On March 3, 2023, the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office announced a suspect has been charged with murder in the disappearance of missing 19-year-old Dylan Rounds.
Dylan was featured in Dateline’s ‘Missing in America’ series in June 2022. Dateline spoke with his parents, Justin Rounds and Candice Cooley. They said that Dylan grew up in Idaho but owned a farm in Lucin, Utah that he purchased with his grandfather in 2019. He spent most nights living in his camper on the farm.
On Saturday, May 28, 2022, Dylan spoke with his grandmother on the phone from the farm. That was the last time anyone heard from him.
By Monday, May 30, Candice reported her son missing.
On July 7, 2022, the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office announced that then 58-year-old James Brenner was considered a suspect in Dylan’s disappearance.
According to June 2022 court documents, Brenner was “squatting” in a trailer located a few miles away from Dylan’s property. Dylan’s mother, Candice, told NBC affiliate KSL in July 2022 that at one point, Brenner lived on Dylan’s property, where he helped him bale hay. She said that she didn’t know Brenner “real well” but never had “any reason for alarm.”
The court documents state that on June 16, 2022, the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office, along with the FBI, searched Brenner’s trailer and discovered, “ball ammunition, ignition caps, black powder, and speed loads, all related to ‘muzzle loading.’”
Brenner had a criminal history. As detailed in the June 2022 court documents, on May 21, 2012, he was sentenced to 33 months in prison after having been convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, the documents state.
On June 20, 2022, one month after Dylan’s disappearance, a friend and neighbor of Brenner’s was interviewed by law enforcement. The documents state that the neighbor told officials that “Brenner brought three black powder guns over to [his] residence and asked him to “safekeep” them. When [the neighbor] asked “Why?” Brenner allegedly stated that he needed to do this for “his own safety” and that “the last time he had trouble with the law they took everything from him, and he did not want the things he had left to be taken again.” Brenner also allegedly brought the neighbor a .22 caliber rifle.
A few days later, Brenner was charged with three counts of felony use of a firearm by a restricted person.
And just last week, on March 3, Brenner was charged with “criminal homicide, aggravated murder” and “abuse or desecration of a human body” in the Dylan Rounds case. The probable cause statement lays out the evidence against Brenner.
It states that during the search for Dylan, “deputies discovered a pair of boots belonging to [Dylan] nearby. One boot had a blood stain that DNA analysis confirmed belonged to the victim in addition to DNA belonging to [Brenner].” It goes on to say that Dylan’s phone records also show movement on the day of his disappearance in the same area that Brenner was squatting.
Deputies were also able to locate Dylan’s phone. According to the probable cause statement, Dylan’s phone last pinged at Lucin Pond in Utah and a search of the pond led officials to discover his phone. In the statement, officials said, “A digital forensic download of the phone was conducted and led to the discovery of a time-lapse video with a time stamp taken at the time of [Dylan’s] disappearance.” The video showed Brenner with “blood stains on his arms and shirt as he is cleaning a gun.” The shirt Brenner was wearing in the video was analyzed and Dylan’s DNA was found on it.
Despite a thorough search, the statement said, Dylan’s body has not been found due to Brenner “removing and concealing it.”
Dateline reached out to Brenner’s attorney for comment but has not yet received a response.
On March 3, the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office announced in a press release that they are hopeful that Dylan’s body “will be found in the future.”
After the additional charges were announced last week, Dylan’s mother, Candice, told NBC affiliate KSL that her family “has fought so hard for charges” to be brought against Brenner and that they have “won the first battle.”
Candice told KSL that her family is determined to find Dylan’s body and will begin the search again immediately after the weather improves in Utah. “We will spend the whole summer finding my son and we will find him,” she said.
Brenner is currently being held at the Weber County Jail in Ogden on those unrelated firearms charges.