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Utah Man Found Guilty Of Brutally Murdering Teen Couple, Dumping Bodies In A Mine Shaft
Prosecutors said Jerrod Baum made Brelynne Otteson watch him kill Riley Powell and then killed Otteson because he didn't like his girlfriend, Morgan Lewis, having male friends.
A Utah man has been found guilty of murdering a teenage couple before disposing of their bodies in a mine shaft.
Jerrod William Baum, 46, was found guilty by a Utah County jury on a number of charges connected to the 2017 murders of Riley Powell, 18, and Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, 17, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt stated in a press conference on Friday. Baum stood accused of kidnapping the teens and stabbing them to death near a mine shaft in Eureka, Utah because he didn’t like his girlfriend, Morgan Lewis, having male friends, as previously reported, and he'd discovered the couple had been to her home.
Authorities discovered the Powell and Otteson's bodies months after they disappeared on a ledge 100 feet down a 1,800-foot mine shaft with their hands tied behind their backs.
According to County Attorney David Leavitt, Baum faces 25 years to life for each of two counts of aggravated murder or life without the possibility of parole.
“While a conviction like this will never bring back either Riley or Breezy, I hope that today’s guilty verdict will, in some ways, begin the healing process for the victims of this crime,” said Leavitt. “My heart goes out to the victims of this crime, their families, their friends. They have gone through an unspeakable ordeal.”
Powell and Otteson were last seen together in Spanish Fork in late December of 2017 while heading to Powell’s grandfather’s Eureka home, where the couple resided, according to Salt Lake City NBC affiliate KSL. They were reported missing on Jan. 2, 2018.
Authorities suspected foul play when they found Powell’s Jeep with two flat tires hidden behind some trees on Jan. 11, 2018, according to KSL.
Baum and his girlfriend, Morgan Lewis (previously referred to as Morgan Henderson), were questioned by detectives and initially denied knowing what came of the missing couple, claiming they'd heard Powell and Otteson got into an argument on New Year’s Eve. In a later interview, Lewis admitted to authorities that the teens had been at their home but denied knowing what had become of them.
The break authorities needed came in March 2018 when Lewis was pulled over for speeding and arrested on drug charges, as previously reported. Over the next three days, she gave several accounts before admitting that Baum had become enraged when he found out the couple had been to her home, according to Salt Lake City ABC affiliate KTVX.
Lewis then led authorities to Powell and Otteson’s bodies, according to KSL. She was charged with obstruction of justice days later.
Acknowledging the changing statements to authorities, Lewis testified that “it was best to do whatever [Baum] wants and be his number one fan,” according to KTVX.
Lewis testified during the trial that she felt “violence in the air” when Baum led her to the teenagers, who were bound by duct tape in the back of Powell’s Jeep, according to KSL. Lewis rode in the passenger’s seat while Baum drove them to the mine, where he forced Otteson to watch him stab Powell.
Otteson reportedly pleaded for the life of her unborn child — and had told her family she was pregnant just one month before the murders, according to CBS News. However, investigators learned she was not pregnant at the time that Baum slit her throat and threw her in the mine after her boyfriend.
According to KSL, Baum has a criminal history dating back more than 30 years, including charges of attempted murder, robbery and theft. Before Powell and Otteson’s murders, he was charged with various weapon violations and for his connection to a prison riot in Gunnison, Utah in 1994.
Prosecutors said Baum showed little remorse after Powell and Otteson’s murders, noting a recorded conversation played in court, according to KTVX. In the recording, Baum referred to a Facebook post by Otteson’s aunt, who informed the community that someone was taking down missing person flyers early in the investigation.
“That’s terrible,” said Baum, laughing. “That makes my [expletive] hard.”
Baum was arrested on March 28, 2018 following the discovery of the victims’ bodies, and charged with two counts each of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping and desecration of a dead body. He was also charged with one count each of obstruction of justice and possession of a dangerous weapon as a restricted person.
Otteson’s aunt, Amanda Davis, was one of several family members in court on Friday when the jury returned a guilty verdict on all counts, according to KSL TV 5.
“We waited four years for justice for these kids, so at the end of the day, we can wait, and it was worth the wait,” said Davis. “It’s been long overdue, but we did it.”
Baum is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on June 1.