Family: ‘We want justice,’ as formal charges are filed against murder suspect
PROVO — On the same day as his first court appearance, the Utah County Attorney’s Office filed formal charges against Jerrod Baum, 41, accusing him of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated murder and desecration of a body in the deaths of two Utah teenagers who were found stabbed and thrown down a mine shaft.
“We have alleged eight counts against Mr. Baum,” said deputy Utah County attorney Chad Grunander, adding that the murders of Riley Powell, 18, and his girlfriend Brelynne Otteson, 17, were “heinous and depraved.”
The official charges include two counts each of first-degree aggravated murder, aggravated kidnapping, third-degree abuse or desecration of a dead body.
If Baum is convicted of the most serious of the charges, aggravated murder, he could potentially face the death penalty. However, prosecutors say a decision hasn’t been made on whether they will pursue that option.
“This is a potential capital case,” Grunander said. “Mr. Baum could die for what he allegedly did on the night of on or about December 30th of 2017.”
In addition, Baum also faces one count of possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, a third-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony.
Baum appeared in a Fourth District courtroom in Provo Tuesday afternoon where he heard the accusations against him. Families of the teenaged victims attended the brief hearing and afterward said it was difficult seeing Baum in person for the first time.
“We want justice for these kids,” said Amanda Hunt, Otteson’s aunt.
Charging documents filed in court on Tuesday provided additional details about the murders, including that an eyewitness told police that Otteson “was forced to kneel near the open mine pit and witness the beating of her boyfriend, Riley Powell, and his stabbing.”
“I think he should be tortured in the same way,” Riley’s adoptive father Bill Powell said in the hallway outside the courtroom, adding that he’d like to see the death penalty.
Court documents also revealed that on the night of the murders, Baum “was operating under the belief that Brelynne was pregnant,” even giving the teens “his congratulations as they walked from the car to the open mine shaft.”
Grunander said prosecutors do not believe that Otteson was pregnant at the time of her death. Family members said the additional details were hard to learn about.
“We had a whole life to live,” said Riley’s sister, Nikka Powell. “Me and my brother, we were so close and I was so close to Breezy. We did everything together and it’s just hard to actually realize that they’re gone now.”
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