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Man pleads not guilty to charges he murdered young Utah couple

Jerrod William Baum, 42, appears for a preliminary hearing in 4th District Court in Provo on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Baum faces eight felony charges in connection with the deaths of Riley Powell, 18, and Brelynne "Breezy" Otteson, 17.
Jerrod William Baum, 42, appears for a preliminary hearing in 4th District Court in Provo on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

PROVO — A Utah man on Monday formally denied charges that he killed a young couple and dumped their bodies in an abandoned mine shaft in 2017.

Jerrod William Baum, 42, entered not guilty pleas to two counts of aggravated murder, first-degree felonies in the deaths of Riley Powell, 18, and Brelynne "Breezy" Otteson, 17.

A conviction could carry a death sentence. Prosecutors have not yet indicated whether they will seek that outcome for Baum, but said the couple's families will have a voice in the decision.

"He's an evil man," Bill Powell, Riley’s father, told the Provo Daily Herald on Monday. "They were prisoners and brutally murdered. He deserves the same."

Baum, who is from the tiny central Utah town of Mammoth, faces another six felony charges tied to the young couple's disappearance and death. He appeared Monday in Provo's 4th District Court after a judge ordered him last month to stand trial on each allegation he faced.

At a preliminary hearing in March, Baum's former girlfriend, Morgan Henderson, described in vivid detail how he became enraged to find the teens at his home on Dec. 30, 2017, then brought her and the couple to an abandoned mine shaft, where he slit the teens' throats and discarded their bodies. Almost three months later, crews found their bodies.

Henderson agreed to testify against Baum in exchange for resolving charges that she lied to investigators.

Baum is due back in court Aug. 12.