PROVO — The fate of the man accused of killing two teenagers and dumping their bodies in an abandoned mine last year will ultimately be decided by a jury trial.
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt announced he wants a jury trial to decide whether Jerrod Baum, 42, will face the death penalty in his pending trial, Leavitt announced Wednesday during a press conference in Provo.
“The alleged killer of Riley and Breezy is the sort of individual from whom society ought to be protected,” he said. “That’s a weight that I feel as a Utah County Attorney as I weigh how do we do that.”
Leavitt stated he doesn’t want the power of life or death to be decided by a lone elected official. Instead, he will allow a jury trial to decide whether or not to sentence Baum to death.
Baum, 42, is facing two counts of aggravated murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Riley Powell and 17-year-old Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, who went missing in December 2017.
The bodies of the two teenagers were found three months later in an abandoned mine near Eureka. Autopsy reports showed the teenagers had been stabbed and died by homicide.
If convicted, the minimum penalty for each aggravated murder is 25 years to life.
“If pulling a trigger or injecting a needle would bring Breezy or Riley back, I would do so personally,” Leavitt said. “Ultimately, all the debates and the perspectives of the death penalty flow down in my mind to what will protect the public safety.”
Baum is also charged in 4th District Court with two counts of aggravated kidnapping, both first-degree felonies; obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; and two counts of desecration of a dead human body and one count of possession of a weapon by a restricted person, each third-degree felonies.
He reportedly killed the teenagers out of jealousy that his ex-girlfriend, Morgan Henderson, had a male visitor in their house. She testified against him and shared many details about the deaths during a preliminary hearing in March.
The next court hearing is set for Aug. 12, as Judge Derek Pullan plans to establish a timeline to trial.