PROVO (ABC4 News) – Life or death? Jerrod Baum’s fate may wind up in the hands of a 12 Utah County citizens after Utah County Attorney David Leavitt announced he is leaving the death penalty on the table for a jury to decide.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Leavitt emphasized that he is not “seeking” the death penalty against Baum but he is leaving it on the table for 12 jurors to consider.


“Nothing I do. Nothing my office will do in the next year, year and a half will do anything to bring Breezy and Riley back,” Leavitt said.

Baum stands accused of using a knife to kill 17-year-old Breezy Otteson and 18-year-old Riley Powell of Eureka and then dumping their bodies down an abandoned mine shaft. Baum has pleaded not guilty but his former girlfriend Morgan Henderson claims to have witnessed the murders and says she’ll testify at his trial. 

“If pulling a trigger or injecting a needle would bring Breezy and Riley back I would do so personally,” Leavitt told the victims’ family members seated in the first row.

Leavitt said despite an estimated extra million-dollar cost to prosecute a death penalty case, it’s worth it to protect public safety and get justice for the victims. Afterward, their relatives agreed.

“These kids didn’t get to choose,” Breezy’s aunt Amanda Hunt told reporters. “They didn’t get a fight so why should he get an option to live?…He’s a sociopath. He’s dangerous. He’s a danger to society.”

“We’ve gone a long time, a lot of miles trying to find them,” Riley’s father Bill Powell said. “Now we’ve got a lot more miles to go in the judicial system to get what needs to be done done.”

“We fought from the day those kids went missing,” Hunt added. “We fought for these kids and it’s the least we can do. If we don’t pursue the death penalty then we’re not fighting hard enough.” 

One thing is for certain. Even if Jerrod Baum receives the death penalty he won’t be executed any time soon. There are currently eight men on Utah’s Death Row and seven of those eight have been there between 20 and 34 years. The last man sentenced to death in Utah County is Ronald Lafferty who’s been on death row since his conviction in 1985.

Utah has not executed anyone since a firing squad killed Ronnie Lee Gardner in 2010.

WHAT OTHERS ARE CLICKING ON: