Charlie Ann Wyrick didn’t spend Christmas with her family.
While two of her brothers stayed in Missoula, her youngest brother Rex, stepfather Trampis and mother Crystal Wyrick were at home in Helena during the holiday, the day after she was reported missing to the Missoula Police Department.
“We cooked a dinner and just stayed up and hoped,” Crystal said. “We were wishing and hoping and wondering where the hell she was.”
Law enforcement, as well as Missoula Search and Rescue, found 26-year-old Wyrick’s body on Dec. 27 in the Deer Creek drainage near Pattee Canyon during a search of the area. Emmanuel F. Gomez, 30, has been charged with deliberate homicide, accused of killing Wyrick, his girlfriend.
Her mother said Wyrick was an outgoing girl who had moved to Missoula about two years ago.
“She was very easy to get along with. She was headstrong, but she just had a great personality,” Crystal said.
Another family member who had been in touch with law enforcement called her the day Wyrick’s body was found. Crystal immediately called the police detective on the case.
“She called me right back and told me ‘It’s Charlie.’ I hung up the phone on her. I just, you know, couldn’t do it,” Crystal said.
The last time she spoke with her daughter was in late October, the day after Wyrick’s birthday, Crystal said. She had tried to return a phone message her daughter left in November, but never reached her again.
“I found out from one of the boys that she said (Gomez) would always take her phone away and delete her messages,” Crystal said.
Crystal said she wanted to thank all of the members of law enforcement who worked during the holiday to look for her daughter.
“They weren’t stopping until they found her. They knew something wasn't right so they stayed on it,” Crystal said.
She also said she’s grateful for all of the support from the community, Wyrick’s co-workers at Pattee Creek Market, and the staff of the Econo Lodge hotel who helped make special arrangements for them after the family drove to Missoula hours after Wyrick’s body was found.
“She just touched so many hearts. She was a beautiful woman – she would always go out on a limb for someone,” Crystal said.
The center of Wyrick’s world, her mother said, was her 5-year-old son, Harley, who lives in Helena with his father. Wyrick had named him after one of her brothers who had died as an infant more than two decades ago.
“When she could, she would call him and come and visit him,” Crystal said. “Her and her son, they would do arts and crafts, go swimming together, go to the park and have a picnic.”
The last time Crystal saw her daughter was in late summer, when Wyrick showed up at their home in Helena. Crystal said her daughter was trying to leave Gomez.
“She just felt so broken. She wanted to get back to herself, and she knows she had a lot of support here,” her mother said.
In the end, Wyrick had returned to Missoula.
According to the court affidavit filed in Gomez’s case, Wyrick was reported missing on Dec. 24 by a co-worker at Pattee Creek Market after she didn’t show up to work for four days in a row. The week before, her manager had taken her to the hospital when she came to work with bruised ribs. Wyrick allegedly told a fellow employee Gomez had assaulted her, and said to another that her boyfriend had threatened to kill her if she “pissed him off” any more.
Crystal said she met Gomez a single time last April, shortly after Charlie started dating him.
After Wyrick was reported missing, Missoula police spoke to her brothers who live in town. One of them, Max, said she had come to his house on Dec. 20 with a bag of her belongings, telling him she was leaving Gomez but needed to return to the house they lived in on the 200 block of Whitaker Drive to collect the rest of her possessions, according to the affidavit.
The next morning, when her brother woke up, Wyrick was already gone, having left her cell phone behind.
“A lot of it doesn't make sense – she wouldn’t leave without her phone,” Crystal said. “I just think there must have been something else going on.”
Crystal called her daughter, the oldest of four siblings, a “mother hen” to her brothers, especially the two who also live in Missoula.
“She’d yell at them if they did something wrong. ‘Don’t forget so and so’s birthday and don’t forget to call on the holidays,’ ” Crystal said. “If they didn’t listen to me, she was my backup.”
Roommates of Wyrick and Gomez told police they had heard screaming in the house the morning of Dec. 21, and had watched Gomez’s car being driven away while it appeared as though he was holding someone down in the back seat, according to the affidavit. The report also said fresh blood was found in front of the house and around where the vehicle had been.
After police located Gomez, he said Wyrick had left after an argument. He was taken into custody Dec. 24 on a misdemeanor charge of partner or family member assault. According to the affidavit, Wyrick had told her friends in the past that she was “terrified” of Gomez, and that he would take her into the Pattee Canyon area, where he would allegedly beat her and threaten to kill her.
When law enforcement found Wyrick’s body Dec. 27, she appeared to have been pushed from about 50 feet off the edge of the road, according to the affidavit.
At his initial appearance in Missoula County Justice Court on the felony murder charge, Gomez was given $1 million bail. He is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing in court on Tuesday.