The Guardian, October 2021
Paige Mitchell and Bradley Gray forged a bond over tragedy. Late one Sunday in October 2009, Mitchell’s husband borrowed a motorcycle from a neighbor on a whim, rumbled down a back road in rural Moundville, Alabama, and careened to his death. Almost exactly a year later, at almost precisely the same time of night, Gray’s wife died on the same county byway when her car crashed into a tree. Fate seemed to push Mitchell and Gray together, making their relationship hard to sever even as it descended into dysfunction.
Mitchell treated Gray’s son, Bradley Jr, like one of her own children, bringing him on outings with her daughters, Kayla and Kaci. Gray, who worked for a construction company, mowed Mitchell’s lawn and did repairs around her house. They went to concerts and cruised the Black Warrior River in Gray’s boat. Mitchell, a hairdresser with a gregarious personality, was glad to have someone to laugh with. But a darkness hovered over their relationship. Gray drank – a lot. And when he drank, his temper exploded. After beating a friend with a baseball bat in 2014, he was charged with felony assault, though the case was eventually dismissed.
Gray tried rehab, but he couldn’t stay sober, Mitchell’s family said. Many of the people who loved him gave up. Mitchell felt sorry for him, her family said; like the German shepherd she rescued and the foster children with disabilities she took in, she thought she could help him heal.