Man ‘made Riley suffer,’ woman says, before he killed two teens and dumped them in a Utah mine

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Law enforcement crews on Wednesday recovered two bodies from an abandoned mine in Utah’s west desert near Eureka. Police believe the bodies are those of two teenagers who have been missing for nearly three months. Wednesday, March 28, 2018.

Jerrod William Baum said he had never “killed an innocent before,” according to court documents released Thursday.

The 41-year-old Juab County man reportedly told his girlfriend it was “too bad” that he had to kill two teenagers who had spent time with her. According to the girlfriend, Baum didn’t want her to have any male friends.

And that transgression purportedly led Baum to kidnap and use a knife to kill 17-year-old Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson and her boyfriend, 18-year-old Riley Powell, before throwing their bodies down a mine shaft near Eureka.

Baum was booked into the Utah County jail Wednesday on suspicion of two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of abuse or desecration of a human body.

Earlier that day, Utah County officials recovered two bodies from inside an abandoned mine shaft, remains believed to be the two teens’.

The bodies’ hands were bound behind their backs when police found them, and both appeared to have knife wounds, according to a probable cause statement filed in 4th District Court.

Utah County sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Cannon said Thursday that no other arrests had been made in connection with the teens’ case. Baum’s girlfriend is in jail in Sanpete County on unrelated complaints; he has not been formally charged in the teens’ deaths.

Baum’s girlfriend, 34-year-old Morgan Henderson, who began speaking to Sanpete County sheriff’s detectives Sunday, led police to the mine after she was pulled over and arrested for speeding. She was taken into custody on suspicion of drug- and traffic-related offenses, as well as being a restricted person possessing a firearm.

In interviews over three days, Henderson revealed to police what she said really happened to Breezy and Riley the night they visited the Mammoth house where Henderson lives with Baum and Baum’s father.

The new story differed greatly from versions she and Baum told police in previous interviews.

Detectives interviewed Baum and his girlfriend for the first time Jan. 9 because police were aware that Riley and Baum knew each other, according to the probable cause statement, which also refers to Henderson as Morgan Lewis.

The couple hadn’t heard from the teens, they told police, but they had heard a rumor that Riley may have gotten into a fight with another man. Henderson also offered a rumor: that Riley and Breezy were missing because a drug deal had gone wrong and the teens had “stolen drugs from some Mexicans.”

In mid-January, detectives discovered a Facebook conversation between Riley and Henderson.

The teens agreed to meet at Henderson’s house. Those messages stopped about 11 p.m. on Dec. 29.

Detectives returned to Henderson’s home Jan. 25 and interviewed her again. Henderson first said Riley never made it to her house after their Facebook conversation, but she eventually told police that Riley and Breezy had come to the Mammoth home early Dec. 30.

The trio smoked marijuana, and Riley and Breezy left 40 minutes later, Henderson said, adding that she didn’t know where the teens went or what happened to them after they left.

She said she hadn’t been truthful to detectives about the teenagers being at the house, according to the probable cause statement, “for fear that she would get into trouble [with Baum and Baum’s father] for having people over.”

On Sunday, Henderson’s story changed again. That time, she told police that Baum told her he “took care” of Breezy and Riley, and that Baum apparently told Henderson that he “made Riley suffer” but “felt bad” about killing Breezy and “made it quick and painless” for her, according to the statement.

During an interview Tuesday, she told police that she was with Baum during the alleged killing.

According to Henderson’s most recent telling of the event, Baum confronted her after the teens visited.

Baum knew the teenagers had come to the house, he told her, then took her outside, where she saw the two teens tied up in the back of Riley’s Jeep, according to the probable cause statement.

“He told her that he had previously instructed her not to have guy friends and that it was too bad because he has never killed an innocent before,” the statement says.

Baum allegedly drove Riley’s Jeep, with Henderson and the teens, to the area of the abandoned mine. At the pit, the woman told police, Baum used a knife to kill Riley and Breezy before dumping the bodies into the shaft.

Since the slayings, Baum had become “somewhat emotional about Brelynne,” his girlfriend told police.

After dumping the bodies, Baum and Henderson went back to their home in Mammoth, near Eureka. At the house, Baum allegedly threatened Henderson with strangulation.

Henderson told police she then drove Riley’s Jeep to Cherry Creek Reservoir — where the vehicle was later found by police — while she followed Baum, who was driving a truck. The truck got stuck, and they used a tie-down strap to pull it out.

Baum hid the teenagers’ cellphones in a stocking, which he threw into a sludge barrel near their home, according to the probable cause statement. Henderson took police to the barrel, in which they found the stocking, destroyed phones, rope, used duct tape, pieces of two knife sheaths, roofing nails, parts of a cigarette carton, baby wipes and plastic sacks.

Police also found a camouflage tie-down strap that matched the one found attached to Riley’s Jeep.

On Wednesday, crews pulled two bodies from the Tintic Standard No. 2 mine, which Henderson led them to. Although the medical examiner hasn’t identified the pair as Breezy and Riley, Cannon said authorities are “nearly certain” it’s them.

The bodies were lying on a ledge about 100 feet down the 1,800-foot-deep mine, Durfey said.

(Courtesy Amanda Hunt) Riley Powell

Details about Breezy and Riley’s disappearance emerged slowly over the past three months, then the teens’ family and friends were hit hard this week. They spent Wednesday and Thursday grappling with the news, shifting gears from wondering where the teens are, to who killed them, to, finally, why they died the way they did.

During a Wednesday news conference, Breezy’s aunt Amanda Hunt and Riley’s father, Bill Powell, questioned why the teens had to die.

“What was he thinking?” Bill Powell said. “What was his problem? What went wrong? Why did he have so much hate?”

Breezy and Riley had been dating for about four months when they disappeared. They moved in together in the fall, Breezy’s older sister Kylysta Otteson told a Salt Lake Tribune reporter.

Family members reported them missing Jan. 2.

Early in the investigation, police focused on Riley's mother, Mistie Carlson, and her boyfriend, Lee Shepherd, who live in the small Tooele County town of Lofgreen with Riley's grandmother, Linda Powell, and her boyfriend.

When asked Wednesday about the investigation’s apparent shift from Carlson and Shepherd, Cannon kept quiet.

“There are some things we know that we can’t release yet,” he said.

Baum’s lengthy criminal record started in 1991, with a string of crimes on his 15th birthday. He’s since been convicted for gun, drug, aggravated assault and theft offenses. He was convicted in 2005 for a firearms offense and was released in July 2016.

Before his arrest Wednesday, he had been on supervised parole in the federal case, and on probation with state officials.

— Tribune reporter Pamela Manson contributed to this story.