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Utah man murdered couple, dumped their bodies in a mine, police say

EUREKA, JUAB COUNTY – A Mammoth man is booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation on two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of desecration of a body.  He’s accused of killing Riley Powell and Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, and dumping their bodies in an abandoned mine.

(Photo Credit: Tooele County Sheriff’s Office)

The details leading to the arrest of Jerrod Baum reportedly came from his live-in girlfriend, Morgan Lewis, after she was arrested in Sanpete County on unrelated charges.  The probable cause statement says both Lewis and Baum had told a rumor to investigators that Otteson got into a fight with another man on New Year’s Eve.  However, Lewis was confronted with Facebook messages she shared with the teens, showing they planned to go to Lewis’ house that night to smoke marijuana.

“If they know they’re the focus of something and they know they might be in trouble for something, one of the first inclinations of many people is to tell a different story that’s not true.  It appears that did happen, at least early on,” according to Utah County Sheriff’s Spokesman Spencer Cannon.

Eventually, Lewis reportedly told police Baum grew angry with her because of this visit, and Baum forbade her to have male friends.  The probable cause statement says Baum tied the two teens, put them in the back of his truck and took them to the abandoned mine.  There, he reportedly stabbed Powell multiple times, but felt sorry for Otteson and only stabbed her a few times.  After that, the statement says he put the bodies into barrels and put those in the mine.

(Photo Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

Lewis also reportedly told police where to find a barrel where Baum tried to burn some of the evidence, including the couple’s cell phones.

Cannon says, “You look at witness tampering and obstruction of justice, those are charges related to evidence tampering or evidence destruction.”

Baum is no stranger to police.  He’s well known for his criminal history in Utah County stretching back to his teenage years.  In 1992, Baum was tried as an adult for attempted murder after he allegedly stole several vehicles, robbed a Burger King in Orem and fired a gun at the employees who followed him into the parking lot.

When police wanted to arrest Baum, they didn’t have to look far.  He was in the Juab County Jail on unrelated charges.

“He’s said very little at this point.  The information that we developed led us to him. He’s given us enough details where we feel comfortable with the charges,” says Utah County Undersheriff Darin Durfey.

The families of both Otteson and Powell are left with more questions than answers after hearing the possible reason for the killings.

“Just give us a reason.  A good reason.  What we read is not a reason.  I hope he pays the consequences,” says Powell’s father, Bill Powell.

Otteson’s aunt, Amanda Hunt, says they have never met Baum, and they can’t figure out why he was associating with people so much younger than he is.

“For a 41 year-old to have so much rage, apparently, based on what we read, toward Riley and taking Breezy out as just an innocent bystander, it doesn’t make sense,” she says.

(KSL Newsradio’s Peter Samore contributed to this story).