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Jury convicts Utah man of kidnapping, killing teen couple, throwing our bodies down mine shaft



A Provo jury on Friday convicted 46-year-old Jerrod Baum of kidnapping and murdering a teenage couple greater than 4 years in the past and throwing their our bodies down a mine shaft.

According to testimony from Baum’s former girlfriend, Morgan Henderson Lewis, Baum had forbidden Lewis from talking to different males and exploded with anger in December 2017 when he found Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, 17, and her 18-year-old boyfriend, Riley Powell, leaving his house after hanging out with Lewis.

In closing arguments to the weekslong trial Wednesday, Deputy Utah County Attorney Christine Scott recommended that — along with a motive of jealousy — Baum had his eyes on a $500,000 insurance coverage cost that Lewis had acquired on the time, including that Baum had tried to arrange a joint checking account along with her.

According to Lewis’ testimony, Baum certain the youngsters, put duct tape over their mouths, drove them to an deserted mine shaft in rural Juab County, compelled them to kneel, then beat and stabbed Powell to loss of life.

“Goodbye, Riley, you piece of s–t,” Baum mentioned, in response to Lewis, the one witness to the killings.

Baum then slit Otteson’s throat, Lewis mentioned, and threw each youngsters into the 1,800-foot shaft, the place their our bodies have been found months later, in March 2018.

“He said it was like lambs to the slaughter,” Scott informed jurors Wednesday, quoting Lewis’ account of what Baum mentioned after the killings. “Nobody fought.”

(Rick Bowmer | AP file picture) In this April 7, 2018 picture, a reward poster is proven at a funeral service for Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, 17, and her boyfriend Riley Powell, 18, in Eureka, Utah. Prosecutors mentioned Jerrod Baum killed the younger couple and pushed their our bodies right into a rural mine shaft, the place they remained for almost three months earlier than being found in March 2018.

‘Is she worthy of your belief?’

Scott spent a lot of her 97-minute closing remarks Wednesday recounting Lewis’ model of the killings, whereas protection legal professional Dallas Young spent nearly two hours Wednesday attacking Lewis’ credibility.

Lewis admitted on the stand that she initially lied to police about what occurred, however mentioned she did it out of worry, as a result of Baum had allegedly threatened her and her son.

“She had seen him kill two people, so she decided her best course of action was to be his No. 1 fan,” Scott mentioned.

In 2018, Lewis pleaded responsible to expenses of obstruction of justice earlier than spending three years behind bars. Young on Wednesday argued that Lewis’ plea indicated that she wasn’t below compulsion. “It’s a red flag, and it’s worth considering,” he mentioned.

According to Scott, a part of Lewis’ plea deal was that Lewis was required to inform the reality to investigators and to the courtroom. She nonetheless wears an ankle monitor.

“It boils down to one key question,” Young argued Wednesday. “And that is — can Morgan be believed?”

Because, he mentioned, “There is very, very little physical evidence, very little forensic evidence. … You have heard evidence from Morgan and Morgan alone. Nobody else. … Is she worthy of your belief? Is she worthy of your trust? The answer to the questions is, no.”

Young additionally pointed to Lewis’ historical past of “mental health struggles” and drug use, noting inconsistencies in her story and asserting that she ought to have recalled extra particulars, arguing that she was “not telling the complete truth.”

During the trial, police detectives testified that they investigated the chance Lewis dedicated the crime, however decided that Baum was the killer. Baum selected to not testify in his personal protection.

Scott argued that Lewis doesn’t bear in mind some issues due to trauma and “PTSD,” referring to publish traumatic stress dysfunction.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Jerrod Baum kidnapped Riley and Breezy,” Scott mentioned, addressing the jury. “Murdered Riley and Breezy. Threw their bodies in a mine shaft. We ask you to find him guilty.”

(Courtesy Amanda Hunt) Breezy Otteson, 17, and Riley Powell, 18, whose our bodies have been found in a rural Utah mine shaft in March 2018, almost three months after they went lacking. Prosecutors mentioned Jerrod Baum killed the younger couple and pushed their our bodies into the 1,800-foot shaft.

Guilty on all expenses

Jurors in the end discovered Baum responsible of all expenses filed in opposition to him: two counts every of aggravated homicide, aggravated kidnapping and desecration of a physique; and one rely every of obstruction of justice and possession of a harmful weapon by a restricted particular person.

A sentencing listening to within the case was not instantly scheduled. In 2019, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt mentioned he would search the loss of life penalty for Baum, however two years later introduced that he would now not search the loss of life penalty in any case.

During a funeral service in 2018, shortly after the teenagers’ our bodies have been discovered, household and mates described Riley Powell as hardworking and selfless — a quick drag racer who cooked some imply barbecue and the perfect steaks.

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Amanda Hunt, aunt of Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, 17, pauses as she walks by photographs of Breezy and her 18-year-old boyfriend Riley Powell, which performed in a slide present at a funeral service for the younger couple on Saturday, April 6, 2018.

Breezy was energetic, outspoken and type, they mentioned — a dancer and a singer who cherished Snapchat and consuming cake out of a cup with milk. The two had been relationship for about 4 months once they disappeared. They have been clearly in love.

Since the pair spent their final moments collectively, Breezy’s aunt, Amanda Hunt, mentioned on the time, it made sense to memorialize them collectively.

“When Riley first met Breezy,” Riley’s sister, Nikka Powell, mentioned on the service, “he looked at me and said, ‘She is the one, bro.’”

Editor’s notice • This story is offered to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers solely. Thank you for supporting native journalism.



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