PROVO (AP) — Prosecutors said Wednesday a jury will have the option to impose the death penalty for a man charged with killing two teenagers and dumping their bodies in an abandoned Utah mine shaft.
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt made the announcement at a news conference in Provo.
Jerrod Baum has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder in the deaths of 17-year-old Brelynne "Breezy" Otteson and 18-year-old Riley Powell. The teens were reported missing in December 2017. Their bodies were found three months later in a mine near Eureka.
"The alleged killer of Riley and Breezy is the sort of individual from whom society ought to be protected," said Leavitt, according to the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo.
Baum's public defender attorney, Dallas Young, didn't immediately return an email and phone call from The Associated Press.
Riley Powell's father, Bill Powell, and Otteson's aunt, Amanda Hunt, who had pushed for the death penalty, attended the news conference.
"These kids didn't get to choose their life, they didn't get to fight," said Hunt, according to The Salt Lake Tribune . "So why should he get an option to live?"
Baum's ex-girlfriend testified earlier this year that Baum, 42, stabbed the two teens after tying them up and driving them to the mine. She said he was upset that the teens had visited her. She pleaded guilty to 10 counts of obstruction of justice and agreed to cooperate with authorities.
Bill Powell said the death penalty is the right call.
"This person needs to be off the street," said Powell. "They don't put people to death much anymore, but hopefully it will happen."
Though prosecutors in Utah regularly say they will seek the death penalty, few people actually get executed.
The last person sent to death row was Floyd Maestas in 2008. But Maestas, who was convicted of stomping a woman to death, died last year of natural causes.
Eight people are currently on death row. The last execution in Utah was in 2010, when Ronnie Lee Gardner was put to death by firing squad. Gardner killed a bartender and later shot a lawyer to death and wounded a bailiff during a 1985 courthouse escape attempt.
The firing squad method is now a backup if drugs for lethal injection are unavailable.
Baum is scheduled to be back in court on Aug. 12 for a pretrial hearing.