Utah teen accused of filming friend’s suicide pleads guilty to child abuse homicide

FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2017, file photo, defendant Tyerell Przybycien waits for the start of his preliminary hearing, in 4th District Court, Provo. Przybycien pleaded guilty on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, to encouraging a teen friend to hang herself and filming it because he was fascinated with death. (Scott Sommerdorf/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP, File)

A Utah teen accused of helping a teen girl die by suicide and filming the act has pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

Tyerell Przybycien, now 19, pleaded guilty Tuesday to child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony. He also pleaded guilty to having child pornography on a cellphone that police searched after 16-year-old Jchandra Brown’s May 2017 death.

Przybycien was originally charged with murder — also a first-degree felony — but Tuesday’s deal allowed him to plead guilty to a charge with a lower minimum sentence.

The man faces a prison term of at least five years, and possibly up to the rest of his life, when he is sentenced Dec. 7. If he had been convicted of murder, he would have served at least 15 years.

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dismissed a charge of failure to report a dead body, as well as witness tampering charges filed recently after Przybycien wrote letters to friends asking them to not speak with police or prosecutors about the case ahead of his December trial.

Prosecutors have argued that without Przybycien’s help — which included buying the rope, tying a noose and setting up the pedestal for her to stand on — Brown likely would not have died the night of May 5, 2017.

Przybycien also bragged to others that he was going to “help kill” Brown, according to prosecutors, saying it would be “like getting away with murder.”

Defense attorneys said that while Przybycien may have provided the materials for Brown’s suicide, the girl made the decision to kill herself — and could have changed her mind at any time.

She chose to climb on a makeshift rock pedestal and place the noose around her neck, they say. And it was her choice, defense attorneys have argued, to ingest compressed air, which caused her to pass out, slip from the rocks and hang herself.

Brown was found dead by a turkey hunter on May 6 near Maple Lake in Spanish Fork Canyon, hanging from a noose tied to a tree.

A cellphone found under her feet contained a 10-minute recording of the girl’s death, which Przybycien has admitted he filmed. A receipt also was found nearby with Przybycien’s name on it that showed the recent purchase of rope and other items.

Courtesy photo Jchandra Brown

In the video — played during a 2017 preliminary hearing — Przybycien can be heard muttering “Um” and “OK” as the girl hangs.

He at times seems to be checking on her, once saying, “Thumbs up if you’re OK,” but at other times makes comments about the girl’s death, saying, “That’s when the brain stops getting oxygen.”

The video ends with Przybycien saying, “I guess I’ll just leave this here now.”

The teen later told police he left Brown there because he was scared.

Przybycien’s case spurred Utah legislators to pass a law last session that criminalized assisted suicide. Prosecutors can now seek a second-degree felony manslaughter charge — punishable by up to 15 years in prison — if they can show a person provided “the physical means” for someone to commit suicide.

People who have suicidal thoughts can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition’s website for help. A smartphone application called SafeUT also allows users to chat or call a crisis counselor and submit tips.