PROVO, Utah (ABC4) – The credibility of the state’s top witness in an upcoming murder trial is
coming into question.
Attorneys for Jerrod Baum are targeting his former girlfriend as part of their defense strategy.
Baum is facing aggravated murder charges for the deaths of two teens in 2018.
The bodies of Riley Powell and Brelynne Otteson were found inside a mineshaft near Eureka. The girlfriend, Morgan Henderson, claimed she witnessed Baum murder them. Henderson took a plea deal in exchange for reduced charges of obstruction of justice. In return, she agreed to testify against Baum at his upcoming trial.
But in court filings, Baum denied the murder and claimed Henderson and two unnamed men killed the two teens.
At a recent hearing, Baum’s attorney learned from the detective overseeing the case that Henderson’s friends implicated her.
The following is testimony from the July 20 evidentiary hearing:
Defense attorney: “Did Whitney Henderson (Morgan’s sister) tell you that Morgan Henderson mentioned about wanting to kill a person and hide them in a mineshaft?”
Steve Pratt, Detective: “Yes.”
Defense attorney: “Did Mr. (James) Arnold tell you that Morgan Henderson is the one that killed and stabbed Riley Powell?”
Pratt: “Umm, yes.”
And Pratt also said Utah County prosecutors were present during that interview with Arnold, a friend of Henderson.
Later, the detective clarified for prosecutors at the July hearing that Henderson’s own sister also claimed both of them murdered the two teens.
As for a possible motive, friends told the detective Baum was angry over what allegedly happened to Morgan.
Pratt: “He (Arnold) said that Riley raped Morgan.”
During the July hearing, Henderson refused to answer questions from the defense who seek to learn about her involvement. But she did tell prosecutors why she wouldn’t.
Prosecutor: “Why not?”
Prosecutor: “Has he threatened you?”
Prosecutor: “Has he threatened to kill you?”
Prosecutor: “Did you hear him threaten you?”
Prosecutor: “And did you hear him threaten your child?”
Afterwards, Riley Powell’s father denied his son had any sexual relations with Morgan Henderson.
The hearing was to determine if some of this testimony, including the witnesses themselves, will be able to testify during Baum’s trial. The judge has yet to rule on that.
As for Baum, no date has been set for his trial.