The last time anyone spoke to Merlin Dutson was Aug. 8. He was pondering driving from his home in Eagle Mountain to eastern Utah to meet his girlfriend.
The 19-year-old was found dead in Lehi on Friday.
Utah County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Spencer Cannon said Dutson was found in Lehi after investigators used his cellphone to narrow the search area. Utah Transit Authority spokesman Carl Arky said Dutson was found around 9 p.m. in a car in the park-and-ride lot near the Lehi Frontrunner station, 3101 N. Ashton Blvd.
Arky said investigators haven’t determined how long Dutson was there, and that police are still investigating his cause of death.
Bygnal Dutson, 38, has said friends and family have been searching for Merlin, his brother, in eastern Utah. They’re used to helping him.
The Dutsons grew up in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., collectively known as Short Creek, in the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Bygnal Dutson said he was kicked out of the church in 2005 and shunned by his family.
But through the years, more and more of his family were excommunicated or left on their own, including Bygnal and Merlin’s father. Bygnal Dutson said Merlin was close to their father — the two brothers have different mothers — and took not being able to see their dad or talk to him hard. Merlin was sent away to an FLDS home for boys, Bygnal Dutson said.
When Merlin was 15, Bygnal Dutson said, Merlin called him and asked if he could come take him out of Hildale and Colorado City. The older brother soon went and picked up Merlin.
Merlin Dutson attended Herriman High School for a while but did not graduate, Bygnal Dutson said. Merlin Dutson worked with some of his other brothers and recently has been renting a room in the home of his girlfriend’s parents.
“As far as his state of mind when he disappeared,” Bygnal Dutson said, “he was doing pretty good.”
The girlfriend is the reason the Dutsons believed Merlin might be in eastern Utah. The girlfriend’s family was having a reunion at Moon Lake, 34 miles north of Duchesne, Bygnal Dutson said.
At first, Merlin Dutson had not wanted to attend. But his girlfriend talked to him on the phone from the reunion the first few nights.
On Aug. 8, the couple talked again. Merlin Dutson indicated he might drive to Moon Lake the next day, Bygnal Dutson said, but was noncommittal.
Then the family members decided to leave Moon Lake and drive back to Eagle Mountain early. As they were driving west on U.S. Highway 40 near Daniels Summit, Bygnal Dutson said, someone in the family caravan reported seeing Merlin Dutson’s car driving the opposite direction. That person didn’t think to call Merlin Dutson or send him a message, figuring instead he would spot the caravan and realize everyone was going home, Bygnal Dutson said.
The Dutson family had been looking along the roads between Daniels Summit and Moon Lake. Bygnal Dutson believes Merlin might have gotten distracted by his cellphone — either texting or looking at maps on it — and lost control of his car and rolled down an embankment or cliff. Bygnal Dutson has been driving along Highway 40 looking down those inclines.
Police have not yet said where Merlin Dutson was found.
Reporters Courtney Tanner and Paighten Harkins contributed to this article.