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Hernandez’s trial for deliberate homicide began Monday

Kathleen Gilluly
Thursday, March 18, 2021
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A year and a half after her death, Diego Thomas Hernandez, of Laurel, is on trial for the murder of Lori Bray. The 24-year-old is accused of strangling Bray, 57, after she gave him a ride home at the end of her shift at Cedar Ridge Casino on Oct. 1, 2019. The trial began Monday in District Court in Billings.

Bray’s car was found on Buffalo Trail shortly after her disappearance was discovered by family and friends. Her friend and manager of the casino, Cathy Culp, organized a search that began north of Laurel that Wednesday morning, near where the car was found. Bray’s body was discovered later in the day by a man on an ATV off of Yard Office road north of Alder Ridge Trailer Park and was recovered the next morning.

According to reports, Culp testified Monday as to the kind nature and diminutive stature of Bray. Bray’s son, Justin Smith also testified Monday.

Tuesday’s witnesses included Yellowstone County Deputy Christopher Etter and Officer Brett Hilde of the Billings Police Department, who focused on Hernandez’ clothing, which had been washed and bleached before he turned them over to investigators on Oct. 1, less than 24 hours after Bray had been killed. Hernandez also had scratches and other wounds indicating he had been in a struggle with someone, according to Etter.

Hernandez’s defense attorneys are Meghan Benson and Joel Thompson, who told the court his client washed his own clothes and it was typical of him to use bleach on his white clothing.

Court was scheduled to resume yesterday.


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