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After bodies found in mine, man arrested in teen deaths

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Sheriff Doug Anderson, Juab County Sheriff's office talks about the operation to recover the bodies that were found Wednesday, March 28, 2018 in an abandoned mine in Utah's west desert near Eureka, Utah. Police believe the bodies are those of two teenagers who have been missing for nearly three months. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY


A Utah man tied up two teenagers, stabbed them to death and dumped their bodies in an abandoned mine shaft before they were reported missing nearly three months ago, police said Thursday.

Jerrod W. Baum, 41, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated murder, kidnapping, abuse of a dead body and other charges Wednesday, hours after police recovered the bodies on a shallow ledge inside a deep mine shaft near Eureka, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City.

Baum caught the two teenagers after they visited his girlfriend at their home, then bound them in their Jeep and drove to an abandoned mine where he killed them, the woman told investigators. He said he'd already warned her about having male friends at the house and "it was too bad because he has never killed an innocent before," she told authorities, according to police documents.

He told her he'd made Riley Powell, 18, suffer but kept the death of Brelynne "Breezy" Otteson, 17, quick and painless because he felt bad, Utah County Sheriff's officials wrote.

Defense attorney Michael Petro did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Amanda Hunt, aunt of missing teen Breezy Otteson, waits with Bill Powell, adoptive father of missing teen Riley Powell, as crews work to recover the two bodies that were found in an abandoned mine in Utah's west desert near Eureka, Utah on Wednesday March, 28, 2018. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Family members of the two teenagers said they didn't know Baum, and were at a tragic loss to explain what happened.

"What went wrong? Why did he have so much hate? There's no reason," father Bill Powell told reporters.

"You don't kill kids out of jealousy," Otteson's aunt Amanda Hunt said, she added that finding their bodies after nearly three months of searching puts at least some questions to rest.

Bodies believed to be Powell and Otteson were recovered after police found a Facebook message thread showing the teens planned on going to the couple's home on Dec. 29, shortly before they were reported missing, according to police documents.

Baum's girlfriend Morgan Henderson, 34, told police in January that the teens had come over, smoked marijuana with her and left, and that she hadn't seen them since. But after police found an axe, a rifle and knives in her car in an unrelated traffic stop on Sunday, she talked to investigators again.

The couple had come to the house, but after they left Baum came to find Henderson and showed her the teens were tied up in Powell's Jeep. He put her in the car to "go for a ride and have a talk," and took them all out to an abandoned mine site. He killed the teenagers, then took her back home and threatened her as well, police said.

Law enforcement crews on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, recovered two bodies from an abandoned mine in Utah's west desert near Eureka, Utah. Police believe the bodies are those of two teenagers who have been missing for nearly three months. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Henderson dumped the Jeep at a nearby reservoir, she told police. A lawyer listed for her in a previous case did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Additional arrests in the case are possible, Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said, though he did not elaborate.

Court records show Baum has a rap sheet dating back to the early 1990s including theft, assault and weapons charges.

Last year, Baum and Henderson were found in a car near Yuba State Park with a tactical knife tucked in the small of his back and another knife on a necklace under his shirt, along with a container of meth, a pistol and prescription drugs, according to court records. He was convicted of weapon and drug charges in that case.

Baum was also accused of helping his girlfriend load and stash a handgun in their home earlier this year, despite being barred from possessing a gun as a convicted felon. He has not yet entered a plea in that case.

___
Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.

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