EUREKA, Juab County — The families of a young couple missing since the beginning of the year said Wednesday they finally have the closure they've wanted, even if it's not the outcome they were hoping for.
"For us, we're bringing the kids home. That's where we're at right now. We're finally getting that closure," said Amanda Hunt, aunt of Brelynne "Breezy" Otteson.
Two bodies were recovered from the abandoned Tintic Standard Mine outside Eureka, about 100 feet down on a ledge of the 1,576-foot deep mine, following an extensive effort by the Utah County Sheriff's Office, Juab County Sheriff's Office and the Unified Fire Department's heavy rescue team Wednesday. The bodies are believed to be Riley Powell, 18, and 17-year-old Otteson.
They were taken to the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office to be identified and determine causes of death. Utah County Undersheriff Darin Durfey said foul play is suspected, and investigators have identified persons of interest, though no arrests have been made.
Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon added that the case is now considered a double homicide investigation.
"There's nothing to indicate they went down (the mine) voluntarily," he said.
Powell and Otteson were officially reported missing Jan. 2 after embarking on a drive from Tooele to Eureka days earlier. They were last seen near Mammoth, Juab County, on Dec. 30, according to family members. The couple planned to stop in Spanish Fork before going home to Eureka, where both lived with Powell's grandfather.
Tuesday night, law enforcement officials received a tip that led them to the Tintic Standard Mine near the ghost town of Dividend. Details about where that tip came from were not revealed Wednesday.
Family members have been conducting frequent searches for the missing couple in Tooele and Juab counties, including one over the weekend. Wednesday morning, Hunt said they received a call to "drop everything" and go to the mine.
Although the bodies had not been positively identified as of Wednesday, she said the family "feels confident" it is them.
"It's gone from searching for Breezy and Riley to justice for Breezy and Riley. If this is them, that's where we're at," she said.
Hunt said the Tintic mine was on the list of abandoned mines the family had planned on searching, but were still working out logistics before going down. Family members had high praise for law enforcers for finding the bodies in just 90 days, recognizing that others — notably the family of missing West Valley mother Susan Powell — still don't know the whereabouts of their loved ones. Powell went missing in 2009. She has no relation to Riley Powell.
On Jan. 11, Riley Powell's missing Jeep was found partially hidden in trees, about a mile south of Cherry Creek Reservoir. Based on the condition the Jeep, which had two flat tires, investigators said at the time that foul play was suspected.
On Jan. 15, Tooele County sheriff's deputies and deputies from the Sanpete/Juab Major Crimes Task Force went to the property where Powell's mother lives with her boyfriend in Lofgreen, Tooele County. Riley Powell's grandmother and the grandmother's boyfriend also live there.
Search warrant affidavits indicate that a blue Chevy truck owned by the boyfriend of Powell's mother was searched. A witness had reported seeing a similar looking vehicle towing Powell's Jeep, the warrant states.
Cadaver dogs were also used to search the Lofgreen property and "showed a lot of interest in (the boyfriend's) truck that was seen towing Riley's Jeep," according to the warrant.
An update to the search in an abandoned mine in Utah. Two bodies were found. https://t.co/fQgj9DOQGx— Paul Nelson (@KSLPaul) March 28, 2018
The affidavits have characterized the boyfriend of Powell's mother as being uncooperative with police. One witness told investigators that the man "has been acting weird ever since law enforcement impounded his vehicle," one warrant states.
Wednesday night, however, the Searching for Breezy and Riley Facebook page, which is moderated by Hunt, posted a message saying Powell's mother and her boyfriend are not persons of interest identified by police.
"Two individuals are of interest in this case. Although we do not know who these people are, we know it is NOT (them)," the post states.
Cannon said Wednesday he couldn't comment on the persons of interest in the case, noting that investigators still have interviews they need to conduct.
Contributing: Alex Cabrero, Paul Nelson