Man pleads guilty to killing Dylan Rounds; mom says he was 'mad' about where Rounds parked

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BRIGHAM CITY — The man charged with Dylan Rounds' murder pleaded guilty on Wednesday, shortly after helping investigators locate Rounds' remains.

James Brenner, 61, pleaded guilty in Utah's 1st District Court as part of a plea deal that resolved three separate cases. A charge for aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, was reduced to murder, a second-degree felony, and a charge for desecration of human remans, a third-degree felony, was dismissed.

Brenner also agreed to disclose the location of Rounds' remains. He provided information that helped law enforcement find his remains near Lucin, in Box Elder County, on April 9.

Rounds, 19, went missing after May 28, 2022, and the Box Elder County Sheriff's Office spent thousands of hours investigating the case and searching for him, with assistance from agencies in multiple states.

Blair Wardle, deputy attorney for Box Elder County, said he worked closely with Rounds' parents to review the plea deal and potential sentencing. In the plea deal, attorneys agreed to recommend a mandatory prison sentence and that sentences for different charges would run consecutively.

"We'd definitely been waiting for it, right. It's a giant elephant out of the room. It's definitely a relief in that sense," said Rounds' mother Candice Cooley.

The possible sentencing in the case of one to 15 years "is not justice. It isn't. But it's what the law is," she said.

Cooley told KSL the family was told Brenner had been "mad that Dylan put his truck in the shed that day. That's it, just mad. It was absolutely shameful that that's what it is over, and then 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," she said.

Nevertheless, "We can take a deep breath now. We don't have to wonder what the next phone call's going to be," Cooley said.

Brenner also pleaded guilty on Wednesday to two counts of possession of a firearm as a restricted person, a third-degree felony. A charge of aggravated assault in an unrelated incident and a third charge of possession of a firearm, both third-degree felonies, were dismissed.

"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 in a statement. "It has been amazing to see what the tireless and unrelenting efforts of so many different people can accomplish."

The attorney's office expressed condolences to Rounds' family and gratitude to them and other volunteers who helped law enforcement during the course of the case.

Brenner is scheduled to be sentenced July 1.

Rounds' family started a nonprofit in his honor that was announced earlier this month.

"While we had hoped for a different outcome, we have known since the start Dylan was no longer alive," they said in a statement. "This recent development means the investigation has gone full circle, and now we can finally bring Dylan home and close this chapter."

Contributing: Andrew Adams

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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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