Judge: Suspect in Dylan Rounds’ disappearance is a danger to the community

Jul 8, 2022, 7:45 PM | Updated: 11:57 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge determined the suspect in Dylan Rounds’ disappearance was a danger to the community and a flight risk Friday, after he pleaded not guilty to an unrelated felony charge at the United States Federal Courthouse in Salt Lake City.

James Brenner wore a blue Weber County outfit and chains as he faced a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He does not face charges related to the missing case.

Dylan’s family members sat in the courtroom, not far from Brenner, as attorneys argued over whether he should be released.

The U.S. prosecutor recounted what he called Brenner’s “violent” and “atrocious history,” that includes a malicious shooting in 1986, convictions for illegally transporting and possessing a firearm, and a pending aggravated assault charge where he’s accused of beating a 70-year-old man with an aluminum chair.

Brenner’s attorney pushed back against that characterization of his criminal history, arguing he is not a danger to the public or a flight risk and pointing to Brenner’s compliance with court conditions in the past.

The judge ultimately sided with the prosecution, saying, “There are no conditions under which the defendant could be released,” citing “safety concerns,” a “pattern of criminal activity” and a lack of family in the area.

Brenner will now be held in U.S. custody until his trial in September.

“That’s a relief knowing he’s not going to get out. They are holding him,” said Dylan’s mom, Candice Cooley.

Cooley said it was good to see Brenner in shackles, and hearing the judge’s decision “was a little bit of weight off my shoulders.”

It was a stark contrast from the scene Cooley has grown used to over the last six weeks in the vast, remote desert near the Nevada border where her son went missing.

“Until we know, it’s hard. I mean, you have emotion, but, we need to know. Then we can move forward.”

Cooley said Brenner used to live in a trailer on their family’s property and that he had worked with Dylan off and on in the past. Authorities say Brenner was squatting in a trailer and was Dylan’s closest neighbor when he went missing from his farm in Lucin.

“[Dylan] just said [Brenner] was a crazy old man who lived out in the desert,” Cooley said. “That’s what you’d expect from any 17-year-old kid at that time.”

According to the complaint against Brenner, in the days after Dylan went missing and after investigators interviewed Brenner, a friend and neighbor told authorities Brenner brought him three muzzle loaders and a rifle and asked him to keep them safe.

When the friend asked why, “Brenner stated he needed to do this for ‘his own safety’ and that ‘the last time he had trouble with the law, they took everything from him, and he did not want the things he had left to be taken again.’”

“I think James did something to him. I think he snapped, especially hearing more of what I heard in court,” Cooley said. “Everything’s led us right back to where Dylan parked that grain truck and where his boots were found. Everything’s taken us right back to day one.”

The Sheriff’s Office declined to talk to KSL about where Dylan’s boots were found. But Cooley said in their search of the area, they found his boots behind Brenner’s trailer. Investigators have since taken them as evidence.

Brenner does not face any charges related to Dylan’s disappearance. The Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office named him a suspect earlier this week and they say they are still actively building their case.

Police and FBI identify suspect in Dylan Rounds disappearance

“That’s going to be our key. That’s what we need. Somebody to talk,” Cooley said.

“We’re getting some stuff moving forward, and, you know, keep looking forward to getting the answers and being able to bring Dylan home.”

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Judge: Suspect in Dylan Rounds’ disappearance is a danger to the community