Almost a year after the bodies of two teenagers were found at the bottom of a mine in Eureka, the man charged with murder for their deaths appeared in court Wednesday.
Jerrod Baum, 42, appeared shackled in an orange jumpsuit in a Provo courtroom as several witnesses testified in 4th District Court at his preliminary hearing, including his former girlfriend Morgan Henderson.
“I wanted those families to have closure and I wanted them to know what happened,” she said.
She shared many details about the deaths, including some information that the families had never heard before.
“There are details that we learned that we didn’t know prior,” said Amanda Hunt, the aunt of one of the teenagers. “Obviously we’re only in the beginning. There is a lot more to come but we’re glad we’re here today and start the justice for the kids.”
Baum, of Mammoth, is charged 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.
Their bodies were found in the abandoned Tintic Standard No. 2 mine in March 2018. Baum and Henderson were arrested soon after in connection with the murders.
“Getting the details, knowing how Jerrod was so sweet to Breezy and so brutal to Riley, and then what the medical examiner had to say as far as the details of what happened, that put the puzzle pieces together,” Hunt said.
“It was heartbreaking,” added Karen Baum, an aunt of Baum.
Baum reportedly killed the teenagers out of jealousy that Henderson had a male visitor in their house.
Family members of Powell and Otteson filled the courtroom for a hearing that was set to determine if prosecutors have enough evidence to take the case to trial.
As the hearing started, Judge Derek Pullan approved removing Baum’s handcuffs to allow him to take notes.
More than 100 pieces of evidence were scheduled to be presented at the hearing, including photos of the two teenagers, photos of keys and a keyring owned by Powell, autopsy records, a Facebook conversation between Powell and Henderson, and maps of the areas where the teens’ Jeep and bodies were found.
Henderson, 35, took the stand, testifying about her experience with Powell, Otteson and Baum.
When asked if she had personal knowledge of how Powell and Otteson died, she replied yes and said, “I was there.” When asked if she knew how they died, she said simply, “Jerrod killed them.”
Henderson testified that she lived with Baum in 2017 and felt isolated. She ran away from the residence in July of that year but moved back in with him in November 2017.
“There were comments that made me feel if I ever did leave, I’d never be able to get away,” Henderson said.
“Was there a sense of jealousy?” asked prosecuting attorney Randy Kennard.
“Possessiveness, I’d say,” she replied.
Henderson testified that in December 2017, Powell and Otteson came to the Baum residence, where they smoked marijuana and talked with her for about 40 minutes.
After they left, she said she got ready for bed and went upstairs to watch television. Baum came to the residence after the teenagers had left and Henderson said he was angry and upset.
“I could tell when he walked in that I had messed up,” Henderson said, adding that she wasn’t allowed to invite people to come to the house.
She then said Baum ordered her to leave with him. When she walked outside, she saw the Jeep that Powell had driven to the house. Henderson said she saw Otteson and Powell in the back of the vehicle.
“I didn’t know why he was there and I didn’t know why they were in the back of the car,” she said. “I felt very disoriented. I felt scared. It was kind of dreamlike.”
After driving for some time through Eureka, Baum talked to the teenagers and appeared charming and apologetic. But he drove very fast on the back roads outside of Eureka. When Henderson mentioned this, he told her to shut up.
Near the edge of a cliffside, Baum allegedly stopped the Jeep and opened the back of the Jeep. Henderson said she saw Otteson and Powell had been tied up inside the cargo area of the vehicle.
“I saw both Breezy and Riley were tied up by their wrists and their feet,” Henderson testified. “They had duct tape over their mouths. That’s when I realized why they hadn’t been talking.”
Baum pulled the teenagers out of the Jeep and cut the ropes binding their feet, she said they all smoked cigarettes and then started walking about a quarter of a mile.
“The moon was out so we didn’t need a flashlight,” Henderson said. “The way the conversation was going was at odds with what was going on.”
Henderson testified that Baum took her and Otteson and Powell to the edge of the mine and pushed her and Otteson together in a kneeling position by the edge.
“When we saw the mine, I realized even if we listened, it wasn’t going to end well,” Henderson said.
She said at one point, she grabbed Otteson’s hand to comfort her when she started crying. Otteson asked multiple times if Baum would untie her hands.
“To me, it felt like she was trying to humanize herself,” Henderson said. “It felt sad and scary.”
Henderson testified that Baum then stabbed Powell multiple times before stabbing Otteson.
“I kept thinking I need to run, I need to get out of here, this is bad, I’m going to die here, she said. “But I couldn’t move. I felt this intense guilt like this is happening because of me.”
She said that Baum picked up Powell and threw his body into the mine and did the same with Otteson.
“He had a big grin on his face,” she said. “He looked manic.” Henderson told prosecutors Baum drove them back to Mammoth in Powell’s Jeep, and when she started to cry again, he threatened her and her son from a previous marriage.
“I was getting hysterical again,” Henderson said. “I was sitting there crying and I felt something around my neck. I realized he had gotten behind me and put a wire around my neck.”
“He said the next time I think about crying I needed to think about my little boy and if he wanted to grow up.”
Henderson described how Baum destroyed the evidence, saying he cut and bleached and burned their clothes, he washed her skin with bleach, he put the knife in an oil barrel by the house and he hid Riley’s keys in random dirt piles.
Detective Jeff Hansen with the Juab County Sheriff’s Office testified about what happened during the search for the missing teenagers. He and other investigators stopped by the Baum residence to ask Baum and Henderson about the disappearance.
Both of them seemed “off” that day, Hansen said. He remembered smelling wood smoke inside the home along with a strong odor of bleach.
When detectives discovered Facebook messages between Henderson and Powell before the disappearance, investigators again spoke with Baum and Henderson.
During the first interview with Henderson, deputies talked with her in a patrol vehicle. Baum stayed outside the home and brought a chair outside to sit and watch Henderson inside the vehicle.
“He refused to go in the house,” Hansen testified. “We weren’t sure what to make of it at the time. That usually happens when someone is trying to intimidate someone.”
It was then Henderson admitted for the first time that she knew Powell.
In her testimony, Henderson said when news spread about the two teenagers’ disappearance, Baum told her to tell police that Otteson and Powell never came to their house that night.
“He said he would kill me” if she told police what happened, she testified. “He said if he was locked up he could still have it done. He threatened my little boy.”
Henderson testified that she had decided to die by suicide, but on her way to the mountains, she was pulled over for speeding by deputies from Sanpete County. She was arrested and brought to the county jail.
She said she began to feel safe with deputies during interviews after her arrest.
“He was bigger than Jerrod,” Henderson said of the deputy at the jail. “I didn’t want to die with this secret, but I couldn’t live with it either.”
Henderson pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to 10 counts of obstruction of justice and was sentenced to serve three years in jail or until Baum’s case is resolved, as well as five years of probation. Her sentence included a plea deal, with an agreement to cooperate with prosecutors in the case against Baum.
Detective Jason Bullock, a homicide detective with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office who helped recover the bodies, also took the stand and testified that the bodies were muddy and the hands of the teenagers were tied behind their backs.
Autopsy records show that the bodies were identified by fingerprints and dental records.
According to testimony from medical examiner Dr. Kacy Krehbiel, Powell had several sharp force injuries from a knife, including five wounds on his head and a deep cut on his throat. He also had a broken nose and a fractured jaw.
Otteson also suffered several sharp and blunt force injuries, including a deep cut on her throat. The teenagers did not have any defense injuries on their arms since their hands were tied behind their backs, according to Krehbiel.
Family members, including Otteson’s aunt Hunt, Powell’s father William Powell and Powell’s sister Nikka Powell took the stand to share testimony about the last time they saw and spoke with the two teenagers.
“The last time my brother and I spoke voice-to-voice was Dec. 29,” Nikka Powell said with emotion on the stand. She said she saw her brother the morning of the 28th or 29th of December 2017, when he gave her money so she could go to work.
Hunt said that she saw Otteson two weeks before she disappeared, and William Powell testified that the last time he saw Powell was around Christmas in 2017.
William Powell also identified a dark black Jeep that he owned, which was being used by Riley Powell before he disappeared. Investigators recovered the Jeep in Juab County on Jan. 11, 2018.
Baum’s preliminary hearing will conclude Thursday morning.