EUREKA, Juab County — Sheriff's deputies have arrested a man for investigation of murder after they say he left a Sandy woman stranded last week during a camping trip.
Cody Alexander Young, 42, was booked into the Juab County Jail Saturday night for investigation of murder in the death of Jan Pearson-Jenkins, 64.
Friends of the woman's brother, Jace Pearson, discovered what is believed to be the body of Pearson-Jenkins on a sagebrush hillside Saturday about a mile from where the two of them are believed to have gone camping on Oct. 4 in the Silver City area of Juab County.
"Cody was reported to be in somewhat of a relationship with Jan," a Juab County Jail report states.
"The female was nude, and three articles of clothing were found on the ground near her. The female had marks and bruising on the back and legs as well as a mark on her head. It appeared the body had been exposed to the elements for some time," the report states.
The body was sent to the Utah State Medical Examiner's Office to be positively identified, said Juab County Undersheriff Brent Pulver.
Pearson said Young sent him text messages on Oct. 5 saying the two had been in an argument and that he left her in the Silver City/Eureka area.
Sandy police, who were investigating the incident as a missing persons case after family members contacted them on Oct. 8, provided the Juab County Sheriff's Office with GPS coordinates from where the victim was allegedly dropped off that evening, Pulver said.
Pearson-Jenkins did not have a cellphone nor her purse, and she was not dressed for inclement weather, investigators said.
Searches for Pearson-Jenkins were unsuccessful as were attempts to locate or contact Young. But during a coordinated search effort Saturday with the sheriff's office and the victim's family and friends, a campsite was located "where evidence was found indicating this was where the individuals were camping," Pulver said in a statement.
About an hour later, Pearson's friends on ATVs located the body about one mile from that campsite.
"The events that occurred, I think, were miraculous. I think we were led to find Jan’s body,” Pearson said. “We don’t know all the whats but we won’t worry anymore about where she is.”
About two hours after the body was found, rangers at Yuba State Park spotted Young and his van near Yuba Lake, about 45 miles from the campsite. He was questioned by detectives and later arrested in connection with Pearson-Jenkins' death, the undersheriff said.
Young told investigators the two had been camping and looking for rocks.
"Cody stated that on Thursday (Oct. 4), a conversation regarding money and repair work that had been performed at Jan’s mother’s residence came up. Cody and Jan got into an argument resulting in Cody placing Jan’s belongings outside the van and telling her they were 'done,'" the report states.
"Cody stated he eventually told Jan he would give her a ride home, at which time Jan thanked him. Cody also stated that the pair smoked meth that night."
Young said they got into another argument the next day, Oct. 5, and "he did not feel comfortable being around Jan any longer," according to the report. He told police he locked the doors of his van and drove away as she tried to open the driver's door about 4 p.m.
Young said he contemplated returning to get Pearson-Jenkins, but decided to contact her brother instead.
Pearson said the texts he received were bizarre.
“It rambled on, it was 55 pages of text messages that basically talked about their crazy relationship,” he said, adding that they had apparently argued over money and work that his sister had hired him to do at their mother's house.
Young wouldn't answer questions about what Pearson-Jenkins was wearing or about the conditions in the area, Pearson said. Young only talked about how poorly life had treated him and how "brutal" Jan had become in their relationship, he said.
Pearson said he met Young a few weeks ago when he did some drywall work at his mother's house, where Pearson-Jenkins also lived. He said he knew Young had a substance abuse problem but appeared "lucid and coherent" that day.
“I didn’t have any bad vibes about him when I met and talked with him, but I had no idea that he and Jan had a romantic relationship. I just thought it was someone she met through a mutual friend, a down-on-his-luck kind of guy,” Pearson said.
Young, who police say is homeless and lives in his van, said he stayed in a Nephi parking lot for two days after leaving his girlfriend behind. "Cody stated he was hurting and needed to remove himself from the situation," deputies wrote in the report.
He allegedly said he then went to the Yuba Lake area, where he remained until he was found on Saturday. Young also said he had read news reports about his missing girlfriend.
"He stated that he had thought that something bad could have happened to Jan. Cody stated that he had received a link to a news report showing that Jan was missing, and law enforcement was actively searching for him. Cody made no attempt to contact law enforcement," the report states.
"Cody would not admit to any physical violence between him and Jan. Cody admitted that he was aware that by leaving Jan something might possibly happen to her," according to the report.
Deputies arrested him, saying in the report that he "knowingly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death to another, thereby caused the death to another."
Pearson said his sisters had a master's degree in nutrition from Utah State University and in addition to working for the Veteran's Administration in San Diego, she taught nutrition in college in Utah.
Substance abuse caused her to make poor choices, but she was kind and creative and lived a productive life. She ran marathons and was an avid skier, he said. She lived with and cared for their 93-year-old mother.
"I don’t know if she had a decision that Friday night, if she was forced, if she voluntarily left, we don’t know," Pearson said. "If she chose to leave the van that was her last poor final choice, but we don’t know yet."
Contributing: Sean Moody, Dennis Romboy