PROVO Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Morgan Henderson feared her boyfriend Jerrod Baum.
According to her attorney, that’s why Henderson lied to police about the whereabouts of two teens who went missing in late December.
But Henderson finally cracked. In March she finally told police where the bodies of Riley Powell and Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson were. She claimed her boyfriend Baum stabbed them to death and dumped the bodies in a mineshaft near Eureka. Their bodies were recovered.
Henderson was charged with 30 counts of obstruction of justice in connection to their deaths of Riley Powell and Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson. Friday, Henderson pleaded guilty to ten counts of obstruction of justice. Prior to sentencing she spoke for the first time, offering an apology.
“I am sorry for your (families of Riley and Breezy) profound loss,” she said in court. “I know the pain you are going through. I am sorry that I lied to the cops. I should have turned Jerrod in a long time ago.”
Henderson avoided prison time. The judge sentenced her to three years in the Utah County jail plus probation.
The families of Powell and Otteson were also in the courtroom. In an attempt to make amends, Henderson promised to testify her boyfriend.
“This is a win for us because we have closure,” said Amanda Hunt, Breezy’s aunt. “She’s agreed to move forward with that and that’s what we want. So in a ways, she’s our ally.
Riley’s father, Bill Powell was disappointed she didn’t go to prison but accepted Henderson’s plea offer.
“It’s a step forward,” said Powell. “We didn’t get what we would like to have gotten but you can’t always have what you want. There’s a bigger prize at the end.
And that prize is Jerrod Baum who is facing two counts of capitol murder and remains in the Utah County jail.
Henderson’s attorney said she lied to police out of fear.
“(There was a) threat that Jerrod could potentially take her life, could take that of her child,” Spencer Thomas said afterwards. “There’s fear and that dictated what her actions were in this case.”
Despite the three year jail sentence, prosecutors said Henderson will still remain on their radar.
“This agreement does not grant her immunity,” said Chad Grunander, assistant Utah County attorney. “We believe she’s been honest, truthful. But if it turns out to be something else in the future, she could be charged with a homicide.”
Grunander said the three year jail sentence was agreed upon after doing the math. He said in all likelihood, Henderson would have been out of prison in two years because of she has very little criminal history.
As the families of Riley and Breezy wait for the next chapter, their deaths have not been lost on them. Breezy’s sister said they’ve witnessed this before.
“For me, my mom passed away,” said Kylysta Otteson, Breezy’s sister. “And I’ve grown to live with it. But with Breezy I don’t think … no change.”
Baum is facing several charges including two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, and two counts of abuse or desecration of a human body.
His case is still active.
Otteson’s aunt said she was expecting a plea bargain with Henderson and understand the need.
“If indeed a plea deal does take place, I, obviously it’s a double edged sword because we need her for Jerrod, to get Jerrod,” she told News 4 Utah. “We need her testimony because at this time there isn’t anything that, any forensics that tie him to it. Everything is based on her testimony.”
A prosecutor with the Utah County attorney’s office said ethics bars him from speaking publicly before a guilty plea is accepted. But often, charges are reduced in a plea bargain. In this case Henderson is facing 30-counts of second degree felonies involving obstruction of justice. It’s unknown what the plea offer will entail but it’s possible many of those counts will be dismissed. According to state law the maximum sentence could be 30-years in prison for non-first degree felonies.
Click here for more on the story of Powell and Otteson.