Utah farmer Dylan Rounds remains missing as prime suspect charged with murder

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Dylan Rounds, a teen farmer from Idaho who set out on his own in Utah and was expecting his first harvest when he vanished last year, remains unaccounted for one week after police charged his ex-con neighbor with his murder.

James Brenner, 59, shot a man at a Maryland campground in the 1980s over a work dispute, court records show, and has been in custody since July after police found the felon unlawfully in possession of multiple firearms following the disappearance of Rounds, who was 19 when he was last seen and would be 20 today.

Box Elder County authorities announced the murder charge last week after they said they had recovered Rounds’ phone – and an incriminating video on it allegedly showing Brenner wearing bloody clothes and cleaning a gun.

Deputies found the clothes – and Rounds’ DNA on them, according to authorities.


Brenner was squatting on land next to Rounds’ property and where authorities found the missing man’s boots and farm truck, according to court documents. They found blood on one of the boots – as well as Brenner’s DNA, according to the criminal complaint.

Deputies first identified him as a suspect over the summer after his arrest on firearms charges. Now he faces a charge of aggravated murder, as well as abuse or desecration of a body, and is accused of concealing Rounds’ remains.

Candice Cooley, Rounds’ mother, told Fox News Digital at the time that Brenner was an “acquaintance” of her son, disputing the description in court filings, which referred to him as a “family friend.”


“I’m keeping it together as best I can,” she said at the time.

Brenner’s past criminal history includes malicious wounding, malicious shooting and three prior convictions for being a felon in possession of a firearm, court records show.

“The defendant has no work history and is currently unemployed and has no verifiable residence,” court documents state. “The defendant was trespassing and squatting on property.”

As part of their search for Rounds, investigators served several search warrants. Two of them led to federal cases against men who had interacted with Rounds before his disappearance – Brenner and Chase Venstra.

When police announced the murder charge against Brenner last week, they also ruled out the potential involvement of Venstra or any other suspects in Rounds’ disappearance.

According to a neighbor identified in court documents as DH, at some point after Rounds’ disappearance, Brenner asked him to conceal three black powder guns and a .22-caliber rifle without a serial number. After being contacted by the FBI, DH gave the weapons to authorities. Citing past felony convictions, they charged Brenner with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

“When Dylan Rounds was not located early on in the search effort, the investigation focused on the possibility of Dylan being the victim of a crime,” Palmer told Fox News Digital at the time. 

An Idaho native, Rounds went out on his own as a teenager to build up his own farm in Utah, according to Cooley. He had a passion for the work and spent no time playing video games or on social media like others his age, she said, and he did not use drugs. 

She suspected foul play almost immediately when family members lost contact with him.

Palmer had previously issued a blunt warning to anyone who may have been involved in Rounds’ disappearance.

“If somebody’s laying low that was involved in this or knows something, and they think they lay low long enough we’re just going to go away, that’s not going to happen,” he told Fox News Digital. “We’re going to keep at this until we get answers.”

The search for Rounds’ remains is ongoing in a rural area dotted with abandoned mines and cave systems.

“We are hopeful that they will be found,” Palmer said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office at 435-734-3800.

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