Riley Powell and Brelynne Ottesonn (known to friends and family by her nickname “Breezy”) went missing in December 2017.
The teenage couple went missing after scheduling a meeting on December 29th at the house of an older woman in Mammoth, Utah, where they planned to hang out and smoke weed. They had made plans earlier over Facebook before driving there from Tooele in Powell’s blue, 1999 Jeep Cherokee. After leaving the meeting, they failed to return home and were reported missing on the 2nd of January 2018.
The older woman Riley Powell had been exchanging messages with was 34 year old named Morgan Henderson.
Henderson lived with her older boyfriend, a 41 year old man from Juab County, Utah, named Jerrod William Baum. The couple lived together in Baum’s fathers home in Mammoth.
Three months passed by and there was no news from the missing teens. Then one day, local police pulled over Morgan Henderson for going over the speed limit and inspected her vehicle. Police believed that she may have been in possession of a controlled substance and decided to search the inside of the vehicle. It was discovered she was in possession of a firearm despite being a restricted individual. It was identified to be a .45 Caliber handgun that she kept at her boyfriend’s residence. She also had several knives, an axe and a rifle, all of which officers found in the truck.
3 months later two bodies were discovered in an abandoned mine-shaft (the Tintic standard #2) in Salt Lake City. The decedents appeared to be a male and a female, both in their teens. Both bodies had multiple stab wounds and their arms were tied behind their backs at the wrists.
The mine shaft went as deep as around 1800 miles into the ground. The bodies of the teens were discovered 100 feet down lying on a ledge. Although the bodies (as I write this) have not yet officially been confirmed as Powell and Otterson, police believe it’s them. (EDIT: Bodies have been confirmed to be the missing teens)
So what happened on the night that the teens visited Henderson?
In early January Henderson suggested to investigators that Riley had possibly gotten into an altercation with an unknown man after “stealing drugs from some Mexicans”. However a couple of weeks later, after police had found the Facebook chat between her and Riley (which ended ultimately an hour or so before 11pm on the 29th of December 2017), her story changed.
Although she initially denied hanging out with Powell and Otterson, Henderson told police that the teenage couple did in fact stop by in the early hours of December 30th. She claimed that they left after around 40 minutes of hanging out and that Baum showed up shortly after. According to the woman, Baum told her that he knew she had, had people over at his father’s house. Ordinarily for most people socializing with others would not be an issue, however Baum was no ordinary man, and he did not allow any girlfriend of his to have male friends. According to Henderson, this is the reason she had previously lied to the police, as she knew her having company over would have been an issue.
The story would change slightly every time police interviewed Henderson.
Knowing Henderson had been communicating with a male and invited him over to their place enraged 41 year old Baum. He decided that 18 year old Riley Powell had to die and that his 17 year old girlfriend of 4 months would not be spared.
Jerrod Baum decided that the only course of action in a situation like this would be to kidnap and eliminate the teenagers. He informed Henderson that he made Breezy's death quick, but made sure that Powell’s was prolonged and painful. Apparently he was later troubled by his actions against Breezy and found it difficult to deal with the fact that he had murdered her.
Henderson told police that Baum had murdered the kids in a fit of jealousy. She eventually admitted that she had witnessed the double murder and that Baum had shown her the teens bound in the back of Powell’s Jeep before driving them to the mine where he proceeded to stab them both to death. He then threw their bodies down the mine shaft near Eureka.
Powell’s vehicle was then dumped in a local creek in an attempt to dispose of the evidence, but was recovered by police in early January.
When the gig was finally up, Baum eventually came clean and lead police to the teens personal effects, such as their cellphones, which he had stashed in a nearby sludge barrel close to his home. Other pieces of evidence used in the kidnapping and double murder were also found, including knife covers, used duct tape, plastic bin liners a length of rope, nails and a strap that was matched to the one used to drag Powell’s vehicle to the creek. Henderson showed investigators to the site where her boyfriend had dumped the missing teen’s bodies and they lowered down a cable camera, eventually spotting them on the live feed.
Baum allegedly said, in reference to the double slaying: “Too bad. I’ve never killed an innocent before.”
The motive for the murder has understandably confused and angered the families of the teenage victims. That a grown man would kill solely as a display of control over his significant other is bewildering. Unsurprisingly Baum has a lengthy criminal history, leading all the way back to the early nineties when he was just 15 years of age. According to this article he was even charged with attempted murder at one point when he walked into a fast food restaurant and shot at the employees during an attempted robbery.
He only recently got out of prison in 2016 after serving an 11 year stint for the firearm related offense and was on parole at the time of the double homicide. He has been charged with two counts of abuse / desecration of a corpse, obstruction of justice, two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping and various other charges.
Henderson is currently behind bars for unrelated crimes.