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‘The whole town will be heartbroken’: Community reacts after bodies found in abandoned mine near Eureka

Posted at 9:36 PM, Mar 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-28 23:36:40-04

EUREKA, Utah -- Wednesday's discovery of two bodies that likely belong to a pair of missing Juab County teens has left the town they lived in devastated.

Several residents in Eureka became emotional while talking about their reaction to hearing the news.

Janice Boswell, who has lived in Eureka her entire life and knew Riley Powell since he was young, said everyone suspected the he and his girlfriend Breezy Otteson were no longer alive, but they were hoping to find otherwise.

"We know the family. So it’s just heartbreaking for... I know the whole town will be heartbroken," she said, wiping tears from her cheek as she spoke.

Breezy and Riley have been missing since December 30, which led to an exhaustive search effort that included authorities, family members and many residents of the town of Eureka.

Heike Anderson often joined the effort to look for the two. She said Wednesday's news brought a small sense of relief, after they've waited nearly three months for closure.

"I had kids from high school coming in here crying," she said. "Sad that it’s true."

At the same time, she said they want to know what happened to Breezy and Riley.

"I think people are angry because they don’t understand—and how can you understand? No one deserves it," she said.

Investigators are working to understand, and have been since the pair disappeared.

Search warrants unsealed in February showed police poured over the property where Riley's mother, Mistie Carlson, and her boyfriend, Lee Shepherd, live—as well as phone data and social media accounts.

According to the warrants, the sheriff's office was looking for evidence of homicide. They did report finding a tow strap matching a piece of a tow strap found under Riley's abandoned Jeep.

A witness told police they saw Shepherd's truck towing the Jeep.

Stories of where Shepherd and Carlson were on New Year's Eve, the day after the teen couple went missing, didn't match what other people told authorities.

Shepherd refused to cooperate with police and wouldn't come in for an interview, according to the search warrant.

On Wednesday, Fox 13 went to the Lofgreen property and Shepherd said they had no comment.

For the town, Anderson said there was still a little bit of hope that Riley and Breezy would be found alive, but now that's gone.

"It was more focused on where are they," she said. "Now it’s like, who did this and what happened, exactly? I sure hope they find out."