Authorities have yet to find missing Utah farmer Dylan Rounds, 19, but they now claim that evidence shows a man murdered him and hid the body. James Brenner, 60, was charged Friday with aggravated murder and abuse or desecration of a human body.
Brenner was first named as a suspect by deputies and the FBI last July but no charges were immediately filed. At the time, Brenner was already being held at the Weber County Jail on an unrelated federal firearms case, officials said. He remains there as of Monday, records show.
“These charges come after a difficult and extensive 9 month investigation by the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office, and are supported by the information that has been gathered and evidence collected,” said the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office. “The evidence supports that James Brenner is the only suspect. Although the remains of Dylan Rounds have yet to be located, we are hopeful that they are found in the future. We express our condolences to the family of Dylan Rounds.”
Rounds was last seen in Lucin, Utah, near the Nevada border in late May 2022, authorities and family previously said. Relatives said he moved out to the area to live out his dream of becoming a farmer. He purchased cheap desert land to get started but disappeared after his first crop. His boots were found yards from his grain truck in the opposite direction of his RV camper, and his key fob was missing, his mother said last year.
From the June 29, 2022, complaint in Brenner’s ongoing federal case for felon in possession of a firearm:
On May 30, 2022, Box Elder County dispatch received a call of a missing 19-year-old male initials D.R. [Rounds]. He was last seen in Lucin, Utah area. On this day, D.R. contacted a relative by phone and told them that he was “putting the grain truck into shelter.” The shelter for the grain truck was reported to be on a parcel of land owned by Box Elder Land and Livestock (owner initials J.C.) and is adjacent to two other parcels that are owned by S.H. and R.I. These parcels are open to each other and collectively used together.
Brenner was squatting in the area, federal authorities claim. Rounds’ property was a 5-mile walk southeast of where Brenner was living, they said.
Deputies now say testing revealed Rounds’ boots featured both his and Brenner’s DNA.
“During the search, deputies discovered a pair of boots belonging to the victim nearby,” they wrote in the probable cause statement for the new murder case. “One boot had a blood stain that DNA analysis confirmed belonged to the victim in addition to DNA belonging to Defendant. The victim’s phone records were also obtained which showed movements on the day of his disappearance on a remote property in Lucin where Defendant was squatting. Phone data showed that the last signal from the victim’s phone was at the Lucin pond and a search of the pond led to the discovery of the victim’s phone. A digital forensic download of the phone was conducted and led to the discovery of a time-lapse video with a time stamp taken at the time of the victim’s disappearance.”
Footage from this phone allegedly showed Brenner with bloodstains on his arms and shirt while he was cleaning a gun. Investigators claim they analyzed this shirt to find Rounds’ DNA.
“Defendant was interviewed and made several claims that corroborated forensic evidence in addition to making numerous demonstrably false statements,” the probable cause statement read.
Federal authorities said they and Box Elder County deputies searched Brenner’s trailer on June 16, 2022.
“During that search, ball ammunition, ignition caps, black powder, and speed loads, all related to ‘muzzle loading’ were located and photographed in the trailer, but the items were not seized at this time by BECSO,” they wrote. “There were no muzzle loader firearms located in the trailer at that time.”
Several days later, a friend and neighbor of Brenner identified only as D.H. said that Brenner asked him to “safekeep” three black powder guns, documents stated. From the federal filing:
On June 20, 2022, a friend and neighbor of Brenner, D.H. was interviewed by BECSO and the FBI. During that interview, D.H. advised that after D.R. went missing, and sometime after Brenner’s initial June 7, 2022, interview with BECSO, Brenner brought three black powder guns over to D.H.’s residence and asked him to “safekeep” them. When D.H. asked “why,” Brenner stated that he needed to do this for “his own safety” and that “the last time he had trouble with the law they took everything from him, and he did not want the things he had left to be taken again.” D.H. agreed to store the muzzle loaders for him. At the time of the interview D.H, turned over the three muzzle loaders to BECSO who booked them into evidence.
The FBI said they interviewed D.H. again on June 21, 2022. This time, he said Brenner brought him a .22 caliber rifle around the same time as bringing the muzzleloaders. From documents:
D.H. told us that he didn’t mention the .22 rifle when interviewed before because he had been owed money by the rifle’s original owner and that he felt that he should have a claim over the .22 rifle that Brenner asked him to store, to cover the debt. He explained to us that the rifle had been left in a trailer on the property where Brenner had been living, prior to Brenner living there, by a person who owed D.H. money. Brenner upon moving into the trailer had taken possession of it. D.H. knew that Brenner wasn’t allowed to have firearms because of his criminal history. D.H. turned over to the FBI the .22 rifle and case that Brenner had personally handed to him and had asked him to store. The rifle was loaded with 5 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition.
Investigators claimed to recover items, including a muzzleloader and various ammunition and gunpowder, in a search of Brenner’s trailer done on June 21, 2022. Federal authorities cited previous felony convictions on Brenner’s record, including a 33-month prison sentence on May 21, 2012, for felon in possession of a firearm.
Gregory Ferbrache, Brenner’s attorney in the firearms case, declined to comment when Law&Crime reached out. Brenner had pleaded not guilty in the federal firearms case.
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]