EUREKA, Juab County — Hundreds turned out on Saturday to honor two teens whose bound bodies were found in a mine shaft, nearly three months after they went missing.
Yet the many friends and family, even perfect strangers who participated in numerous search efforts, are still grappling with how 18-year-old Riley Powell and 17-year-old Brelynne “Breezy” Otteson died, and why.
“We can’t dwell on what we can’t control,” Breezy’s aunt, Amanda Hunt, told those gathered for a joint memorial service at the Tintic School District offices in Eureka. It was the first of two services to be held in their honor.
Hunt said Riley and Breezy “spent their last moments together so we wanted to memorialize them together. It’s what they would’ve wanted.”
The number of people whose lives have been touched by the two was impressive to Bill Powell, Riley’s dad, who helped set up additional chairs as the crowd grew to standing room only.
“The kids had a lot of friends. They’re going to be missed,” he said.
Breezy, an outspoken teenager with side-swept hair and bright hazel eyes, had been wrestling for years with her mother’s death in a car crash. Hunt said her niece had found something special in Riley.
And he had his own challenges, having been sent to a boys’ home after bringing a gun intended for rabbit hunting to his high school. He ended up changing schools, graduated and found work as a plumber.
Several mentioned Riley as being a stand-up guy, always offering to help people — a characteristic he obviously learned from his dad.
Bill Powell, however, said the service didn’t offer him the closure he’s seeking.
He wants justice for his son and for Breezy.
The two had been dating about four months and Breezy had moved to Eureka to live with Riley and his dad. She had told her family that she might be pregnant and Hunt said she was excited about starting a new chapter of her life with Riley.
Then, they disappeared. They were last seen on Dec. 30.
Three months of searching Utah’s west desert ensued, with candlelight vigils and balloon releases held in hopes of finding the couple alive.
“We were hoping they were still out goofing off somewhere, but that wasn’t the case,” Powell said Saturday.
On March 28, police were led by Morgan Henderson, a friend of Riley’s, to an abandoned mine shaft where they found the bodies of Riley and Breezy on a ledge 100 feet down. Henderson had been pulled over and arrested and told police what happened to the teens, who had spent time with her on Dec. 30, reportedly smoking marijuana together.
Henderson’s boyfriend, Jerrod Baum, 41, is facing aggravated murder, kidnapping and other charges that could bring the death penalty; while Henderson, who originally lied about being with the couple when they disappeared, is charged with obstruction of justice.
Powell hopes to encourage officials to close or bar up the hundreds of abandoned mine shafts in the area, some of which are up to 2,000 feet deep.
“They weren’t intending to go into that mine, but they ended up there,” Powell said. “I don’t want other kids going in them. We need to take care of them. An empty hole is no good for anybody.”
Riley and Breezy were remembered as a carefree, outgoing and friendly duo. Family and friends shared many memories of them, from playing basketball with Riley and swimming with Breezy, to hanging out and trying new things like snowboarding and barbecuing together.
“She was my best sister,” said Kylysta Otteson, 19, who said they talked or texted nearly every day. “She could always put a smile on your face.”
“I don’t think anybody was like her,” Kylysta Otteson said.
Several who knew Riley said he “had a heart of gold.”
“Riley, we’re sorry you’re gone,” said Dennis Kenny, a friend of the Powells. Quoting a “cowboy song,” he said, “we’ll see you again when the Lord’s work is done.”
The two teens were introduced by Riley’s sister and a classmate of Breezy’s, Nikka Powell. She recalled Riley thanking her for bringing Breezy, whom he called “the one,” to Eureka.
Many people mentioned how happy and in love the two were.
“Together, they made each other better,” Hunt said.
Jill Jones, a member of the racing community that frequents the Rocky Mountain Raceway, where Riley, a 2017 graduate of Pleasant Creek High School, and his sister often competed, said he touched many of their lives. And while he never won first place racing, she said, “I think Riley got the No.1 trophy in Breezy.”
Though the two were found and brought home, the families say Riley’s and Breezy’s journeys are not over.
“We need that justice for these kids,” Hunt said.
Powell said he hopes it comes quickly and that the case doesn’t get bogged down in the sometimes notoriously slow legal system. “They need that,” he said.
“Riley’s a good kid,” Powell said. “I wish I’d have had a lot more time to teach him more.”
Everyone agreed Riley and Breezy were “gone too soon,” as Kenny said.
“It leaves a huge emptiness in all of our hearts,” Hunt said, adding that she’ll never forget Breezy or the teen’s zest for life.
“When the breeze blows in your hair, when you see the color pink, or when you smell roses, remember our loving, sweet Brelynne,” she said.
As for the people who helped search for Riley and Breezy, many of whom filled the multipurpose room at the district offices on Saturday and lined up to sign the guest book after the service, Powell said, “now they’re family. Our family got bigger.”
A second memorial service for Riley and Breezy will be held next Saturday at 11 a.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 180 S. Coleman St., in Tooele.
Contributing: Associated Press