Provo • A 19-year-old man was sentenced to five years to life in prison Friday for helping a teenage girl hang herself and then filming the act.
Tyerell Przybycien apologized to Jchandra Brown’s mother and said he hoped him taking responsibility by pleading guilty would help everyone heal.
“I’m also hoping that, although I don’t deserve it, the victim’s family will be able to forgive me for the immature, thoughtless and rash decision,” Przybycien told the judge.
A lawyer for Przybycien asked the judge for two years in jail and five years of probation. But 4th District Judge James Brady opted for the longer sentence in the death of Brown, who was 16.
Przybycien in October pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse homicide.
He also pleaded guilty to a count of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor in connection to child pornography that detectives found on Przybycien’s cellphone while investigating Brown’s death. The judge ordered Przybycien to serve a prison term of up to five years for this charge but ordered the sentence to run concurrent to the sentence for child abuse homicide.
Brady’s ruling followed a sentencing hearing that had even police officers in the room tearing up. The courtroom gallery was full with supporters for both Przybycien and Brown. Brown’s family brought a framed wall poster-size photograph of her.
Przybycien’s grandfather Larry Przybycien brought two small photos of his grandson as a boy and held them up before Brady.
“This is the Ty that we know,” the elder Przybycien told the judge. “We all want him to come home.”
The grandfather described the kindness his grandson had shown to people over the years, including people with disabilities, and asked for a light sentence.
Brown’s friends and family told Brady stories of the girl they called “Jelly” and who dyed blue streaks in her hair. Brown’s mother, Sue Bryan, said her daughter would have turned 18 on Dec. 2. She described to the judge all the events her daughter will never have — from attending prom to going on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to having children.
“I also want Jchandra to come home, just like they want Tyerell to," she said, "but the difference is Jchandra can’t.”
Throughout the hearing, Przybycien was quiet and still in a dark blue Utah County jail jumpsuit and shackles.
On May 6, 2017, a turkey hunter found Brown, 16, hanging by a noose near Maple Lake in Spanish Fork Canyon. At her feet was a cellphone containing a 10-minute video of her death.
In the video — played during a 2017 preliminary hearing — Przybycien is heard muttering “Um” and “OK” as the girl hangs.
Przybycien checked 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.”
Investigators at the scene also found a receipt with Przybycien’s name on it showing he bought a rope and other items.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander called Przybycien “a clear risk to our community” and asked for the sentence of up to life in prison. Grunander on Friday argued to Brady that Brown never would have killed herself without Przybycien. When he heard she was thinking of suicide, the prosecutor said, he encouraged her ideas and helped carry them out because Przybycien had his own murder fantasies.
Grunande also quoted letters Przybycien wrote from jail. In one letter, Przybycien took credit for a recent increase in suicides in Utah. In another letter, he discussed getting a noose tattoo when he leaves jail.
“That’s a trophy for him and what he accomplished in helping Jchandra die,” Grunander told the judge.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Christine Scott described the photos of toddlers being sexually abused that were found on Przybycien’s phone and quoted text messages and letters in which Przybycien described his attraction to children.
In explaining his sentence, Brady suggested he was concerned Przybycien posed a threat.
“I’m looking at behaviors," the judge said, "and I’m looking at risk and I’m looking at rehabilitation potential.”
Prosecutors originally charged Przybycien with a count of murder that carried a 15-year minimum sentence. Przybycien and prosecutors struck a deal in October that allowed Przybycien to plead guilty to the child abuse homicide count with a five-year minimum. The attempted sexual exploitation charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Prosecutors agreed to dismiss a charges of failure to report a dead body and witness tampering. After his arrest, Przybycien wrote letters from the Utah County jail asking potential witnesses not to speak to detectives.
Przybycien’s case spurred Utah legislators to pass a law this year that criminalized assisted suicide. Prosecutors can now seek a felony manslaughter charge that’s punishable by up to 15 years in prison if they can show a person provided 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.