Man Guilty in Deaths of Utah Teens Found in Mine Shaft

Jarrod Baum, 45, faces up to life in prison without parole
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 16, 2022 7:45 AM CDT
Man Guilty in Deaths of Utah Teens Found in Mine Shaft
Ciara Coleman looks on during a funeral service on April 7, 2018, for Brelynne "Breezy" Otteson, 17, and boyfriend Riley Powell, 18, in Eureka, Utah.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(Newser) – The case of a teenage couple killed and tossed down an abandoned mine shaft culminated in murder convictions Friday for a Utah man who prosecutors said killed the pair because he found them hanging out with his girlfriend. Jarrod Baum, 45, faces up to life in prison without parole after a jury found him guilty of two counts of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, and other counts in the 2017 slayings after a monthlong trial. Brelynne "Breezy" Otteson, 17, and Riley Powell, 18, disappeared days after Christmas. Their bound and stabbed bodies were found months later in Utah’s west desert, 100 feet down an abandoned mine shaft.

Prosecutors said they died after meeting up with a friend, Morgan Lewis, on Dec. 30 at her home in Eureka, a former silver mining town. While they were there, her boyfriend, Baum, returned home. He grew angry because he had forbidden Lewis from having male friends over, and she previously dated Powell, reports the AP. Lewis told police her boyfriend tied up Otteson and Powell, duct-taped their mouths and threw them in the back of Powell’s Jeep. Then he drove them, along with Lewis, to the site of an abandoned mine outside town.

There, he beat and stabbed Powell before cutting Otteson’s throat, then tossed them down. "He retaliated against Riley and Morgan and made her watch so she would know this is what happens when you break my rules," said prosecutor Ryan McBride. The couple’s family and friends searched for months before Lewis was pulled over during an unrelated traffic stop on March 25. She eventually agreed to cooperate with police. Much of the prosecution’s case was based on her testimony, which was questioned by the defense. Attorney Dallas Young said there was a lack of DNA evidence linking the slayings to Baum.

"You cannot believe (Lewis), and you cannot be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt," he argued, according to KSL. Prosecutors countered that Lewis and Baum had burnt and bleached important evidence, obliterating DNA. Young pointed to DNA found on the duct tape that covered Otteson's mouth that didn't belong to any of the four people said to be present, arguing another person must have been there and that Lewis is staying closed-lipped about that person. Prosecutors originally sought the death penalty, but Utah County Attorney David Leavitt later took it off the table as he vowed to no longer pursue capital punishment. KSL reports Baum will be sentenced June 1.

(Read more murder stories.)

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