LOFGREEN, Tooele County — Investigators recently searched the property of the mother of a Eureka man who has not been seen since Dec. 30, according to a new search warrant affidavit.
Riley Powell, 18, and Brelynne "Breezy" Otteson, 17, were officially reported missing Jan. 2 after embarking on a drive from Tooele to Eureka days earlier. On Jan. 11, Powell's missing Jeep was found partially hidden in trees, about a mile south of Cherry Creek Reservoir.
That warrant, unsealed Monday in Tooele County's 3rd District Court, says investigators are seeking evidence in a possible homicide. However, Amanda Hunt, Otteson's aunt, said Monday she was told that the case is still not being called a homicide investigation.
"There is suspicion of homicide, but it's not being treated as a homicide investigation yet because there's nothing to indicate there's been a homicide. But it's clear there's foul play," she said after meeting with Juab County sheriff's investigators Monday.
The sheriff's office has said foul play is suspected in the couple's disappearance based on evidence collected at the scene where the Jeep was found.
The two passenger-side tires were flat. "The rear passenger tire had a puncture in the side wall 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 warrant states.
A witness reported to investigators that a truck was spotted pulling a Jeep like "the one Riley is always driving" on Jan. 2 in the Lofgreen area, located off state Route 36 between Vernon and Eureka. The truck matched the description of a vehicle driven by the boyfriend of Powell's mother, according to the affidavit.
On Jan. 15, Tooele County sheriff's deputies and deputies from the Sanpete/Juab Major Crimes Task Force went to the property where Powell's mother lives with her boyfriend, Riley Powell's grandmother and the grandmother's boyfriend, the warrant states.
A camouflage tie down strap, identical to the one found in Powell's Jeep, was seized, according to investigators.
"It is suspected that the blue Chevy truck … was used to transport, conceal, hide and plant the victims' vehicle in Cherry Creek at the location it was discovered, to give the illusion that the victims were indeed stranded," investigators wrote in the warrant.
Three of the residents, including Powell's mother and grandmother, willingly went to the Tooele County Sheriff's Office to be interviewed. The boyfriend of the mother did not, the warrant states.
Police say the three people who were interviewed had different accounts about where Powell's mother and her boyfriend were on New Year's Eve. She claimed she was at her residence. Two others said she was not, the affidavit says.
The warrant requested the use of K-9 and cadaver dogs to search the property.
Other items seized included a receipt from a store in Eureka dated Dec. 28, according to the warrant.
In previous court documents, it was revealed that the couple was seen in the Eureka area on the afternoon of Dec. 30 heading west on U.S. 6 out of town. The couple started driving on Dec. 30 and had planned to stop in Spanish Fork before going home to Eureka, where the two live with Powell's grandfather.
Juab County Sheriff Doug Anderson declined to comment Monday on the search warrant. He said there are currently several "investigative leads" in the case but no persons of interest. He added that several warrants have been served as part of the investigation and different leads are coming into his office each day.
The sheriff and investigators on the case met with family members of the missing couple for about 90 minutes Monday. Hunt said detectives did not release a lot of new information in order to avoid compromising the investigation.
"Walking away (from the meeting), it was more like we're back where we started. We still don't have any more information than what we began with," she told the Deseret News.
However, she said the family remains confident in the work the sheriff's office is doing, noting that they believe they have developed "strong leads."2 comments on this story
Hunt said cadaver dogs were used on the property of Powell's mother, but nothing was found. Both Powell's mother and grandmother were present at Monday's meeting with the sheriff, she said. Hunt said they knew the search warrant information would be released at some point.
"They've been very involved with the investigation so they were aware it was going to come out," Hunt said.
She said her family will just keeping spreading the word, reminding the public to keep their eyes out for Riley and Breezy. There is still a $5,000 reward for information leading to their discovery.