A Utah man was convicted Friday of murdering a young couple because they were apparently talking to his then-girlfriend.
Jerrod William Baum, 46, is scheduled for sentencing June 1 for killing Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, 17, and Riley Powell, 18, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Deputy Utah County Attorney Christine Scott presented jurors with two possible motives.
First, the prosecutor suggested that Baum was mad at the couple for talking to the key witness, his then-girlfriend Morgan Henderson Lewis. Specifically, Baum was angry about Powell’s presence when the two teen victims visited on Dec. 29, 2017, according to authorities quoted in a KSL report.
“I told you you couldn’t have guy friends,” Baum told Lewis, according to this theory.
Baum was accused of tying the teenagers by the hands and feet, duct taping their mouths, and driving them off in a Jeep — with his then-girlfriend Lewis in the passenger seat.
Otteson said she was pregnant and pleaded to be untied, but Baum made her and Lewis watch him beat and stab Powell before pushing the young man down a mine shaft, according to this version of the events.
“Goodbye, Riley, you piece of s–t,” Baum said while killing Powell, according to authorities quoted in the Tribune report.
Baum then allegedly slit Otteson’s throat and also pushed her down the mine shaft.
Baum and Lewis initially told investigators they did not know the whereabouts of the missing couple, but investigators suspected foul play after finding Powell’s Jeep abandoned with two flat tires.
Lewis eventually admitted the teens were at her home, but she did not say Baum killed the couple until after authorities arrested her on drug and weapons charges. She then reportedly led authorities to the bodies.
The second possible motive, according to Scott, is that Baum was also interested in a $500,000 insurance payment that Lewis had received, according to the Tribune. Baum attempted to establish a joint bank account with her.
Judge Derek Pullan placed restrictions on whether prosecutors could call Baum a white supremacist. He only allowed testimony relevant to the charges.
Baum’s defense lawyer Dallas Young reportedly attacked the state’s case by saying the authorities had “very little physical evidence, very little forensic evidence” beyond Lewis’s testimony.
Young said Lewis had a history of mental health challenges and drug use. The defense also noted that Lewis initially lied about knowing the whereabouts of the teens’ bodies and only led investigators to the remains after being arrested on drug and weapons charges.
Lewis’s guilty plea for obstruction of justice was a red flag, Young said.
The defense attorney also suggested Lewis should have been able to recall more details than she did, which allegedly showed that the key witness was not telling the whole truth.
Prosecutor Scott argued that Lewis did not remember some details because of post-traumatic stress disorder. As for her initial lies to authorities, Lewis was afraid of Baum, who had threatened her and her son, the prosecutor alleged.
“She had seen him kill two people, so she decided her best course of action was to be his number 1 fan,” Scott said.
Jurors convicted Baum of two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of desecration of a dead body, and a count each of possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, and obstruction of justice.
[Screenshot via WTVT]
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