Sacramento County judge orders life prison sentences for murder of missing Rocklin man

Two men last week were ordered to spend the rest of their lives in prison for their roles in a revenge-murder plot that targeted a Rocklin man who disappeared five years ago and still hasn’t been found.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Aguelles sentenced Robert Manor, 54, and Victor Merle Gray, 53, to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to a news release from the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. Both men remained in custody Tuesday awaiting transfer to state corrections officials.

Manor and Gray were sentenced Friday for the death of Raymond Wright. He was 55 years old when he disappeared Jan. 11, 2018. He’s presumed dead and his body was never found.

A Sacramento County jury in March found Manor and Gray guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping for ransom causing Wright’s death. The murder charge for each defendant included a special circumstance enhancement for committing murder during a kidnapping.

In 2011, Wright was driving intoxicated and caused a crash in which Manor’s wife was seriously injured. The District Attorney’s Office prosecuted Wright on a felony charge of driving under the influence. Prosecutors said Wright “served his time” in custody and completed his probation.

But Manor held a grudge against Wright for years and “put his plan for revenge into motion in 2018,” according to the news release. Prosecutors said Wright then “mysteriously disappeared.”

Wright had three children, worked as an independent contractor on construction projects throughout the Sacramento area, played drums in a local band and had no known history of mental illness.

His family searched his home and a shop he rented in Rio Linda, but did not find him. Wright’s 2016 white Ford F-250 was last seen on the day he went missing near the intersection of 26th and I streets east of Rio Linda. Later that month, that pickup was found in an apartment complex along Freedom Park Drive near Watt Avenue and Elkhorn Boulevard, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office.

The search for the missing man eventually extended statewide.

Prosecutors said Wright’s brother on Jan. 13, 2018, encountered “a strange man” inside the victim’s home and called the police. The man ran out of the house, but a soda cup filled with a fresh drink was found in the kitchen. The straw from the cup was tested for DNA and uploaded to the FBI’s national DNA database.

On Jan. 27, 2018, Gray was driving under the influence and led the California Highway Patrol on a high-speed chase, according to the District Attorney’s Office. The chase ended in a crash, causing injuries to others. Authorities towed away Gray’s van from the scene.

Authorities searched the van and found inside a blood-soaked raincoat, Wright’s wallet and other property belonging to him, prosecutors said. Many of Wright’s belongings had been charred. But the blood on the raincoat matched Wright’s DNA.

Prosecutors said further investigation led to a letter from Gray to Manor that included complaints about not being paid for “delivering dude” and asked Manor to take care of the person “who hand-delivered you your revenge.”

Other evidence also linked Manor to the “revenge killing” and the hiring of Gray to kidnap Wright from his Rio Linda shop, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Then, investigators learned that the DNA uploaded to the FBI database returned a full profile match to Victor Gray who was a convicted felon, prosecutors said. Manor and Gray were arrested in March 2021.