16-year-old Jchandra Brown, who lived in Spanish Fork, Utah, about 50 miles from Salt Lake City, was known as “Jelly” because she loved Jelly Belly candy. Family and friends loved her sweet and bubbly personality.
Brown had another side to her, however, and was prone to depression. On May 6, 2017, a turkey hunter in a wooded area in Payson Canyon found a young woman hanging from a noose made from white nylon rope.
Responding to the hunter’s 911 call, police confirmed that the girl was dead. Near her feet was a cell phone, canned air, which can be inhaled for a euphoric high, and a fast-food restaurant name tag. The badge read: Jelly.
The deceased victim was identified as Jchandra Brown, whose mother had reported her missing to police the night before. Authorities cleared the hunter as a suspect and believed the case was a “self-inflicted homicide,” they told “Accident, Suicide or Murder,” airing Saturdays at 7/6c on Oxygen.
An entry in a notebook found in a bag near the body supported the theory. “My name is Jchandra Brown,” she wrote, adding that she hated her life. She left instructions to watch a video on her cell phone, which was also at the scene.
While they waited, they discovered that in a sack near the body there was a receipt for the white cord. It was bought on May 5 by 18-year-old Tyerell Przybycien, who, detectives learned, was the victim’s friend.
As investigators urgently set out to find him, Przybycien walked up to a Utah County Sheriff’s official at the scene “in tears. He said he’d picked the girl up at her fast-food job and drove her to the canyon where she killed herself,” CBSnews.com reported in August 2017.
After powering up Brown’s phone, Sgt. Quin Fackrell, an investigator with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, was shocked by what he saw. In the video Brown is seen huffing a hit of canned air, passing out, and dying.
She wasn’t alone. She was being asked questions by the person recording her last moments. “I just felt something wasn’t right,” Fackrell told producers. “This person filming is making comments to her. Why isn’t he doing something to help her?”
As officials worked the case they learned Brown had written a letter to her mother, explaining and apologizing for her suicide. Brown did have a role in her death.
But sheriffs grappled with Przybycien’s part. If he helped her die by suicide, did it constitute a crime? In 2017, Utah had no law against assisted suicide.
In an interview with officials, Przybycien admitted he felt guilty.
“He told us that he returned to the crime scene to collect the noose,” said Sgt. Josh Chappell, former investigator of the Utah County’s Sheriff’s Office. “He wanted it as a trophy.”
At that point authorities determined that they had probable cause, according to Ryan McBride, deputy attorney, Utah County Attorney’s Office. Przybycien was booked on the charges of murder and reckless endangerment.
To build their case, investigators dug deep into the relationship between the suspect and the victim. Friends of the teens told officials that they two shared a tight, if inexplicable, bond. One friend told producers that Brown had “a lot of depression” and Przybycien “had twisted tendencies.”
Another witness told authorities that Przybycien and Brown had a pact. She’d end her life, then he’d do the same thing.
Authorities focused on Przybycien’s digital trail — emails, texts, social media posts — to search for signs of premeditation in Brown’s death. A pattern emerged.
Przybycien’s texts about Brown’s suicide began in January 2017 and became more frequent in the weeks and days before May 6, McBride told producers.
In an exchange 17 days before then, Przybycien texted: “What you do if you knew a friend was trying to commit suicide?” the Washington Post reported in 2017. The friend replied, “Talk them out of ut [sic].”
“‘The thing is,’” Przybycien replied, the report continued, “I wanna help kill them. It be awesome. Seriously im going to help her. Its like getting away with murder! . . . I’m seriously not joking. It’s going down in about a week or two.”
“There was no doubt that Jchandra had taken the final step in committing suicide,” Chad Grunander, deputy attorney, Utah County Attorney’s Office, told producers. “And that that’s what ultimately had caused her death, but there was a question whether Tyerell Przybycien was criminally responsible for helping to cause the death of Jchandra Brown.”
Investigators knew that he had bought the rope, tied the noose, and brought her to the spot where she’d die. Przybycien had also done online research into ways to die by suicide, he told investigators.
As detectives went further into Przybycien’s texts, shocking communications came to light. In one, they told producers, he asked Brown, “Can I mutilate your body and cut your head off and dispose of it somewhere else?”
In addition to charges of reckless endangerment and desecration of a human body, Przybycien was booked for murder.
In October 2017, Przybycien pleaded not guilty to charges. But after prosecutors learned that he had written letters from jail telling a friend not to cooperate with authorities, Przybycien was also charged with witness tampering.
“The balance of the case changed,” said Grunander.
Przybycien and his attorneys wanted to negotiate. On October 23, 2018, he pleaded guilty to child abuse homicide, a first degree felony with a lower minimum sentence. He was sentenced to five years to life in prison.
Brown’s mother told producers she’d be there when Przybycien faces the parole board. “My daughter is gone,” she said. “My heart is gone.”