CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Jury begins their deliberations in the murder trial against Jerrod Baum

Apr 13, 2022, 8:20 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:20 am
FILE: Jerrod Baum's defense attorney told a judge his client deserved a retrial based on comments made to the defense by a juror, after Baum was found guilty, something prohibited by Utah law. (KSL TV) (File photo: KSL TV)
(KSL TV)

PROVO, Utah — After more than four years of waiting and a month worth of courtroom testimony, the murder trial against Jerrod Baum is finally in the hands of a jury.  Baum is accused of stabbing and killing Riley Powell and Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson in late 2017, then dumping their bodies in an abandoned mine.

Baum murder trial

Throughout the case, prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of Baum’s ex-girlfriend, Morgan Lewis.  She claims Baum was abusive and controlling, even forcing her to go through some sort of blood sacrifice to warn her that he would kill her loved ones if she ever left him.  Lewis also claimed Baum refused to let her have male friends that he didn’t approve, and he became violently jealous when Powell and Otteson came over to visit.

Ex-girlfriend claimed to be too afraid to come forward

Prosecutors say Lewis was forced to watch as Baum walked Powell and Otteson to the opening of the Tintic Standard Number Two Mine, accused Powell of having sex with Lewis, then stabbed him several times.  Otteson reportedly watched, sobbing and pleading for her life.  However, Baum allegedly slit Otteson’s throat after reassuring her that everything would be fine.

Deputy Utah County Attorney Christine Scott told jurors Lewis was terrified to come forward, convinced her son’s life was in danger.  Scott claimed Baum threatened to kill Lewis if she even cried about the murders.

Scott said, “He takes a garrote, puts it around her throat, pulls and says, ‘The next time you think about crying about Riley, you think about whether or not you want to see your son ever again.”

In March of 2018, Lewis was pulled over for speeding and arrested for possible drug and weapons violations.  While speaking with investigators, she reportedly said she felt “tremendous guilt” about the murders and told police what happened at the mine.  Scott refuted the claims that Lewis was being coached by investigators and telling them what they wanted to hear.

“Morgan was telling them stuff that the officers did not know before that statement.  Every officer that testified, and Morgan, said, ‘We weren’t telling her what happened.  She was telling us,’” Scott said.

Defense attorneys say Lewis can’t be trusted

However, defense attorney Dallas Young claimed the prosecution relied too heavily on Lewis’ testimony, adding that the jury has plenty of reasons not to believe her.

Young said, “The first one would be the lies she told to law enforcement officers.  Second, the lies she has told to prosecutors.”

Young claimed Lewis had been dealing with addiction and mental health issues, saying her perceptions of the events were skewed.  Plus, he claimed Lewis was the only one who connected Baum to the murders.

“You have heard evidence from Morgan, and Morgan alone, that implicates Mr. Baum.  Nobody else has presented any evidence, whether it’s testimony, physical evidence, whether it’s forensic analysis… nothing,” Young said.

Young also made the claim that Lewis could have been behind the murders and planted evidence to implicate Baum.  However, during the rebuttal argument, Deputy Utah County Attorney Ryan McBride refuted that idea. He said Lewis only came forward after being pressured by police.

McBride said, “She wasn’t trying to frame him.  If she was, she would have done a better job of framing him, and she would have come forward earlier.”

Prosecutors also played recordings of phone calls between Baum and a new girlfriend. During which he reportedly laughed about people taking down and destroying signs saying, “Justice for Riley and Breezy.”

 

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Jury begins their deliberations in the murder trial against Jerrod Baum