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Crime News Murders

Suspect Charged With Murder Of Dylan Rounds By DNA Evidence, Although Body Has Not Been Found

James Brenner has been charged with aggravated murder and third-degree abuse or desecration of a human body in relation to the disappearance of Dylan Rounds, who went missing in May of last year.

By Christina Coulter
Missing person Dylan Rounds

A 60-year-old man has been charged with aggravated murder, and abuse of a corpse in relation to the disappearance of 19-year-old Utah farmer Dylan Rounds, who has been missing for nearly a year and whose body has yet to be found.

James Brenner had been incarcerated at Weber County Jail for a federal firearms case since July of last year when the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office filed new criminal charges against him on Friday, according to jail records. The firearms charges stem from a search of Brenner's trailer during an investigation into Rounds' disappearance that turned up a host of weapons. He has pleaded not guilty in the firearms case, according to Law & Crime 

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Brenner was identified as a suspect in Rounds' disappearance about a month after the teen's family last heard from him in late May of 2022, but was not initially charged, according to reporting by FOX13 Salt Lake City.

Rounds, from eastern Idaho, was last seen on his property in Lucin, Utah, near the state's Nevada border, which relatives say he had recently purchased to jumpstart his agricultural aspirations.

Missing person Dylan Rounds

Investigators said that Rounds contacted his grandmother by phone on May 28, telling her that he was "putting the grain truck into shelter," according to reporting by East Idaho News.

The young farmer's boots were found yards away from his RV a few days later, a detail that his mother said stuck out, because, as she told News Nationthey were the only pair he had.

“At that point, it should have been treated as foul play,” his mom, Candice Cooley, told News Nation last June. “You just don’t see someone’s boots in the desert that’s missing.”

“We knew the first day we got out there when we saw Dylan’s boots what happened,” Cooley told KSLTV on Saturday.

A dark substance found on one of those boots was first thought to be grease or oil, then blood from an animal, Rounds' family told East Idaho News.

But recent testing determined that it was Rounds' blood, and that DNA belonging to Brenner was also present, according to a probable cause statement obtained by Law & Crime.

At the time of Rounds' disappearance, Brenner was "squatting" in a trailer approximately five miles away, police said.

Rounds' location data led police to his abandoned phone near a pond, investigators wrote. A time-lapse video featuring Brenner and timestamped around the time of the victim's disappearance was discovered on the device. 

"The video showed [Brenner] with blood stains on his arms and shirt as he is cleaning a gun," investigators wrote in their probable cause statement. 

Testing of that shirt uncovered traces of Rounds' DNA, according to the affidavit.

Box Elder County Sheriff's deputies and FBI agents searched Brenner's trailer on June 16 of last year. Inside, they said they found ball ammunition, ignition caps, black powder and speed loads. However, "no muzzle loader firearms [were] located in the trailer at that time."

But three days later, a neighbor identified only as D.H. in documents surrendered three black powder guns that he told police Brenner had given him for "safekeeping." When the neighbor asked why Brenner was handing over the weapons, the 60-year-old allegedly replied that "the last time he had trouble with the law they took everything from him, and he did not want the things he had left to be taken again."

Brenner had faced several previous felony convictions, investigators wrote, including a 2012 conviction for felony possession of a firearm that landed him a 33-month prison sentence.

After another interview with the FBI on June 21, D.H. mentioned that Brenner had also given him a .22 caliber rifle, loaded with five rounds of ammunition around the same time as the other weapons. The neighbor told authorities that he did not initially hand over the rifle because "he had been owed money by the rifle's original owner and felt that he should have a claim over the [gun]... to cover the debt."

Investigators wrote that they seized several firearm accessories and components, including gunpowder, various ammunition and a muzzle loader, in another search of Brenner's trailer that day.

Despite a "thorough" search, investigators have not yet been able to locate Rounds' corpse "due to the Defendant removing and concealing it," they wrote in their probable cause statement.

"Although the remains of Dylan Rounds have yet to be located, we are hopeful that they are found in the future," the Box Elder County Sheriff's Department wrote in a press release last week. "We express our condolences to the family of Dylan Rounds.”

Rounds' mother said that the charges against Brenner were "good news" after nine devastating months with no new information.

“We don’t have a conviction and we don’t have Dylan’s body, but we won the first battle," she told KSLTV on Saturday. “For us, this is a win. We have fought so hard for charges.”

She said she is confident that a search party of Rounds' family and friends will eventually turn up his body.

“When the weather breaks, and we can get out there — and if some sort of deal hasn’t been cut and we’re still facing trial — we will spend the whole summer out there finding our son, and we will find him,” she told KSLTV.

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