No verdict after 2nd day of deliberations in Jerrod Baum murder trial

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After more than a monthlong trial, a jury on Friday found Jerrod Baum guilty of murdering a young Utah couple four years ago and tossing their bodies into the Tintic Standard Mine outside Eureka, Juab County. Details on the verdict can be found here.


PROVO — After spending more than a month hearing testimony, a jury continued deliberating Thursday whether a Utah man is guilty of murdering a young couple four years ago and dropping their bodies into a Juab County mine.

The jury deliberated for about three hours on Wednesday, trying to come to an agreement on whether or not Jerrod Baum, 45, is guilty of murder in the killings of Riley Powell, 18, and Brelynne "Breezy" Otteson, 17, in late December 2017. Jurors continued deliberations until about 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, bringing total deliberation time to about twelve hours so far.

They will return to deliberations Friday morning at 8:30.

Amanda Davis, Otteson's aunt, said Thursday the family is anxious for a verdict. She is hopeful that it will come soon, although she said she is glad that the jury seems to be taking the case seriously.

"We want them to think it through, we don't want them to rush through it. It's important," Davis said.

In closing arguments Wednesday, deputy Utah County attorney Christine Scott talked about the last few hours of life for Powell and Otteson. She reminded jurors about the search for Powell and Otteson, how police eventually heard Morgan Lewis' account of their brutal deaths, and how their bodies were eventually found. Lewis is Baum's former girlfriend who says she witnessed the killings firsthand.

Scott paused frequently while recounting testimony, giving jurors time to think. She talked about Lewis' accounts of the events before and after. She played recordings of police interviews with Baum and Lewis.

She also told about the police investigation that led to Baum being charged with two counts of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony; two counts of aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony; obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony; two counts of desecration of a dead body and possession of a dangerous weapon as a restricted person, third-degree felonies.

"Jerrod Baum kidnapped Riley and Breezy, murdered Riley and Breezy. Keep in mind their bodies in the mineshaft. We ask that you find him guilty," she said. A Facebook page called Justice for Riley and Breezy shared details about the evidence portion of the trial coming to an end on Tuesday and invited people to watch the trial on Wednesday.

"Tomorrow we will likely hear the verdict we have desperately waited four long years for. Strength, prayers, love, faith, and healing for everyone that ha(s) been touched by Breezy and Riley," the post says.

Davis said that the victims' families are proud of how prosecutors have represented the victims throughout the case, and kept Otteson and Powell in their thoughts. She said the state's attorneys did a phenomenal job during their closing arguments.

"They've been a strength to us," she said.

Dallas Young, Baum's attorney, said during his closing arguments told jurors they are not being asked to decide if what happened is emotional or bad, which he said is clear. Instead, they are tasked with deciding if prosecutors fulfilled their burden to prove that the crimes were committed by Baum.

He talked to the jury about things he considers to be problems with the prosecution's presentation of events and inconsistencies with the story they presented.

"You have heard no evidence of Jerrod's DNA anywhere in this case," Young said.

Specifically, he said there was DNA that did not belong to the victims, Lewis or Baum on the duct tape found on Otteson's mouth. Young argued that there must have been someone else there, and Lewis should know who that person is but she has not said anything about another person.

Young said the entire case boils down to a single question: Can Lewis be believed? He said only evidence from her implicates Baum, and nothing from other witnesses.

"Without Morgan (Lewis), there is no case because all of this — this impressive array of all this stuff that you see — none of it implicates Jerrod in the slightest," Young said. "You cannot believe her, and you cannot be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt."

Lewis is not worthy of the jury's belief or trust, he said, citing times that she changed the story she told police.

"If Morgan (Lewis) has really come clean with all the details then why, why does it look like there's something that she's fudging about?" Young asked.

He also said prosecutors were set on Lewis' story before the evidence was corroborated, and then only saw and considered evidence that supported that story.

"It's understandable, not right. But it's understandable how they jumped on it," Young said.

Deputy Utah County attorney Ryan McBride made additional comments after the defense presented their arguments, giving possible reasons for some of the inconsistencies Young talked about.

He said the bodies of Otteson and Powell were only found because Lewis came forward and told police where to look. He said Lewis is not the hero, but she isn't the villain, either. He said everything, not just Lewis' testimony, points to Baum's guilt.

Fourth District Judge Derek Pullan told jurors they are not supposed to consider the punishment for being found guilty, only whether Baum is guilty or not guilty. However, if convicted, Baum faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison without parole.

Baum had originally faced a potential death sentence, but Utah County Attorney David Leavitt changed his mind last year and took that option off the table for this case and said he does not plan to seek the death penalty in any future criminal case.

Bill Powell, Riley's father, said Thursday morning that he is hoping Baum will receive a couple of life sentences without the possibility of parole. He and Davis wish the death penalty was still a possibility in this case and fought a proposed Utah bill earlier this year that would have outlawed the death penalty in the state.


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Emily Ashcraft joined as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.


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