James Brenner has been charged with aggravated murder and third-degree abuse or desecration of a human body in connection with the May 2017 disappearance of Dylan Rounds.
A 60-year-old man has been charged with aggravated murder and abuse of a corpse in connection with the disappearance of 19-year-old Utah farmer Dylan Rounds, who has been missing for nearly a year and whose body remains undiscovered.
According to jail records, James Brenner had been incarcerated at the Weber County Jail for a federal firearms case since July of last year. On Friday, the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office filed new criminal charges against him. The firearms charges derive from a search of Brenner’s trailer that was conducted during the investigation into Rounds’ disappearance and in which numerous weapons were discovered. He entered a not-guilty plea in the firearms case.
FOX13 Salt Lake City reported that Brenner was identified as a suspect in Rounds’ disappearance about a month after the teen’s family last heard from him in late May 2022, but he was not initially prosecuted.
Relatives report that Rounds, originally from eastern Idaho, was last seen on his property in Lucin, Utah, near the state’s border with Nevada, which he had recently purchased to advance his agricultural ambitions.
East Idaho News reports that on May 28, according to investigators, Rounds called his grandmother and told her he was “putting the grain waggon into shelter.”
A few days later, the young farmer’s boots were discovered a few yards away from his RV, a detail that stood out to his mother, who told News Nation that they were the only pair he owned.
His mother, Candice Cooley, told News Nation last June, “At that point, it should have been considered foul play.” The missing footwear of a person cannot be spotted in the desert.
“When we saw Dylan’s boots on our first day out there, we knew what had occurred,” Cooley told KSLTV on Saturday.
The family of Rounds told East Idaho News that a dark substance discovered on one of the boots was initially believed to be lubricant or oil, and then animal blood.
According to a probable cause statement acquired by Law & Crime, however, recent testing determined that it was Rounds’ blood and that Brenner’s DNA was also present.
According to investigators, Brenner was “squatting” in a trailer approximately five miles away at the time of Rounds’ disappearance.
Investigators wrote that Rounds’ location data led police to his abandoned phone near a pond. The device contained a time-lapse video featuring Brenner that was dated around the time of the victim’s disappearance.
In their probable cause statement, investigators wrote, “The video showed [Brenner] with blood on his arms and shirt while he was cleaning a pistol.”
According to the affidavit, DNA traces of Rounds were found on that garment.
On June 16 of last year, Box Elder County Sheriff’s deputies and FBI agents searched Brenner’s trailer. They reported discovering ball ammunition, ignition plugs, black powder, and speed loads inside. However, “there were no muzzle-loading firearms in the trailer at the time.”
Three days later, however, a neighbour identified only as D.H. in court documents turned over three black powder firearms that Brenner allegedly gave him for “safekeeping.” When asked why he was handing over the weapons, the 60-year-old allegedly stated that “the last time he got in difficulty with the law, they took everything from him, and he didn’t want his remaining possessions taken away again.”
Brenner had been convicted of multiple felonies in the past, according to the investigators, including a 2012 conviction for felony possession of a firearm that resulted in a 33-month prison sentence.
D.H. revealed in a subsequent interview with the FBI on June 21 that Brenner also gave him a.22 calibre rifle with five rounds of ammunition around the same time as the other firearms. The neighbour told authorities that he did not initially turn over the firearm because “he was owed money by the firearm’s original owner and believed he should have a claim over the [gun]… to cover the debt.”
During a second search of Brenner’s trailer on the same day, investigators seized several firearm accessories and components, including gunpowder, assorted ammunition, and a muzzle loader.
Due to the defendant’s removal and concealment, investigators have been unable to locate Rounds’ body despite a “thorough” investigation, as stated in their probable cause statement.
The Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release last week stating, “Although Dylan Rounds’ remains have not yet been located, we are hopeful that they will be in the near future.” “We extend our condolences to Dylan Rounds’s family.”
The mother of Rounds described the charges against Brenner as “excellent news” after nine harrowing months of silence.
“We do not have a conviction nor Dylan’s corpse, but we have won the first battle.” “she said on Saturday to KSLTV. For us, this is a victory. We have struggled so arduously for charges.”
She expressed confidence that a search party comprised of Rounds’ family and associates will locate his body.
She told KSLTV, “When the weather breaks and we can get out there, and if no deal has been reached and we are still facing trial, we will spend the entire summer searching for our son, and we will locate him.”