PROVO — The girlfriend of a man accused of murdering a young Eureka couple and throwing their bodies into an abandoned mine pleaded guilty to amended charges on Friday.
Morgan Reannon Henderson, 35, of Mammoth, Juab County, originally faced 30 counts of obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, for allegedly lying to police about what she knew about the disappearance and deaths of Riley Powell, 18, and Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson, 17, by her boyfriend, Jerrod Baum.
On Friday, an amended information was filed in 4th District Court charging Henderson with 10 counts of obstructing justice, all second-degree felonies. As part of her deal, she pleaded guilty to all 10, according to court records.
In her written statement supporting her guilty plea, Henderson admitted that sometime during the night of Dec. 29 through the early morning of Dec. 30, “I witnessed Jerrod Baum take Riley Powell and Brelynne Otteson, bound and gagged, and drive them from that location to an abandoned mine (later determined to be within Utah County) where he murdered them and threw their bodies into the mine shaft.”
The couple’s bodies were later recovered on a ledge about 100 feet down the Tintic Standard Mine outside Eureka, Juab County.
Henderson then helped Baum move the young Eureka couple’s vehicle and hide it, according to Henderson’s statement.
Powell’s missing Jeep was found partially hidden in trees, about a mile south of Cherry Creek Reservoir on Jan. 11.
Jerrod William Baum, 41, 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. Baum could face a possible death penalty if convicted.
Henderson admitted lying to police on several occasions about Powell and Otteson, even suggesting that she had “heard a rumor” that Powell was using meth and that the couple had “ripped off some Mexican drug dealers,” according to her statement.
It wasn’t until March 24, after Henderson was pulled over in Sanpete County and arrested on drug and weapons charges that she admitted she knew what had happened, police say.
Henderson “swears under oath” that she did not “intentionally or knowingly” help Baum kill Powell and Otteson “nor intended that they be killed,” even though she later lied about what she knew, court documents state.
Also as part of the plea deal, Henderson has agreed to testify against Baum during his court proceedings. If she doesn’t, she could face stiff penalties.
Attorneys agreed to have Henderson sentenced to five years of probation, but she must remain in jail either three years, or until the state’s case against Baum is completed, whichever is shorter, according to court documents.
If she does not comply with the terms of her plea deal, she could be sentenced to one to 15 years for each of the 10 counts she pleaded guilty to, court documents state, and the counts could run consecutively.
After the hearing, family members of Powell and Otteson said they had mixed feelings over the plea deal.
“It’s a double-edge sword. But at least now we have the closure for Morgan and we’re on to Jerrod,” said Amanda Hunt, Otteon’s aunt.
“I mean, she had three months without Jerrod there to be able to come forward and say, ‘Hey, like, I know where the kids are at,’ you know?” added Nikka Powell, Riley’s sister. “I feel like she deserves more than what she got.”
Attorneys also agreed that Henderson be moved out of the Utah County Jail to another facility while she remains in custody.
In May, Henderson pleaded guilty in Sanpete County to possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, a third-degree felony; unlawful possession of a weapon and drug possession, class A misdemeanors; driving on a denied license, a class B misdemeanor; and having an open container while driving, a class C misdemeanor.
Baum’s next court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 16.
Contributing: Ladd Egan