PROVO — The man accused of brutally killing a Eureka couple and then throwing their bodies into an abandoned mine shaft was back in court on Thursday.
The hearing for Jerrod William Baum, 41, was brief as attorneys agreed to continue it until August.
Baum is accused of beating and stabbing Riley Powell, 18, and then slitting the throat of Brelynne "Breezy" Otteson, 17, while both were tied up. He is charged in 4th District Court with two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of aggravated kidnapping, first-degree felonies; two counts of abuse or desecration of a dead body plus possession of a weapon by a restricted person, third-degree felonies; and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony.
Because this is a potential death penalty case, deputy Utah County attorney Chad Grunander said Thursday it will be a long process before the case is resolved.
"In reality, these kinds of cases will take some time. Several months if not up to a couple of years,” he said.
The Utah County Attorney's Office has not announced yet whether it intends to formally seek the death penalty. Grunander said his office will take several factors into consideration when making that determination, including the strength of the evidence, input from the victims' families, the defendant's criminal history and the heinousness of the crime.
After the brief hearing was over, family members of Powell and Otteson said they are still completely in favor of capital punishment for Baum and there is no thought of resolving the case with a plea deal.
"I wouldn’t even think about that. There's no reason to do a plea bargain. He didn’t do a plea bargain with the kids,” said Riley Powell's father, Bill Powell.
"There’s no settling for this. The kids need justice,” concurred Amanda Hunt, Otteson's aunt.
The families stressed they do not want a plea deal, even if it meant avoiding a long legal battle.
"Looks like it's going to be a long, dragged out process. I just assume it be done with and over quick and find him guilty and done away with him,” Bill Powell said.
Neither family member had previously met Baum. Family members say they don't understand why the killings took place.
"I just don’t undestand what he was thinking or what the whole deal was over,” Powell said.
"I get the chills. I shake, It’s disgusting," said Nikka Powell, Riley Powell's sister, about having to see Baum in court. "I don’t see how anybody could be so sick. It's ridiculous. I don’t understand it."
This Saturday would have been Riley's 19th birthday. Family members plan to hold a celebration in Eureka with hot dogs, kickball and the release of paper lanterns at night. Hunt said she wants the public to remember who Powell and Otteson were, and not just what happened to them.
Baum's next hearing is scheduled for Aug. 1.
His girlfriend, Morgan Lewis Henderson, 34, who was allegedly present when the young couple was killed but didn't tell police about it for three months, is charged with obstruction of justice in one case and drug-related charges in another. She is scheduled to make court appearances on May 3 and May 9 for each case.
Contributing: Peter Samore