's daughters were worried when their dad didn't show up at his carpentry shop and didn't answer any calls or texts. "I knew something bad was happening to him. I felt it," says Haley Kendall.
Dean Wright felt it too. He headed to his brother's house and looked around. That's when he realized someone was in the house and it wasn't Ray. The intruder fled but left evidence on the kitchen counter. It would be a while before investigators would figure out who that intruder was. It began with a police chase.
"It was a very dangerous high-speed chase with speeds of up to a hundred miles an hour," prosecutor Matt Chisholm tells "48 Hours" contributor Natalie Morales. "There was a terrible accident at the end of that pursuit."
The driver was a man named Victor Gray. And in his wrecked van was a. Prosecutors say they found a photograph on Gray's cellphone of a letter he wrote to a man named Bob. Gray was demanding payment for delivering the "dude" to Bob. Prosecutors say Gray wrote that he "hand delivered you your revenge ... "
To authorities, it sounded like Gray had abducted Ray Wright at Bob's request, but they had no idea who Bob was — or why he would want revenge.
RAY WRIGHT VANISHES WITHOUT A TRACE
Dean Wright was nervous. It was Saturday morning, Jan. 13, 2018, in Sacramento, California.
Dean Wright: Where's Ray? ... I just wanted to know where Ray is.
Dean hadn't heard from his younger brother Ray in two days – highly unusual for brothers who spoke every day without fail.
Natalie Morales: All of a sudden, middle of January, there's just —
Dean Wright: Nothing.
Natalie Morales: Nothing.
Dean Wright: Nothing.
No phone calls, no texts, no social media posts.
Ray Wright, 55, had missed work. No one had seen or heard from him, including his daughters, Haley Kendall and Kennedy Wright.
Kennedy Wright: My sister called me, and she was like, "hey, like, have you heard from dad?" Like, "no one has heard from him."
Haley Kendall: I immediately … hung up and called him. … And I called, and I called, and I called, straight to voicemail every time.
Dean Wright: So, I was getting increasingly concerned.
Dean had repeatedly checked his brother's house in Rocklin, a Sacramento suburb, and the shop Ray rented in Rio Linda for his work as a master carpenter. Nothing seemed unusual except the silence of Ray's absence.
Natalie Morales: And you didn't see his truck?
Dean Wright: No, his truck was not there.
Natalie Morales: You're panicked at this point.
Dean Wright: Right.
Haley Kendall: I think the first couple of days was when it really started to get real and serious.
Kennedy Wright: I just felt really powerless over the situation … and it was really scary. … It was the worst thing that could have ever happened.
Ray's ex-wife, Peggy Wright, was also upset.
Peggy Wright: I knew right away when he was out of touch that there was something wrong ...
Although they were no longer married, Peggy still considered Ray to be the love of her life.
Natalie Morales: Was he romantic?
Peggy Wright: Oh God, he was super romantic.
They married in June 1994 and Ray became an instant dad to stepdaughter, Haley, then 3 years old.
Peggy Wright: He was meant to be a father and he was so good with her.
Haley Kendall: He … was always there for me. … First male role model. … He always did everything to the fullest.
Along came Kennedy nearly three years later. She says her father, a loving, hands-on dad, would never just up and disappear.
Kennedy Wright: He was like a T-ball dad. Um, and he would like take me, like, fishing.
Haley Kendall: Soccer …
Kennedy Wright: Soccer dad. … Swim meets …
Natalie Morales: He could do it all.
Kennedy Wright: Yeah. He could do it all. He was good at everything.
But after several good years, Peggy says, the couple found themselves drifting apart.
Peggy Wright: He was so busy working. I was busy parenting and I also worked.
They divorced in 2001. Ray remarried and divorced again in 2009.
Peggy Wright: I think it was the end of his second marriage that kind of put him over the edge. And that's when he fell off the wagon at almost 20 years sober.
Ray, a recovering alcoholic, had stayed sober for most of his adult life. But when he went missing, Peggy worried he was in trouble.
Peggy Wright: You think, oh gosh, maybe, you know, he had a setback or something.
Natalie Morales: He was sober during your marriage?
Peggy Wright: Oh, yeah.
It was Ray's relapse after his second marriage that sparked a downward spiral, exploding one night in November 2011 when Ray got in a car and drove drunk. He slammed head-on into a vehicle severely injuring a husband and wife. Ray, then 49, was convicted of felony DUI and sentenced to 18 months in jail.
Haley Kendall: I think that was rock bottom for him.
Natalie Morales: Rock bottom was getting in this devastating accident?
Haley Kendall: Yeah.
Kennedy Wright: And hurting people in the midst of it.
Ray immediately stopped drinking, rejoined Alcoholics Anonymous and checked in with his sponsor every day.
Peggy Wright: I think the Ray after that time was even better than the Ray prior to that time, because … he wanted … to be … the best version of … Ray Wright that he could be.
Just weeks before he went missing, Ray spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with his growing family – celebrations that included Ray's first granddaughter, Ashtyn.
Proud mom, Haley, was thrilled for her dad.
Haley Kendall: And he was super excited. … He built her a custom crib.
Haley Kendall: He loved being a grandpa and she loved Grandpa Ray.
Peggy Wright: Ray was at such a great spot in his life … he had it all.
And then he disappeared.
By Saturday afternoon on Jan. 13, more than 48 hours had passed without a single sign of Ray. Dean went back to his brother's house yet again, knocked on the door, and then let himself in.
Dean Wright: Said, "Hello, hello." And immediately I smelled … marijuana smoke. … And that's when I knew … this is completely wrong because he didn't like that. … And I'm getting increasingly tense about it. … So, as I walked forward … I saw a cup. … And that had not been there. … I took another step-and-a-half …
That's when a back door burst open.
Dean Wright: And a guy yelled at me, "Get out of here." … And I said, "Who are you?" … "Where's Ray?"
The man took a step towards Dean, he says, then turned away and ran out the back door.
Dean Wright: I immediately called 911.
Rocklin Police arrived. Dean, shaken, filed a missing person's report and pointed to the soda cup on the kitchen counter, explaining that the intruder must have left it.
Matt Chisholm | Sacramento County Prosecutor: The cup is full of ice. It's full of soda. It has a lid and a straw and it's sweating, so it's fresh.
Natalie Morales: When did you start to fear the worst, Dean?
Dean Wright: Then. Right then. … It was crushing.
Natalie Morales: And you suspected foul play?
Dean Wright: Yes.
A TREASURE TROVE OF EVIDENCE
Ray Wright, much admired and loved by friends and family — described as generous, creative and vibrant – had seemingly vanished with the snap of a finger.
Matt Chisholm: No one has any leads as to where he is or what happened to him.
It was the frightening home invasion just two days after Ray had disappeared that seemed too coincidental, says Prosecutor Matt Chisholm.
Matt Chisholm: I think that … raised everyone's concern to a different level.
Sgt. Zack Lewis: As days go by, it becomes more suspicious.
Rocklin Police Sergeant Zack Lewis briefly considered Ray's history of alcohol abuse but dismissed the possibility of a relapse.
Sgt. Zack Lewis: We checked his bank accounts. There was no activity on his bank. His vehicle had disappeared off of license plate readers. We couldn't find his vehicle anymore. His phone wasn't working. … All those things led us to believe that it was more than just him not calling family members back and drinking.
Ray's family immediately organized a search.
Haley Kendall: We all met up at a Target parking lot and passed out flyers.
Dean Wright: And then we just spread out and went in all different directions.
Haley Kendall: We were doing everything we could and exhausting everything that we could do.
The resounding question for the Wright family, echoing at all hours of the day and night: where was Ray?
Ten days after his disappearance, police discovered Ray's abandoned pickup truck in a North Highlands apartment complex.
Peggy Wright: In this really high crime area.
The radio and license plates had been stripped. For police, finding Ray's vehicle was a break in the case. For Haley, it was just heartbreaking.
Haley Kendall: That was — the first like real piece of evidence that was like, OK. We know something bad happened to him.
Matt Chisholm: Rocklin P.D. seized the car and collaborated with the FBI to have it processed for trace evidence.
In the back of the truck, brown stains barely visible on black carpet liner were later determined to be human blood.
Matt Chisholm: That was tested for DNA against Ray Wright's toothbrushes … since we don't have a body … and it was a match.
Sixteen days after Ray's disappearance, something happened that would shift the investigation into overdrive.
It all began with a harrowing high-speed police chase through Sacramento.
Matt Chisholm: It was a very dangerous high-speed chase with speeds of up to a hundred miles an hour. … There was a terrible accident at the end of that pursuit.
POLICE DASHCAM VIDEO (Officers approach the van): Put your hands up! … Open the door! … Is anyone in the car with you?
Natalie Morales: This is one of those chases that you watch on TV and it's like, whoa.
Matt Chisholm: Yes.
Natalie Morales: Except in this case, the guy who was responsible for that is much more dangerous than we even know.
The driver, pinned inside the vehicle with a broken leg, was unable to move.
California Highway Patrol officers cuffed the driver, who appeared to be intoxicated. The man's name: Victor Gray. He had problems with the law before, and police arrested him this time for felony evasion and DUI.
Matt Chisholm: He's taken to a hospital for treatment and is under guard … and has been booked in the Sacramento County Jail.
It was Gray's expired registration — with current registration sticker tabs — that caught the attention of a police officer.
Natalie Morales: Like a stolen vehicle? Is that what they're thinking?
Matt Chisholm: Possibly. … Or somebody stole the registration tab and just stuck it on their … license plate.
A DMV records search showed the registration tab actually belonged to a 2016 Ford pickup truck that had recently been reported missing along with its owner, Raymond Wright.
Matt Chisholm: The registration tab … is actually Ray Wright's registration tag off of his license plate. … And so, that's the first connection that they're able to make between Victor Gray and Ray Wright's disappearance.
And then, three months after Ray's disappearance, another turning point in the case. Investigators got a DNA hit off that soda straw in the cup left behind by the fleeing intruder who finally had a name – and it's one the police already knew: Victor Gray.
Matt Chisholm: So, now we have two pieces of evidence linking him to Ray Wright.
The DNA match placed Victor Gray inside Ray's home and at the center of the expanding investigation. Turned out, things were about to get a lot worse for Gray, because his wrecked, smoking van was a smoking gun.
Natalie Morales: Here you've got a treasure trove of evidence. … Where was all of this found?
Sgt. Zack Lewis: All this was located in the vehicle that Victor Gray was driving.
In the van's cluttered cargo area, Rocklin Police and FBI investigators unraveled a black plastic tarp. Inside they found disturbing evidence that deepened the Ray Wright mystery.
Natalie Morales: The hat. … You pull that hat out, "Ray Wright Design."
Sgt. Zack Lewis: It was like a holy s*** moment.
Sgt. Zack Lewis: This is huge for us.
Natalie Morales: The yellow rain jacket. That is Ray Wright's Jacket. And what was found on that?
Sgt. Zack Lewis: His DNA was found on that jacket.
Sgt. Zack Lewis: The glasses are just —
Natalie Morales: Just heartbreaking.
Sgt. Zack Lewis: They're just broken into a bunch of pieces.
St. Zack Lewis: His wallet, which it appeared they tried to burn.
Natalie Morales: A cellphone that's clearly been … destroyed, like somebody took a hammer to it, right?
Sgt. Zack Lewis: That's what it looked like, yes.
Sgt. Zack Lewis: We had to run the serial number on the back, and it was registered to Ray Wright's cellphone carrier.
Sgt. Zack Lewis: We now were definitely able to tie Victor Gray to Ray Wright going missing.
But police had not found Ray. There was still a sliver of hope.
Kennedy Wright: It's just really hard being patient.
Matt Chisholm: It's still a hot investigation. There's still many details left to figure out.
Perhaps none more significant than Victor Gray's cellphone.
It wasn't just Ray's phone in the van; Gray's was there, too. The violent collision ending the police chase sent Gray's cellphone sliding underneath the van's center console.
Matt Chisholm: The FBI found that and was able to process it for its contents. And inside that cellphone was also a treasure trove of evidence.
Astonishingly, there was a photo of a handwritten, three-page letter, prosecutors say, from Gray to someone named "Bob."
Matt Chisholm: And at this point we don't know who Bob is.
It was dated Jan. 27 – the same day as Gray's ill-fated chase with police.
Matt Chisholm: It's clear that Victor has grievances with Bob. … And the grievances stem about not being paid for delivering the "dude" to you.
Natalie Morales: Those are his words, the "dude."
Matt Chisholm: Yeah, I "hand-delivered you your revenge." Now, it's time to pay me.
A PLOT FOR REVENGE?
Natalie Morales: Let's talk about what was found in that phone. … Text messages that seemed to refer to Ray Wright's possible kidnapping at that point, right?
Matt Chisholm: Yes.
It took months, but investigators eventually dug up a gold mine of evidence from Gray's cellphone.
Matt Chisholm: There was a text conversation with a woman, who … appeared to be working as a lookout for Mr. Gray.
"Rays out fron y of the sjop," texted the woman, "Kalifornia Katie," in a series of misspelled texts. It was 9:50 a.m. on Jan. 11, 2018. "Yes im watching out front for any thimg."
Tracing "Kalifornia Katie's" number found in Gray's cellphone, police identified her as Katie Barnard.
Ashley Englefield: The text messages with Katie Barnard were invaluable.
Those messages were sent the very morning Ray Wright went missing, last seen at his workshop. They revealed a plan of sorts, says Placer County District Attorney Investigator Ashley Englefield.
Englefield showed "48 Hours" Ray Wright's former workshop in Rio Linda and its close proximity to a neighbor, Katie Barnard.
Ashley Englefield: She happened to be living in a trailer next to Ray Wright's cabinet shop. … So that trailer right there is where Katie Barnard was staying.
That morning, Englefield believes, Barnard was watching Ray's workshop from just yards away.
Ashley Englefield: She was in a prime spot to be a source of intelligence for Victor Gray. … She's looking out that window and she's looking at the shop.
Natalie Morales: So where do we think Victor Gray is on that morning?
Ashley Englefield: During the course of that text conversation, we think Victor is out there on the road. He's waiting for the text from Katie …
The one that would tell him when Ray Wright was alone at his shop. It came just before 10 a.m.: "Just u n him bon." A few hours later, Ray Wright would disappear.
Englefield brought in Barnard for questioning in October 2018. Ray had been missing for nearly 300 days.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD (police interview): If we don't have reasons for why you did certain things … and you lie to us about doing the things we know you did … It makes you look like a killer.
KATIE BARNARD: OK.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: Are you a killer?
KATIE BARNARD: No.
Barnard would grudgingly become a pivotal witness.
Natalie Morales: What did Katie Barnard think she was doing this all for?
Ashley Englefield: She told us that she was only involved because she thought that Victor Gray wanted to steal Raymond Wright's truck.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD (police interview): This wasn't about Ray's truck. … This doesn't start and end — with Victor Gray.
KATIE BARNARD: OK.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: It starts with somebody else … you were about to say it.
KATIE BARNARD: Who? Bob?
Barnard knew the key players, including the mysterious "Bob" named in that letter.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD (police interview): Who's Bob?
KATIE BARNARD: Bob is my ex-boyfriend.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: What's Bob's full name?
KATIE BARNARD: Bob Manor.
Robert "Bobby" Manor.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD (police interview): And so what's the story then? What's the whole backstory? …
KATIE BARNARD: Ray and Bob were in a car accident.
When Ray Wright drove drunk six years earlier in November 2011, the married couple he struck was Robert Manor and his wife. She nearly died, and Manor suffered multiple broken bones that left him with a permanent limp and lingering pain.
Matt Chisholm: He was reminded … about it on a daily basis from his injuries. And he could never let it go.
After Ray Wright's DUI conviction, he was ordered to pay more than $275,000 in restitution to Manor and his wife.
Ashley Englefield: He had occasionally made … payments … but not very much.
Police say Manor was not a man to stiff. He was a feared methamphetamine dealer in North Sacramento, authorities say, who had done time for assault and selling drugs, armed with a gun. And witnesses told police that Manor was enraged and wanted revenge against Ray Wright.
Natalie Morales: That gives you a motive, right?
Ashley Englefield: The money and the revenge, mostly.
A few months before Ray Wright went missing – in a staggering coincidence – police believe that Manor, while visiting Barnard, just happened to see the man who had smashed into him driving drunk years ago – the man he blamed for shattering his life.
KATIE BARNARD (police interview): He came over one day, and Ray was there.
Ray Wright was working in his shop about 30 feet away. That might have been the moment, Englefield says, when Manor lit the fuse — igniting his plot for revenge that had smoldered for years.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD (police interview): Truck is gone.
KATIE BARNARD: Yes. And Ray's been missing.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: And Ray is gone.
KATIE BARNARD: Yes.
Barnard told police when she heard the news that Ray Wright was missing, she realized this wasn't just about stealing his truck.
KATIE BARNARD (police interview): I'm freaking out.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: Why?
KATIE BARNARD: Because, like, it's obvious, you know like —
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: About what?
KATIE BARNARD: That he's been taken or hurt or something. The cops come —
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: By who?
KATIE BARNARD: Victor and Bob.
Barnard says Victor Gray later told her that morning, armed with a gun, he approached Ray Wright and punched him.
Ashley Englefield: I think he then … somehow secured Ray's hands and he was able to put Ray into his own truck.
Then, Englefield says, Gray drove Ray Wright's truck with a bloodied Ray Wright in the back to Manor's house a few miles away.
KATIE BARNARD (police interview): I don't know what they did with Ray.
Afraid she might be implicated in Ray Wright's disappearance, Barnard told investigators she confronted Manor.
Matt Chisholm: She asked him … about whether he killed Ray Wright, and he tells her that he did. … Manor then grabbed her around the neck, choked her, and told her never to speak about this again.
According to Chisholm, Manor's chilling admission came in just three words.
Matt Chisholm: He says, "I got him."
Natalie Morales: "I got him."
Matt Chisholm: "I got him." … We heard that quote from Mr. Manor from multiple witnesses…
Like Tessa Trimble.
TESSA TRIMBLE (police interview): I didn't do anything.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: I'm not saying you did.
TESSA TRIMBLE: I'm not involved in it.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: I'm not saying that you are.
In an audio-only police interview, Englefield spoke to Trimble, a massage therapist who had treated Manor's injuries from the accident. She says they eventually became romantically involved.
Ashley Englefield: Tessa was very hesitant to speak, initially. And she was also very afraid of Bobby.
TESSA TRIMBLE (police interview): You're gonna get me killed. I have to go. I gotta get out of here.
It would take some time, but Trimble began to talk.
Ashley Englefield: She received a phone call from Bobby and Bobby had told her "hey, come over to the house, we need to talk." According to her, what she thought at the time was that they were gonna talk about their relationship.
But when she saw Manor, Trimble says there was something else on his mind.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD (police interview): What did he talk to you about?
TESSA TRIMBLE: He told me he took care of — whatever. Something he was trying to take care of for a long time.
TESSA TRIMBLE: He didn't give me details, he just told me that he took care of it. He felt good about that.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: When he said that, who did you think he was talking about?
TESSA TRIMBLE: He was talking about Ray Wright.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: Why would you think he was talking about Ray Wright?
TESSA TRIMBLE: Because he had a problem with that guy. He mentioned on numerous occasions he wanted to get that guy…
Ashley Englefield: It — it sounded to me like … one of the only persons … that Bobby could tell about this was Tessa. And so he did.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD (police interview): Bobby's tellin' you what? He got him?
TESSA TRIMBLE: Mm-hmm.
INVESTIGATOR ENGLEFIELD: Is that what he said is "I got him?"
TESSA TRIMBLE: Yeah.
Matt Chisholm: Everyone knew that Manor was talking about Ray Wright. … And then the first time they see him after the disappearance, see Manor, he says, "I got him."
In March 2021, prosecutors charged Manor and Gray with the kidnapping and murder of Ray Wright even though police had yet to find Ray. Both men pleaded not guilty. Manor, facing a life sentence without parole, had a very different story to tell.
Natalie Morales (on phone in jail visiting area): Can you hear me Mr. Manor?
Robert Manor: I'm innocent.
Natalie Morales: You had nothing to do … with the murder of Ray Wright?
Robert Manor: Nothing to do with it.
RAY WRIGHT IS STILL MISSING BUT THE CASE GOES TO TRIAL
Ashley Englefield: It was still a missing person, but we all assumed it was a homicide.
Natalie Morales: Did they tell you, at any point, we believe your brother is dead?
Dean Wright: Yes. … Maybe three-and-a-half years in.
During those agonizing years, Ray Wright's family – one by one – eventually came to the same conclusion: Ray was no longer alive. And their grief was compounded by not having his body to bury.
Kennedy Wright: That's definitely still … a source of like pain for us. There was no … laying him to rest. Like he doesn't get the send away that he deserves.
Prosecutor Matt Chisholm hoped to provide the family a measure of justice by convicting Manor and Gray. Approaching trial, Chisholm's crucial concern was the credibility of his witnesses.
Natalie Morales: You've got … witnesses … who have a history of drugs and drug use. Does that create a complication with the jury?
Matt Chisholm: Yes. All these witnesses had significant credibility issues.
Including another witness who had come forward – Victor Gray's cellmate.
In an audio-only interview, the cellmate says Victor Gray told him about Ray Wright's tortured, final hours in Bob Manor's house.
GRAY'S CELLMATE: Well, I started off talking to him. And I'm real comfortable talking to him.
MATT CHISHOLM: What did Gray tell you?
GRAY'S CELLMATE: He delivered dude to Bobby. Alive though.
The cellmate claims Gray told him there was plastic sheeting laying on the floor.
GRAY'S CELLMATE: Plastic everywhere.
According to the cellmate, Gray said Manor had Ray poisoned.
GRAY'S CELLMATE: He poisoned him.
The cellmate says Gray also told him that Manor had Ray's body dismembered.
GRAY'S CELLMATE: Cut the body up.
MATT CHISHOLM: Did he tell you what they did with it?
GRAY'S CELLMATE: Nope. … He didn't tell me none of that.
Natalie Morales: Victor was your accomplice in this kidnapping and murder plot.
Robert Manor: There's no connection whatsoever with me and Victor … before the incident.
Robert Manor spoke to "48 Hours" from the Sacramento County Jail.
Robert Manor: They searched my house. … They tore the carpet up. They did everything like that. There was no DNA found.
Natalie Morales: Well because you put plastic all over the floor.
Robert Manor: No.
Matt Chisholm: He was good at covering his tracks. He got other people to do the dirty work.
People like Victor Gray says Chisholm.
Matt Chisholm: We find … all the evidence of Ray Wright's death.
Natalie Morales: In Victor Gray's van.
Matt Chisholm: The cleanup is done, and Victor Gray tells you that on the jail call.
VICTOR GRAY'S WIFE (jail call): I miss you.
VICTOR GRAY: I miss you, too.
In a jailhouse visit with his wife after the high-speed chase with police, Victor Gray made a powerful admission, says Chisholm.
Matt Chisholm: He … almost kind of confesses to his wife and brings his wife into the know.
VICTOR GRAY (jail call): To clean up the scene or whatever. I had to clean up. You know what I mean?
Matt Chisholm: He said, "I had to clean up the scene," as if he was almost bitter about it.
VICTOR GRAY'S WIFE (jail call): Such a mess, honey.
VICTOR GRAY: Yep. But he played me. He used me.
Matt Chisholm: We believe that Victor was supposed to be paid $10,000.
KATIE BARNARD (police interview): He was pissed off because he didn't get paid by Bob.
That's why prosecutors believe Victor Gray wrote the three-page letter found on his cellphone. In it, he said, "I'm done waiting and need a fat package today," meaning the money Gray believed he was owed. He told Bob Manor to take care of him because he had "hand-delivered you your revenge."
But Manor never paid, Chisholm says, so Victor Gray decided to deliver some revenge of his own.
He was on his way to Manor's house with all the Ray Wright evidence still inside the van, according to Chisholm. That's when police tried pulling Gray over.
Matt Chisholm: Had Victor Gray been paid, then maybe he's not driving across town with this treasure trove of evidence in the back of the van.
The trial finally began in March 2023, more than five years after Ray Wright went missing. Since there was still no body, the case had become a no-body homicide.
Matt Chisholm: No-body cases are tough to prove. You lose a lot of information by losing the body. … We developed every single lead possible in order to prove this case.
As Chisholm fully expected, the credibility of his witnesses came under relentless fire.
Matt Chisholm: The thrust of the defense was these witnesses are saying whatever the cops want them to say in order to help themselves.
KATIE BARNARD (police interview): I'm terrified of them.
KATIE BARNARD (police interview): They're dangerous people. They have guns.
But Barnard, who was granted immunity and never charged with a crime, emerged as a star witness, says Chisholm, for her damaging testimony about Gray's involvement and Manor's admission.
Matt Chisholm: And then it was something that Manor was trying to keep under wraps. Even though that he said it to her, it was something that she was to take to her grave.
In court, Manor and Gray's defense teams zeroed in on the prosecution's lack of direct physical evidence against Robert Manor — and the absence of a body.
Matt Chisholm: I reminded the jury that it'd been 1,889 days and no one on the face of this earth had seen Ray Wright.
The trial, says Peggy, left her imagining the unimaginable — Ray's final moments.
Peggy Wright: It's even worse … to find out … what it must have been like at the end for him. How scared he must have been. … He knew what was gonna happen.
After an eight-day trial, the jury got the case.
Kennedy Wright: I remember like squeezing Haley's hand and like thinking I was gonna throw up, like while we were waiting for the verdict.
"A BITTERSWEET VICTORY"
Natalie Morales: How long before you got word there's a verdict?
Matt Chisholm: The jury was out about four hours.
It was late afternoon on March 17, 2023. The verdict was in.
Kennedy Wright: It was the most gut-wrenching day of my life.
of first-degree murder and kidnapping.
Kennedy Wright: But it didn't bring him back. So, it was like — it was a bittersweet victory.
Peggy Wright: It's … unthinkable that someone would do something like that. Like, you can't imagine that your loved one would be swept off the earth like that.
April 28 – the day of reckoning for Manor and Gray. Before hearing their sentence, they heard from Ray Wright's family.
Kennedy Wright: I said, "my dad will be in heaven, like amongst the angels, like where he belongs, and you'll be in prison for life … where you belong."
Peggy Wright: We'll never be the same. None of us. You just can't imagine how it impacts the family.
Manor and Gray were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Gray never responded to "48 Hours"' request for an interview. But Manor insisted there had been a miscarriage of justice.
Robert Manor: I did not have anything to do with anything to do with Ray Wright's disappearance at all …
Natalie Morales: Ray Wright's body has never been found.
Robert Manor: No.
Natalie Morales: Where did you bury him?
Robert Manor: I — I never buried Ray Wright. I never chopped Ray Wright up. I never had anything to do with Ray Wright's disappearance or murder. Nothing.
Natalie Morales: He has a family that deserves answers. … They wanna know why? Why did you do this?
Robert Manor: I didn't. I did not do this.
And there was something else Manor wanted to say. He claimed it was Gray and Barnard who had plotted to set him up by kidnapping and killing Ray Wright.
Robert Manor: They came up with this and tried to come and ask me for money.
Gray and Barnard tried to extort Manor for $20,000, he says — a claim that was never raised in court. Manor was making it for the first time during our interview.
Natalie Morales: What do you make of that argument?
Matt Chisholm: Wow. It — it — that's a whopper, right?
Matt Chisholm: There's no proof of — of anything like that.
Chisholm argues it makes much more sense that Manor was the mastermind.
Matt Chisholm: You also have this monster motive. … Revenge.
Robert Manor: Let the evidence speak for itself. … Not the three people that … said the same exact phrase. You know, "I got him." I didn't get nobody.
The remnants of Ray Wright's life that were found in the van — these silent witnesses — did speak loud and clear.
Kennedy Wright: His famous yellow raincoat that he had had for like 15 years, like soaked in blood.
Haley Kendall: Yeah, I think seeing his broken glasses is what sealed the deal for me.
Kennedy Wright: That killed us.
Haley says even her young daughter Ashtyn was overwhelmed by losing Grandpa Ray.
Haley Kendall (crying): She always thought people were gonna go missing. … I caught her singing in the dark – songs that she would make up about where her grandpa went.
Sgt. Zack Lewis: I hope we did enough for the family. … Until we find the body, it's still an open missing person's case with the Rocklin Police Department.
Natalie Morales: At the end of the day, do you believe justice was served?
Matt Chisholm: Yes. … justice was served. … It gives this family somewhere to start over.
Consumed by Ray's disappearance and death for years, friends and family decided it was time to celebrate his life.
Dean Wright: Ray was, to me, my first best and forever friend.
On this day, June 17 – day 1,983 since he went missing, Ray Wright's presence filled the room and the hearts of those who loved him.
Natalie Morales: How do you want your dad to be remembered, Haley?
Haley Kendall: Exactly how he is remembered, lovable, accountable, creative, thoughtful …
Kennedy Wright: Like, I definitely used this whole event as motivation to do better. … It's all like a testament to my dad.
Peggy Wright: I hope he's at peace … free as a bird.
If you have any information about Ray Wright's whereabouts please call Rocklin Police at (916) 625-5400.
"48 Hours" Post Mortem Podcast
Host Anne-Marie Green, "48 Hours" contributor Natalie Morales and "48 Hours" producer Greg Fisher take you inside their interview with the accused mastermind behind the disappearance of Ray Wright. The two discuss the high-speed car chase and the treasure trove of evidence that authorities say linked defendants Bob Manor and Victor Gray to the crime.
Produced by Mead Stone. Greg Fisher is the development producer. Kat Teurfs is the field producer. Doreen Schechter, Gary Winter and Mead Stone are the producer/editors. Anthony Venditti is the content research manager. Patti Aronofsky is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.
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