James Brenner is a Utah felon who has been named as a suspect in the disappearance of Dylan Rounds, a missing farmer whose family has offered a large reward after he vanished into thin air in May 2022.
Brenner, Rounds’ neighbor, was named by authorities in July, according to The Jefferson Star. James Brenner, 58, is in federal custody on firearms charges, the newspaper reports.
According to ABC4, Rounds’ family is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to his whereabouts. Rounds, 19, “operated a farm near the town of Lucin in western Box Elder County,” in Utah, according to the television station.
Brenner was named as a suspect in Rounds’ disappearance in court documents filed in connection to the federal charges.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Brenner Was Squatting on Land Near Rounds’ Farm, Authorities Say
The affidavit for a federal criminal complaint makes it clear that Brenner is a suspect in Rounds’ disappearance, although it mentions Rounds only by his initials. It charges Brenner with being a felon in possession of a firearm on or around June 8, 2022.
You can read the affidavit in the federal case here.
The affidavit was written by a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who is assigned to a violent crimes task force.
“On May 30, 2022, Box Elder County dispatch received a call of a missing 19-yearold male initials D.R. He was last seen in Lucin, Utah area,” the affidavit says. “On this day, D.R. contacted a relative by phone and told them that he was ‘putting the grain truck into shelter.'”
According to the affidavit, the shelter for the grain truck was reported to be on a parcel of land owned by Box Elder Land and Livestock (owner initials J.C.) and “is adjacent to two other parcels that are owned by S.H. and R.I. These parcels are open to each other and collectively used together.”
Brenner has no ownership in the land parcels mentioned and is “squatting” in a trailer located on the land, the affidavit states. “The missing 19-year-old male D.R.’s property is a 5 mile walk towards the southeast of where Brenner was currently living,” the affidavit says.
2. Brenner Was Interviewed by Authorities in Connection With Rounds’ Disappearance
Authorities have provided a timeline of Rounds’ last known activities.
“Dylan was, in fact, seen in Montello before his disappearance on the 26th of May, not the 27th as reported on social media,” the Elko County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a news release. Montello is located in Nevada.
“He ate at a local establishment there and then returned to Utah. Cell phone data was used to track Dylan’s phone around his farm near Lucin, UT.”
Rounds then made a phone call to a family member on the 28th at 6:51 a.m. Mountain Time, according to the release. “We can confirm that phone call was made from the farm based off the cell data. The last cell phone data communication from Dylan’s phone was on the 28th of May near his farm in Box Elder County, in the state of Utah.”
According to the release, “Dylan disappeared sometime after he made that phone call. Based upon the information above, jurisdiction for this case is retained by Utah law enforcement.”
The department was first notified of the case on May 31, 2022, when they responded to Montello on a call that someone was being held hostage in Montello. They searched a residence with the consent of the owner. The release does not provide additional details about the hostage angle.
According to ABC4, Rounds called his grandmother on May 28.
According to the affidavit, Brenner and another Lucin resident, D.H., were considered “family friends” of D.R. and his family. “In searching for the missing 19-year-old male, Brenner was interviewed by BECSO on June 7, 2022. D.H. was also subsequently interviewed by law enforcement…On or about June 11, 2022, Box Elder County in their search for the missing 19-year-old male D.R., requested assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Davis County Sheriff’s office,” the affidavit says.
On June 16, 2022, BECSO, with the assistance of the FBI, “executed a search warrant at the trailer where Brenner was living. During that search, ball ammunition, ignition caps, black powder, and speed loads, all related to ‘muzzle loading’ were located and photographed in the trailer, but the items were not seized at this time by BECSO,” it continues. “There were no muzzle loader firearms located in the trailer at that time.”
On June 20, 2022, a friend and neighbor of Brenner, D.H. was interviewed by BECSO and the FBI. “During that interview, D.H. advised that after D.R. went missing, and sometime after Brenner’s initial June 7, 2022, interview with BECSO, Brenner brought three black powder guns over to D.H.’s residence and asked him to ‘safekeep’ them,” the affidavit alleges.
When D.H. asked ‘why,’ Brenner “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,'” it reads. “D.H. agreed to store the muzzle loaders for him. At the time of the interview D.H, turned over the three muzzle loaders to BECSO who booked them into evidence.”
On June 21, 2022, D.H. was again interviewed by the FBI. During this interview, D.H. “advised that Brenner had also brought him a .22 caliber rifle around the same time he had brought over the muzzle loaders. D.H. told us that he didn’t mention the .22 rifle when interviewed before because he had been owed money by the rifle’s original owner and that he felt that he should have a claim over the .22 rifle that Brenner asked him to store, to cover the debt.”
The affidavit further alleges:
He explained to us that the rifle had been left in a trailer on the property where Brenner had been living, prior to Brenner living there, by a person who owed D.H. money. Brenner upon moving into the trailer had taken possession of it. D.H. knew that Brenner wasn’t allowed to have firearms because of his criminal history. D.H. turned over to the FBI the .22 rifle and case that Brenner had personally handed to him and had asked him to store. The rifle was loaded with 5 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition.
The .22 caliber rifle is a Winchester Model 69, 22 S.L.ORL. On the rifle it says ‘Made in New Haven Conn.’ No serial number was located.
On June 21, 2022, another search warrant was conducted at the trailer where Brenner was currently living. During this warrant, BECSO seized a muzzle loader, one box of .45 lead round ball ammunition, one box of Spear .570 lead ball, one box of Federal .45 lead ball ammunition, ignition caps, 4 pounds of Hornady black powder, and speed loads and booked them into evidence.
3. Brenner Was Previously Convicted of Felonies, Including a Gun Charge
Brenner has a criminal history.
On May 21, 2012, James Brenner “was sentenced to 33 months in prison for a conviction of felon in possession of a firearm. Brenner also has additional felony convictions on his criminal history,” the affidavit says.
Daily Beast reports that Brenner’s criminal history includes “malicious wounding, malicious shooting” and multiple charges of felon in possession of a firearm.
According to East Idaho News, more details came out at Brenner’s detention hearing on the federal gun charge, with prosecutors labeling him dangerous.
That site reports that he has an “outstanding warrant from Box Elder County where he allegedly beat up a man using a lawn chair. And he also served time for attempted murder.”
“Oh he has a lengthy history of violence,” said deputy U.S. attorney Carlos Esqueda at that hearing, according to East Idaho News. “He had a shoot-out before. He has a history of shooting at people and despite that, he’s a convicted felon. He continues to carry firearms.”
Brenner’s attorney countered that the attempted murder charge was thirty years ago and dropped to “malicious shooting.” She said “he had two gun violations over the past 30 years,” East Idaho News reported.
Brenner was denied bail.
In contrast, Rounds’ life was devoted to farming, his family says.
Rounds’ mother, Candice Cooley, shared photos of him on her Facebook page. She wrote:
…you see since Dylan was little he has been a farmer, it was his passion. From the time he could walk he would try to keep up with his dad and grandpa. Dylan could drive a tractor by himself before most kids could ride a bike. From as early as 10 years old he was growing pumpkin patches and sweet corn to sale. The Rigby community knew every summer there would be Dylan’s sweet corn for sale under the County Line over pass. Please if you have pictures of Dylan working with you share share share. Dylan is a true American Farmer born in a generation that does not understand, lets help show him to the world.
According to the Elko County Sheriff’s Office, the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office has jurisdiction in the case.
4. Brenner Helped on the Farm of Rounds, Who Was Described as ‘Strong-headed’ & Passionate
Cooley, Rounds’ mother, described him in a Facebook post as “one of the best 19 year olds, hardworking, passionate and strong headed.”
According to East Idaho News, Rounds’ mother says Brenner “often helped her son at his farm.”
The Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release that the office is “making continual efforts to locate Dylan Rounds and to investigate the circumstances surrounding his disappearance. This is an active law enforcement/missing person/criminal investigation.”
Volunteer teams have logged over 300 hours “searching, covering over 3,000 miles…” Detective have worked on the case for more than 650 hours, the Sheriff’s Office said in the release.
A private investigator named Jason Jensen told ABC4: “Something of a foul play has happened to Dylan…He was excited to be farming there. His crop was about to come to fruition for the first time. So he was excited.”
A post on the Facebook group devoted to finding Rounds says, “My heart feels heavy after helping in the physical search for Dylan Rounds the past few days. Hundreds of places have been searched. Our rzr saw over 130 miles in 2 days. We hiked to a cave, looked in mine shafts, studied ravines, abandoned buildings and trailers. We saw rain, wind, and a lot of dust. Many many people came together to search.”
5. Rounds’ Boots Were Located
A few clues have emerged.
ABC4 reported that his family found his truck on Memorial Day and it had not been moved, but, oddly, it had been power washed.
“His boots were found a short distance from the farm property and they’re now being analyzed,” the station reported.
Rounds’ mother told East Idaho News that his boots “were found near where Brenner was staying on her son’s property.”
“It looked like they were just tossed out there,” mother Candice Cooley said to that news outlet.
According to Local News 8, the boots were located “behind a dirt pile, 100 yards from where his grain truck was parked.”
According to ABC4, Rounds’ mother is frustrated.
“Stuff like this doesn’t happen without people knowing,” Cooley said to the television station. “They’re just not talking. Somebody tell us something. We have no direction right now.”
According to ABC4, there was a strange incident before Rounds disappeared. A bloodied man asked him for a ride “days before his disappearance”
But his mother told the television station that she doesn’t think the man has anything to do with it. According to ABC4, he’s a “fugitive from Montana” who is being held in jail on “unrelated charges.”
LocalNews8 provided additional details about this encounter and man. The station quoted Rounds’ mother as saying he told her “about a bloody man who was walking on foot and came up out of the desert.” He wanted a ride, but Rounds’ family initially believed that Rounds didn’t give him one, the station reported.
However, the family figured out the man’s identity in Lucin, a town near the farm. The television station gave his name as Chase and said he contacted the family to say Rounds did actually give him a ride. The conversation “lessened” the family’s suspicions, the television station reported.