Charges filed against man accused of murdering missing teens

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PROVO (News4Utah) – The man accused of killing two teens and disposing of their bodies in a mine shaft in rural Utah County was officially charged Tuesday.

Jerrod Baum was arrested in connection with the deaths of Breezy Otteson and Riley Powell. 

Both teens went missing last December. Their bodies were found in an abandoned mine shaft near Eureka last week.

Baum was arrested the day after their bodies were found.

Tuesday he was officially charged with two counts of aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, and desecration of a dead human body. He was also charged with one count of obstruction of justice and possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person.

Prosecutors say the crime was “heinous” and “depraved” and there is a possibility they will pursue the death penalty.

“The first two counts of aggravated murder carry with it the potential of the death penalty,” said Deputy Utah County attorney Chad Grunander.  “This is a potential capital case. Mr. Baum could die for what he allegedly did on the night of December 30th 2017.”

But Grunander said they will decide whether to seek the death penalty after the arraignment which follows the preliminary hearing.

“This a potential capital case,”  Assistant Utah County Attorney Chad Grunander said. “Mr. Baum could die for what he allegedly did,” he added.

Charges state that Baum was “operating under the belief that [Breezy]was pregnant, having offered to [her] and Riley his congratulations as they walked from the car to the open mine shaft.”

Officials say there is no evidence of that.

“She was not (pregnant),” Grunander said.  “Our best information was she was not pregnant.”

Baum’s girlfriend, Morgan Henderson, was also arrested for obstruction of justice in connection with the case.  She has not been formerly charged.

“We have another individual that is involved, to what degree we are still investigating,” said Grunander.  “Morgan (Henderson) has been arrested on obstructing justice. So our office is currently screening charges for a second degree felony for obstructing justice.”

He says they are investigating whether or not she was an accomplice to the crime. But Grunander says they have to prove that she was an “active participant” and had the same “mindset” of committing the murder as the suspect.

Baum was in court Tuesday afternoon where he was officially charged.  He was assigned an attorney and will return for another hearing April 26.   Henderson will make her first court appearance Thursday after charges have been filed.

After Tuesday hearing, the families of Breezy and Riley embraced and a few shed tears.

“it was very emotional seeing (Baum) for the first time.  It put a face to what happened in this case.”

Both, Hunt and Bill Powell, Riley’s father said they support the death penalty.

“He needs to suffer,” said Powell.  “I’m not talking five or ten years down the road.  Take him out back as soon as the judge says ‘you’re guilty.'”

Hunt said she wants justice for Breezy and Riley.

“If the death penalty is what it is then we’re going to stand for it.  There’s no, these kids didn’t deserve that.”

Riley’s sister was also present for Tuesday’s hearing.  She broke down in tears as she recalled hanging out with Breezy and Riley.  In fact, she first became friends with Breezy and then introduced her to Riley.

“We did everything together,” Powell said.  “It’s so hard to realize that they’re gone now.  Really gone.”

Watch the Utah County Attorney’s Office press conference below.

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