James Brenner pleads guilty to murder of Utah teen Dylan Rounds

May 15, 2024, 2:18 PM | Updated: 10:24 pm

BRIGHAM CITY — James Brenner, charged in the death of once-missing Utah teen, has pleaded guilty to the murder Dylan Rounds.

The agreement was announced by the Box Elder County Attorney’s Office that said it has worked closely with Rounds’ parents to review options and to structure the plea deal signed by Brenner in First District Court in Brigham City Wednesday.

Rounds’ mother, Candice Cooley said the family is comfortable with the deal and praised the prosecuting attorney, but also said it’s not justice and it’s not closure when it comes to the loss of a child. She said she just doesn’t know if the punishment will fit the crime.

“One to 15 years for murdering Dylan is not justice. It isn’t. But it’s what the law is,” she told KSL TV. She said she is mad that Rounds put his truck in the shed that day.

“(It’s) absolutely shameful that this is what it was over, and that’s probably all we’ll ever get out of him. There’s no legal arrangement that can make him tell us exactly what happened that morning.”

Two photos of Dylan Rounds side by side

Dylan Rounds went missing on May 28, 2022. His body was recovered on April 9, 2024 and James Brenner pleaded guilty to the murder of Dylan Rounds. (Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office)

Brenner previously assisted in the location of Rounds’ remains that were recovered on April 9 as part of the plea and that was a condition of the agreement, the attorney’s office said. Brenner was charged with first-degree murder and desecration of a human body. The murder charge will be reduced to second-degree murder of Dylan Rounds, and the other count will be dismissed. Prison time will be mandatory as part of the agreement.

Brenner will be sentenced in the same court on July 1.

“We can take a deep breath now. We don’t have to wonder what the next phone call is going to be,” Cooley said. But these said closure will be hard to find.

“There’s really such thing as closure … but it brings closure to this chapter,” she said.

“Being able to bring Dylan home and bring this prosecution to a successful conclusion is a great relief,” Box Elder County Attorney Stephen Hadfield said. “It has been amazing to see what the tireless and unrelenting efforts of so many different people can accomplish. We wouldn’t be here today without each of their individual contributions.”

Cooley said she plans to lobby for reform of the criminal justice system under the non-profit that Rounds’ family has set up, dylanroundslegacy.org.

Dylan Rounds’ mother says finding his remains brings needed closure

History of the case of the murder of Dylan Rounds

Rounds went missing on May 28, 2022. Brenner was charged with his murder in March of 2023, despite Rounds’ body not then being located. He was charged with first-degree murder in Rounds’ death and desecration of his body. Rounds was originally from eastern Idaho but had spent parts of the three years prior to his death in Lucin.

The teen was last known to be near Lucin, a small town near the Utah-Nevada border. Brenner was identified as a suspect by the FBI and Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office in July 2022.

Brenner used to live on his family’s property and worked with Rounds. Police previously said Brenner was squatting in a trailer and was Rounds’s closest neighbor when he went missing.

The case against James Brenner

When Brenner was first charged with murder, court documents detailed some of the evidence investigators had collected. He was already being held in custody on charges police said were related to charges of a restricted person in possession of a gun. A U.S. prosecutor called Brenner’s history “violent” and “atrocious.” He had a shooting charge in 1986 and was accused of beating a 70-year-old man with an aluminum char.

Evidence then collected included DNA analysis from a shirt seen with blood on it in a video and blood on Rounds’ boots that were found during the search for him. Analysis of the blood found DNA belonging to Rounds and Brenner.

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

Family of Dylan Rounds announces nonprofit in his memory


In a forensic download of the phone, investigators found a time-lapse video with a time stamp taken at the approximate 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.”

After the charges were filed and announced, Rounds’ mother, Candice Cooley, told KSL that she wanted to thank everyone for the support she received as they sought answers about her son’s disappearance.

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James Brenner pleads guilty to murder of Utah teen Dylan Rounds