Suspect pleads guilty to Dylan Rounds’ murder, cause of death revealed

Posted at 10:10 AM, May 16, 2024

BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (Scripps News Salt Lake City) — A suspect arrested more than a year ago in the disappearance of a young Utah man pleaded guilty Wednesday to murder.

James Brenner stands in court

James Brenner pleaded guilty on May 15 to the murder of Dylan Rounds. (Scripps News Salt Lake City)

James Brenner, age 60, pleaded guilty to second-degree felony murder in the death of 19-year-old Dylan Rounds, and two counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person.

“It doesn’t necessarily put it to rest, but this court part of it and the anxiety of the consistently waiting, ‘What’s going to happen? When’s it going to happen? What if it doesn’t happen?’ That part we can finally lay to rest,” said Rounds’ mother, Candice Cooley.

During Wednesday’s preliminary hearing, it was also revealed for the first time that Rounds died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Rounds’ disappearance in 2022 caught attention nationwide as he was last seen over Memorial Day weekend in Montello, Nevada, 30 miles West of his home in Lucin, Utah.

The family said Rounds moved to the area to start his own farm.

READ MORE | Remains believed to be Dylan Rounds found two years later

Nearly a year after his disappearance, in 2023, James Brenner, age 60, was charged with murder in connection to the case.

Brenner had reportedly been “squatting” on a remote property near Rounds’ farm at the time of his disappearance. He was arrested after a pair of boots were found near the property that contained Rounds’ blood and Brenner’s DNA.

Additionally, during the investigation, officials found a time-lapse video showing Brenner cleaning a gun with blood stains on his arms and shirt. The shirt in the video was later seized and tested positively for Rounds’ DNA.

In April of 2024, the family reported that Brenner led authorities to where Rounds was buried as part of a plea agreement.

Dylan Rounds missing person photo

This undated photo provided by The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) shows Dylan Rounds. (NamUs)

Dozens of volunteers spent hours in the west desert of Utah with high-tech equipment to uncover Rounds’ remains. The Rounds family expressed at the time that their “ultimate goal,” was to “get Dylan back and move forward.”

The family has relied heavily on community support and help from the Missing in America Network.

“It gets to us personally in a sense that we just want to help and fix the problem,” said advocate Dani Guiterrez. “It’s important we have this strength together to help everyone.”

Officials said as part of the agreement, Brenner received a reduction from first-degree felony aggravated murder to second-degree felony murder. Additionally, the second charge, desecration of human remains, was dismissed. An unrelated case of aggravated assault that had no relation to the Rounds case was also dismissed.

As part of the plea agreement, sentences for each of the three charges will run consecutively and prison time for Brenner is mandatory.

“Only 1-15 is for murdering Dylan, the rest is gun charges,” said Cooley.

Brenner’s sentencing was scheduled for July 1 at 1:30 p.m.

This story was originally published by Emily Tencer at Scripps News Salt Lake City, an E.W. Scripps Company.