Eureka • Riley Powell cooked some mean barbecue and the best steaks. He was hardworking and selfless. He was a fast drag racer, but not as fast as his sister, Nikka, who introduced him to Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, the person who’d soon become his girlfriend.
Breezy was energetic, outspoken and kind. She was a dancer and a singer, and she sure did love Snapchat and eating cake out of a cup with milk.
For about two hours Saturday morning, family and friends stood behind a podium, temporarily unburdened by the mystery of the teens’ disappearance for the first time in months, to share those details and much more about Riley and Breezy’s personalities, idiosyncrasies and hang-ups, and the standout moments of the two lives taken much too soon.
“It’s the little things, the little quirks, the little mannerisms that you don’t think about in the moment, but when you start looking back, that’s what you think about the most,” said Breezy’s aunt, Amanda Hunt.
About 200 people — many of whom didn’t know the teenagers before they learned of the couple’s disappearance and started searching for them — came to pay their respects at the Tintic School District building’s gymnasium in Eureka in the first of two funerals for the teenage couple. So many people came that, despite several extra rows of chairs added just before the service began, some still had to stand against the wall to watch.
Throughout the service, family and friends took turns eulogizing Breezy and Riley, who’d been dating about four months when they disappeared Dec. 30, after Breezy moved in with Riley in Eureka.
While Breezy, 17, and Riley, 18, had been together only a short time, those who knew them said the two were obviously in love. Since the pair spent their last moments together, it made sense to memorialize them together, Hunt said.
The couple’s love story began, of all places, in math class.
Breezy and Nikka Powell, 17, looked at each other after the lesson and confided that neither had any idea what they’d just heard. As they feigned talking about math the rest of the class period, the girls learned about each other. Later that day, lunch at McDonald’s sealed their friendship, and soon the two started hanging out in Eureka — and with Riley.
“When Riley first met Breezy, he looked at me and said, ‘She is the one, bro. Thanks for bringing her to town,’” Nikka Powell recalled Saturday.
Once Breezy and Riley began dating, they started to meet each other’s friends and family.
Jamie Swann, another of Breezy’s aunts, said Riley often came to her home. She didn’t know him well, she said, so she would just watch and listen to him. One day, he and Breezy were standing in Swann’s kitchen talking about how they were going to spend Riley’s paycheck.
Breezy had all sorts of idea for the money, Swann said, but Riley had other priorities.
“And Riley said, ‘Well, first, we’re going to go buy you shoes. You need shoes.’” Swann remembered. “He was just very humble.”
After that, Swann said, Riley had earned her respect. So, when she heard Breezy was going to move in with him in Eureka, Swann wasn’t so worried about her niece.
“[Riley] had a good heart, and he loved Breezy. He took care of her,” Swann said. “With that [gesture], I felt like she was in good hands.”
Ostensibly, Breezy’s move to Eureka was a good for her. Before her death, she was waiting for her transcripts to be sent over so she could finish high school and start her life and a family of her own.
Nikka Powell said Breezy was fascinated with Eureka when she first visited. Breezy loved that it was an old mining town, a sad irony in the couple’s ill-fated romance.
The funeral was filled with moments like those — ones that reminded attendees this wasn’t an ordinary service for two teenagers killed in tragic, albeit more common situations.
Like when Breezy’s uncle, Charlie Anderson, gave his tribute, describing Breezy as always off “in the deep water” where others feared to go. Where others might run from a challenge, Breezy embraced it.
“She didn’t care how old she was. She didn’t care. She wanted the world, and she wanted it now,” he said
Moments later, however, the mood turned as Anderson grappled with how to mention the girl’s zeal for life without mentioning that someone took her life from her. After stumbling over a few sentences, Anderson said he found comfort in knowing that Breezy died loving him and the rest of their family.
Then he said, “I know one thing: [Her death] wasn’t without a fight.”
The man police believe responsible for the teenagers’ slayings, 41-year-old Jerrod Baum, is in jail on multiple charges related to their deaths. His then-girlfriend, Morgan Henderson, is also in jail, on charges alleging she lied to police about knowing about what happened to Breezy and Riley.
“They’re going to be missed,” Riley’s dad, Bill Powell, said after the service. “Now we have to move on to the next stage and get justice for those kids, and I hope it comes soon. Real soon.”
As the funeral wrapped up Saturday, Bill Powell took a break from moving chairs and directing guests to reflect on the day. Watching him labor throughout the morning, one could see Bill Powell’s influence reflected in the stories about Riley’s work ethic.
“I try to teach him that it’s better to work than not. You don’t get anything unless you work,” Bill Powell said. “I wish I would have had a lot more time to teach him more, but we deal with what we’ve got to deal with.”
A second funeral for the teenagers will be held at 11 a.m. April 14 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church in Tooele, 180 S. Coleman St.