving the establishment with an unknown man in her car. While the man was identified to be Diego Hernandez, the police carried out a thorough search of Lori’s car to find bloodstains on the seats as well as mud and clothes strewn about, which indicated a fight.
Once the police caught up with Diego, they found fresh scratches on his face, and his shoes matched the footprint at the crime scene. On top of it, location data from Diego’s cellphone proved that on October 1, he was at the casino, Lori’s house, and even the place where her body was discovered. Additionally, the foreign DNA sample found under the victim’s fingernails completely matched Diego’s, and detectives wasted no time in arresting him.
Where Is Diego Hernandez Now?
When produced in court, Diego pled not guilty and insisted on his innocence. However, apart from other witnesses, the prosecution also got Lori’s boss on the stand, who claimed he had seen her trying to hide from a male at the casino on October 1. Eventually, after going through the evidence, the jury decided to convict Diego Hernandez of deliberate homicide, and he was sentenced to life in prison in 2021. Hence, with Diego still not eligible for parole, he remains behind bars at the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana.