A Provo courtroom was solemn and silent on Monday as Jerrod Baum pleaded not guilty to killing two teenagers and leaving their bodies in an abandoned mine last year.
Baum, 42, was charged in 4th District Court with two counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Riley Powell and 17-year-old Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, who went missing in December 2017.
The bodies of the two teenagers were found three months later in an abandoned mine near Eureka. Autopsy reports showed the teenagers had been stabbed and died by homicide.
The Utah County Attorney’s Office now has 60 days to submit a notice and decide whether or not to pursue the death penalty.
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt said his office is still analyzing evidence and examining aggravating factors in the case. There has been no discussion of a plea deal, and Leavitt said he will likely make the decision on the penalty sometime in late July.
“We’ve had lots of conversations with the families. Really, what the family wants is to have their family members back. That will never happen. They know that, and we’re forming a very good relationship between the police, the prosecution team and the families,” he said. “They will be very much a part of this whole decision.”
If the death penalty is not sought, the minimum penalty for each aggravated murder is 25 years to life.
Bill Powell, Riley’s father, and Amanda Hunt, Breezy’s aunt, agreed that both families want to pursue the death penalty. Neither were surprised with Baum’s plea.
“He’s an evil man,” Powell said. “They didn’t get a choice, they didn’t get a choice. They were prisoners and brutally murdered. He deserves the same.”
“Those kids didn’t have a right. They didn’t get a voice that night. Their lives were taken from them and he shouldn’t get the right to live,” Hunt added.
Baum is also charged with two counts of aggravated kidnapping, both first-degree felonies; obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; and two counts of desecration of a dead human body and one count of possession of a weapon by a restricted person, each third-degree felonies.
He reportedly killed the teenagers out of jealousy that his ex-girlfriend, Morgan Henderson, had a male visitor in their house. She testified against him and shared many details about the deaths during a preliminary hearing in March.
The next court hearing is set for Aug. 12, as Judge Derek Pullan plans to set up a timeline to trial.