Riley Powell and Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson went missing in late December while traveling from Tooele to Eureka, Utah. They were subsequently reported missing on January 2.
Authorities tracked down Riley’s vehicle and have reason to believe it was intentionally abandoned in order to “give an illusion” that the couple was stranded, according to an affidavit.
Heavy spoke with loved ones of both teens, who expressed that they fear the worst but are still holding out hope.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. They Were Reported Missing on January 2, Though Police Said the Disappearance Did Not Meet the Criteria of an Amber Alert
Riley, 18, and Brelynne were reported missing January 2 after leaving the town of Tooele at approximately 9:30 a.m. on December 30. The couple was reportedly on their way to Eureka, where they resided. However, the teens never arrived home.
Heavy spoke with Amanda Hunt, a biological aunt of Brelynne, who said despite intense efforts by loved ones police were not able to constitute the disappearance as an Amber Alert.
“They said it didn’t meet the criteria,” Hunt stated, adding that she was working with two law enforcement agencies including Juab County and Tooele County sheriff’s departments.
At the time she went missing, Brelynne was 17, however she turned 18 on January 27.
“I asked what efforts can be done to help these kids and to understand what their plan of action was, could they ping phones or do anything else?,” Hunt continued.
The woman was told by both agencies that a missing person’s report had been made, but that was all they could do at that point.
Hunt believes a Facebook page she made to raise awareness of the missing teens is what ultimately brought the support they needed, including getting the attention of police and help for search and rescue efforts.
2. Police Located Riley’s Vehicle & Believe it Was Intentionally Abandoned
According to an affidavit, “The two parties [Riley and Brelynne] were reported to be driving a Dark Blue 1999 Jeep Cherokee Sport” when they disappeared.
The affidavit stated:
On 01/11/2018 the jeep was located in the Cherry Creek area. It had two flat tires on the passenger side and a camouflage tie down strap stuck in the driver’s side rear leaf spring. Upon further inspection the rear passenger tire had a puncture in the sidewall that appeared to be straight in with a smaller flat shaped object. The front passenger tire had two punctures identical to the rear tire. There was no tear in the side wall that would indicate that the tires were moving when punctured.
The report stated that investigators were told that “a witness had seen a truck described as a blue two wheel drive Chevy with a Chevy emblem decal on the left side of the tailgate” that frequented the property where Riley’s mother, Mistie Carlson resided along with her boyfriend, Lee Shepherd. The witness said she saw the truck “pulling a Jeep described as ‘the one Riley is always driving.” After further investigation, police believe the blue truck seen pulling the jeep belonged to Shepherd.
“It is suspected that the blue Chevy truck described above was used to transport, conceal, hide, and plant the victim’s vehicle in Cherry Creek at the location it was discovered, to give the illusion that the victims were indeed stranded,” Tooele County Detective Tyler Johnson stated in the affidavit.
Riley’s grandmother, Linda Powell, and her boyfriend, William “Clubby” Larson also lived on the land.
Johnson stated in the report that all of the parties living on the property cooperated with police except Shepherd.
“Mistie, Linda, and Clubby came willingly to the sheriff’s office,” Johnson said. “Lee refused to come and stayed at the property.”
In addition, there were conflicting accounts of what Riley’s mother and her boyfriend were doing the night of December 31.
“During the interviews Clubby was asked if Lee and Mistie were at his house on New Year’s Eve,” the affidavit states. “He stated that they were not and that they had previous plans. He was not sure where they were. In Mistie’s interview she claimed that she was at Linda’s and Clubby’s all night on New Year’s Eve. Prior to the interviews investigators spoke to a Gus Atherley who was at the party according to himself and ‘Clubby’. Mistie was asked who was at the party and failed to mention Gus.”
3. Authorities Believe They Found Evidence of Homicide & Desecration of a Dead Body
Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson and Riley Powell by Jennifer Dzikowski on Scribd
Based on their findings, authorities believe they discovered evidence of homicide, desecration of a dead body and obstruction of justice in the case.
Police have since obtained search warrants for Facebook records and 79 days’ worth of cell phone records from phones belonging to Riley, Brelynne, and Riley’s mother.
“Police obtained those records on the belief they would find evidence of illegal conduct, pertinent to a murder investigation,” KUTV reported.
4. Brelynne’s Aunt Emphasized That Other Leads Are Being Investigated
Affidavit 2-Brelynne Otteson & Riley Powell by Jennifer Dzikowski on Scribd
Despite what reports have surfaced thus far, Brelynne’s aunt, Amanda Hun told Heavy that she believes more information will surface in the next week or so. The woman stated that it’s best not to draw conclusions based on current reports.
“There are other leads being investigated and so there may be changes in the case in the near future,” Hunt stated.
5. Both Teens Were Described as ‘Wanting to Be Loved’
“Breezy was a feisty one, full of fire and passion. She struggled to find her place in life, though. She just wanted to be loved.” Hunt told Heavy.
Shena Draper, who said Riley was “like a son” to her for over eight years, told Heavy that the young man would drop everything to help someone in need. “He even loaned his truck to someone who didn’t have a ride to work for a few days,” Draper stated. “It’s just the kind of person he was.” Like Brelynne, Riley was also wanting to be loved and accepted, the woman told Heavy.