Paul Wayment's story is a horrific tragedy. First, Wayment lost his 2-year-old son, Gage. On Wednesday, Wayment took his own life in the same locale where his son was found frozen to death last fall after wandering off from Wayment's pickup truck as he hunted deer.
Wayment was to have begun serving a 30-day jail sentence Wednesday for contributing to his son's death. When Wayment didn't surrender to jailers as scheduled, law enforcers launched a search for him. Wayment was found three hours later, dead of a self-inflicted gunshot. More tragic consequences.
As Utahns process the events of the past few months, they are, rightly, mourning. A young father, overcome with grief over the death of his son, takes his own life. What a very sad sequence of events.
It is also appropriate to take stock of the circumstances that have brought us to this place. Paul Wayment left his son asleep in a car seat while he scouted a hunting area in the mountains above Coalville on Oct. 26, 2000. The boy somehow got out of the truck and wandered off into the woods. Five days later, his frozen body was found by a search volunteer. Evidence indicated the boy roamed about the woods for quite some time, as the rubber soles on the feet of his pajamas were worn through. An autopsy revealed Gage died of hypothermia.
The case was referred to prosecutors, who made a difficult decision to charge Wayment for his role in the boy's death. Society must hold accountable those who fail to protect their children.
That's why Summit County prosecutors charged Wayment in the death of his son. It's why 3rd District Court Judge Robert Hilder imposed a jail sentence.
While a jail sentence could in no way compare to Wayment's regret and remorse, it did demonstrate that Gage's life had worth.
It serves no purpose to demonize prosecutors or Hilder, himself a father who experienced tragic loss when his own father committed suicide 20 years ago. They were upholding their respective responsibilities, doing what society expects them to do.