SALT LAKE CITY — Cody Alexander Young made a choice.
He drove a few miles after leaving Jan Pearson Jenkins in his rear view mirror, then pulled over and smoked a cigarette. He considered turning around and retrieving Jenkins from the remote corner of Juab County where they had been camping.
The two had recently broken up and were fighting in his van that day, the 44-year-old Young recalled Tuesday during his sentencing hearing in Nephi’s 4th District Court. He’d had enough of the conflict and decided not to go back.
About a year-and-a-half after a search team found the 64-year-old Jenkins’ body in the ghost town of Silver City, Young was ordered to serve a year in jail for her death.
“I have to take responsibility,” Young said over a video feed from the Juab County Jail. “She deserved better. I hope none of us have to lay anywhere and die.”
But Young, wearing long hair and an orange jail uniform, maintained he was not the only one at fault. He said he sent messages to Jenkins’ family to inform them he’d left her, and although the notes were read, no one picked Jenkins up.
Judge Anthony Howell saw it differently.
“When you left her, you left her to die,” with no ability to survive the elements or make her way to safety, Howell told Young. “That is controlling, awful domestic violence behavior, and you knew it.”
An autopsy found Jenkins died of hypothermia after being found on Oct. 13, 2018, with a contributing cause of meth use. Her unclothed body was found with shorts and a top nearby. Jenkins had no phone, food or coat to brave the windy, rainy October weather that ultimately took her life, court records say. Although Young did not directly kill Jenkins, his actions caused her death, Howell noted.
“To suggest for one second that anybody else is responsible for that is insulting and laughable,” the judge added.
Young and Jenkins had been camping in his van for several days when he called her family Oct. 5, 2018, and left a message saying he was “tired of her” and left her “out here,” court documents say.
Two days later, Young sent Jenkins a message saying “he couldn’t believe he left her there with nothing and didn’t know if she was OK,” but did not tell anyone where she was until four days after leaving her, court records state.
He later told police the two had used methamphetamine, a drug Jenkins’ family members said Young introduced her to. She also was found to have minor blunt trauma to her head, torso and limbs, according to a medical examiner’s report.
As part of a plea bargain with prosecutors, Young admitted in March to a reduced charge of manslaughter, a second-degree felony.
In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend he serve a year in jail, followed by probation. A second count of evidence tampering, a class A misdemeanor, was dismissed.
On Tuesday, Chief Deputy Juab County Attorney AnnMarie Howard said Young has shown “absolutely no remorse,” a sentiment echoed by several of Jenkins’ family members in the hearing held over video.
Maxine Pearson said Jenkins was her only daughter and caretaker. Young, a handyman, worked on their house and sometimes joined them for dinner, Pearson recalled.
In January 2018, Pearson said she waved goodbye as Jenkins and Young backed out of the garage to go to a movie. She didn’t know it would be the last time she’d see her daughter.
“I miss her terribly and I think justice should be done with Cody,” Pearson said.
Breanna Himes was Jenkins’ biological daughter. Raised by adoptive parents, she was looking forward to bringing both families together for future baptisms and weddings, she said, but she won’t have the chance.
Jenkins was a talented pianist who played duets in churches and loved going to concerts with her brother Jace Pearson, he recalled. While mourning his sister and recruiting searchers to recover her body, Pearson said he heard from another woman who alleged Young had similarly left her and drove away, but ultimately returned.
Now Pearson said he fears Young will continue to target older, vulnerable women if he does not get the proper treatment.
On Tuesday, the judge denied a last-minute motion from Young to withdraw his guilty plea, noting his defense attorney had pulled back the motion last week. Howell sentenced him to the one-year jail sentence stipulated in Young’s plea agreement, granting him credit for almost three months he has spent in jail since entering his plea but not for an earlier period of roughly eight months in the jail.
Howell warned Young he will face up to 15 years in prison if he violates terms of his probation after his release from jail.
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly said Young had originally been charged with murder. He was booked into jail for investigation of murder but was later charged with manslaughter.