Man charged with murder of missing Dylan Rounds, last seen in tiny Utah town

Mar 3, 2023, 8:04 PM | Updated: 10:20 pm

BOX ELDER COUNTY, Utah — James Brenner, 59-year-old man already in custody, has now been charged with first-degree murder and desecration of a body in the case of Dylan Rounds, missing since last spring.

Brenner was previously named as a suspect and held in custody on unrelated charges.

“Despite a thorough investigation and extensive search, the victim’s body was not recovered due to Defendant removing and concealing it,” court documents read. Evidence for the charges include DNA analysis from a shirt seen with blood on it in a video and blood on Rounds’ boots that were found in the search for him.

Brenner, 59, wasn’t previously charged with anything related to the missing-persons case for Rounds. The teen was last known to be near Lucin, a small town near the Utah-Nevada border on May 28, 202. Brenner was identified as a suspect by the FBI and Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office in July 2022.

Brenner was already in custody, but Friday was named in the additional felony charges and ordered to appear before a judge. After the charges were filed, Rounds’ mother Candice Cooley told KSL that she wanted to thank everyone for the support she received as they sought answers in her son’s disappearance.

A probable cause statement lays out investigator’s reason for the charges. Documents state that during the search for Rounds’ a pair of his boots were located, one with a blood stain. Analysis found DNA belonging to Rounds and Brenner.

Phone data also showed Rounds’ movements on the day he vanished included his visit to a remote property where Brenner was squatting. The last signal from the phone was at the Lucin pond where a search located it.

Investigators performed a forensic download of the phone and found a time-lapse video that showed a time stamp taken at the time Rounds disappeared.

“The video showed Defendant (Brenner) with blood stains on his arms and shirt as he is cleaning a gun. The shirt which Defendant is wearing in the video was analyzed and the victim’s DNA was found on the shirt,” documents state. “Defendant was interviewed and made several claims that corroborated forensic evidence in addition to making numerous demonstrably false statements.”

“The charges are based on solid evidence…We ask you continue your thoughts and prayers for justice for Dylan and that we can bring him home,” Cooley wrote Friday.

In October investigator Cade Palmer told KSL the investigation was leading in one direction.

“As the investigation proceeds, evidence continues to support that a homicide likely occurred,” Palmer wrote in an email. In July when a judge ruled that Brenner would stay in jail as he faced a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, Rounds’ family was in the courtroom, not far from Brenner.

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.

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

Dylan Rounds, 19, is originally from eastern Idaho but has spent the last three years off and on living in Lucin.

“He just vanished,” said Dylan’s mom Cooley said before there was a homicide investigation. “And somebody, somewhere out there knows something.”

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.”

Brenner was previously ordered to be held in U.S. custody until his trial on firearm charges while Friday’s court records included a summons to the Box Elder County Jail for booking.

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Man charged with murder of missing Dylan Rounds, last seen in tiny Utah town