Jerrod Baum was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole Thursday, nearly two months after he was convicted of kidnapping and killing a teenage couple in 2017 and throwing their bodies down a mine shaft.
Jurors found the 46-year-old guilty April 15 of all charges filed against him: two counts each of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping and desecration of a body; and one count each of obstruction of justice and possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person.
During sentencing, 4th District Judge Derek K. Pullan said the murders of Powell and Otteson were the “most violent, the most selfish, the most senseless, the most disturbing” he had ever presided over.
“In allowing for a life sentence, without possibility of parole, the law shows more mercy to the defendant than he showed to Riley and Brelynne,” Pullan said.
“Each day when you wake to see the walls confining you, and each night when you close your eyes to see the walls disappear — remember that these are privileges Riley and Breezy no longer experience, because you murdered them,” Pullan continued. “Because unlike your victims, you live to see another day.”
According to trial testimony from Baum’s former girlfriend, Morgan Henderson Lewis, Baum had forbidden Lewis from speaking to other men and exploded with anger in December 2017 when he discovered Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, 17, and her 18-year-old boyfriend, Riley Powell, leaving Baum’s home after hanging out with Lewis.
Prosecutors argued that rage led Baum to abducting and killing the young couple.
After he saw the teens leaving the house, Baum bound them, put duct tape over their mouths, drove them to an abandoned mine shaft in rural Juab County, forced them to kneel, then beat and stabbed Powell to death, Lewis testified.
Baum then slit Otteson’s throat, Lewis said, and threw both teenagers into the 1,800-foot shaft, where their bodies were discovered months later, in March 2018.
However, in a statement before sentencing, Baum still maintained his innocence.
“I’m not a monster. I don’t kill people,” Baum said to Judge Pullan, who denied Baum’s request to face the victims’ families during his statement. “I don’t know what else to say. ... But I am sorry that those youngsters got killed; got murdered. I wouldn’t have done it. I would not have done that. They were no threat.”
Deputy Utah County Attorney Ryan McBride argued for Baum to receive the maximum sentence in the case: four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
“The defendant has been given too many opportunities,” McBride said pre-sentencing. “Not only was his behavior predictable, it was predicted. … Two lives could’ve been spared if those predictions would’ve been given heed.”
Baum’s attorney, Dallas Young, attended elementary school with Baum — and recounted a few memories he had where Baum was targeted by other classmates. He argued that the circumstances were stacked against Baum even prior to his birth, and that he did not grow up with the stability and consistency many others did.
“Throwing a 15-year-old into prison is not an opportunity,” Young said, explaining that’s where much of Baum’s criminal education came from after a conviction where he was tried as an adult. “Mercy is not something that anybody deserves. ... What we’re asking for is a small modicum of mercy from the court. Does he deserve it? No, but that’s what we’re asking.”
Amid what Young described as “textbook tragedy,” McBride said the love in Powell and Otteson’s lives shows through in how their community has banded together. He recounted a text Powell had sent to Otteson: Powell told her “I love you,” and she responded in the same minute: “I love you too.”
Pullan sentenced Baum to consecutive life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on both counts of aggravated murder and both counts of aggravated kidnapping.
Baum also received concurrent prison sentences for the four additional counts against him per state guidelines for the offenses. He was ordered to pay a $20,000 fine on the two counts of aggravated murder, along with $14,000 in restitution for the additional counts.