• Rod Kackley

Left To Die in the Desert

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

Jan Pearson Jenkins was only wearing shorts and a top as the sixty-four-year-old woman stood alone in the desert of western Utah’s Juab County, watching her ex-boyfriend Cody Alexander Young driving away.

They’d been camping, got into a fight, and Cody stormed off to his van, fired it up, and took off.

What was she going to do? The talented pianist — Jan played duets in churches and went to concerts with her brother, Jace Pearson. An intelligent human being who’d never done anyone wrong.

But she got hooked up with the wrong guy. Cody got her started on meth. There was no turning back.

And now here she was, alone, on a windy, rainy, October day — left alone to die.

Two weeks later, a rescue team, organized by Jace, discovered Jan’s naked body in a ghost town known as Silver City, at the mouth of the Dragon River, on the west flank of the East Tintic Mountains.

Her shorts and top were found nearby. Her body was bruised. It was apparent she’d been fighting with someone. But the injuries weren’t enough to kill her.

Jan died of hypothermia. That’s what the medical examiner would say after an autopsy.

The cops found Cody. He admitted he’d done wrong.

Damn. Jan didn't have to die, Cody admitted. He told police that he’d only driven a couple of miles away from Jan after kicking her out of the van.

He’d stopped. Smoked a cigarette. Thought about turning around.

But then he got back in and drove away.

Yes, Cody took responsibility for Jan’s death.

“She deserved better,” he said. “I hope none of us have to lay anywhere and die.”

But he argued Jan’s family was also to blame.

After all, he’d sent her family emails telling them what had happened and where they could find Jan. He knew the emails had been opened. Cody said to them he was tired of Jan and “left her out there.”

He claimed Jan’s family never responded.

He even sent Jan a text a few days after driving away from her. Cody asked if she was okay.

Cody will pay. He copped a plea bargain about a year-and-a-half after leaving Jan in the desert. The price for Jan's death in the desert: a year in jail for second-degree manslaughter.

Judge Anthony Howell agreed with Cody that he bore the ultimate responsibility for Jan’s death.

“When you left her, you left her to die,” Howell said as he sentenced Cody. Judge Howell also noted that Cody not only drove away from Jan but also abandoned her with no way to survive.

“That is controlling, awful domestic violence,” proclaimed the judge, “and you knew it.”

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