PROVO — Jchandra Brown's family knew what her immediate future held before she died at age 16: prom, cheerleading tryouts and a trip to visit close friends in her native Idaho.
More than a year and a half after her death, they wrestle with how the rest of the spunky teenager's life would have played out — where she would have gone to college, whether she would serve a mission in her faith and who she might marry one day.
"There never will be true justice for Jchandra, because she never will come home," her mother, Sue Bryan, said in a crowded courtroom Friday, wiping away tears.
Her family came closer to justice Friday when a judge ordered at least five years and up to life in prison for the 19-year-old man who helped her die in Payson Canyon and took video of the process.
Tyerell Przybycien admitted in October that he bought rope, tied a noose, built a pedestal and did not try to save Jchandra on May 5, 2017. He was originally charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony, after reaching a plea bargain with prosecutors.
At the time of Jchandra's death, Utah's criminal code didn't address penalties for helping a person carry out suicide. The case motivated Utah lawmakers to add the offense to the state's manslaughter statute earlier this year.
Jchandra, who loved Batman and her young nephews, would still be alive if not for Przybycien, prosecutors said Friday. They called him a "sociopath" who researched ways to die and carefully measured the rope, nooses and trees.
The pair, who both attended Spanish Fork High School, knew each other for some time. But Jchandra didn't confide in Przybycien that she had thoughts of suicide until about a month before her death, said Utah County prosecutor Chad Grunander.
"She was an anxious, downcast teenager … trying to find her place in the world," Grunander said. "He pounced on her suicidal ideations and exploited them."
After the hearing, the girl's mother said Jchandra had recently lost her grandfather in a car crash and had broken up with her boyfriend, but she didn't believe the teen would have taken her life without Przybicien's encouragement.
On the day of her death, Przybycien picked up the girl from work and drove her to a spot near Maple Lake, court documents show. After turkey hunters found her body the next day, investigators found several items at her feet, including a receipt with his name for the purchase of a rope, a note referencing the recording on her phone that was left there and a can of air duster, court documents say.
On Friday, family members in the courtroom cried as they held poster-size pictures of Jchandra with an illustrated floral headdress matching her bright blue hair and a peace-sign necklace.
"Every day I wake up and have to live the horror of her death over and over again. And every morning I wake up hoping it's not true," her mother said.
Later in the hearing, a shackled Przybycien apologized to her.
"I'm hoping, although I don't deserve it, the victim's family will be able to forgive me for my immature and thoughtless and rash decisions," he said. "What I did, I'm not proud."
He added he will try to improve so that one day he can have a career, family and home, he added.
But prosecutors argued he has not shown remorse, even bragging about the girl's death, writing to others that he plans to get a tattoo of a noose and cheering news of rising suicide rates in Utah.
Stewart said his client had recently turned 18 at the time of the girl's death and meant to help her, though "how he chose to help was obviously wrong." A mixture of alcohol and drug use, combined with his client's developing teen brain, led to "poor decisions," Stewart said. He asked the judge to impose jail time and probation instead of prison.
But Przybycien is likely to reoffend if released, argued Utah County deputy attorney Christine Scott. She read from statements he allegedly made to family members and friends, saying he likes child pornography, feels attraction for his 12-year-old cousin and rejects his family.
"These are the types of people for whom prisons were built," she said.
Przybycien's family members painted a different picture of him. They recalled a young Tyerell as a math whiz who was helpful to his family and spent time restoring and repairing old cars. His mother, Brittney Johnson, clutching a tissue, told the judge her son has a support system "that is behind him 110 percent."11 comments on this story
Her son showed little emotion as the judge sentenced him to five years in prison and up to life in the girl's death. He also received a lesser prison term of up to five years on a separate conviction of attempting to exploit a minor, a third-degree felony, after investigators found child pornography on his phone. The judge allowed the terms to run at the same time.
Those experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide can reach a crisis worker 24/7 by calling a Utah crisis hotline at 801-587-3000 or using the SafeUT app.