CEDAR CITY — A 31-year-old man who worked for a residential youth treatment center is dead, and police have arrested one of the two teenage boys they believe are responsible.

The two, who apparently fled to Las Vegas in a van owned by the center, were spotted by Nevada police late Tuesday night.

Police took one of the boys, Jesse Simmons, into custody at about 11 p.m. Police were still searching for the other teen, Sean Graham.

Anson Arnett, a counselor with Maximum Life Skills Academy, was attacked with a baseball bat late Monday and left for dead in a locked closet of the residential youth treatment home, Cedar City Police Lt. David Holm said.

Arnett died at 7:20 p.m. Tuesday at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City after being flown there from a Cedar City hospital, according to Holm.

Police were initially called to the youth home at 11:34 p.m. Monday on a report of a stolen vehicle, Holm said. The youth home is located at 1083 Bulloch Circle in a residential, multiple-housing zone.

"Mr. Arnett was found inside the home. He had been hit at least twice in the head with a baseball bat," Holm said. "It was a brutal attack."

The 17-year-olds also threatened the four other teenage boys staying at the youth home, according to owner Adam AhQuin.

"They (the boys) witnessed the whole thing. They were shocked," said AhQuin, 24, who opened the youth treatment center in May 2002. "Anson was checking a room, came up the stairs, and he was just attacked. We're all shocked."

Police said the teens stole a white 2002 15-passenger Dodge van with Utah license plate 953 WLU.

Graham, who is still being sought, is described as a black male, 5 feet 7 inches tall and 120 pounds with brown hair.

"Anson was just an awesome person. He was one of those people you can't imagine anyone ever trying to hurt," said AhQuin. "He was extremely talented, soft spoken and artistic."

Maximum Life Skills Academy is one of 196 licensed private residential treatment facilities across the state, Utah Department of Human Services spokeswoman Carol Sisco said. The company has had its license for about two years.

No problems had been noted nor complaints registered in that time, Sisco said.

Children in private facilities like Maximum Life Skills Academy are sent there by their parents and not through the juvenile court system or the Division of Youth Corrections.

Maximum Life is licensed to house up to 11 youths, ages 12-17. Six children were in the home Monday night, Sisco said. A DHS licensing expert was in Cedar City meeting with staff and reviewing facility logs to ensure the facility did not violate any of the licensing rules, she added.

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"One of the things that concerns us is that there was only one counselor on staff at the time," Sisco said.

Two counselors are required at all times to ensure the safety of both staff and residents, Sisco said. AhQuin said Arnett was working the graveyard shift alone, which is routine.

"I had a really strong feeling that I ought to work that shift, but I guess I can play the 'what if' scenario over and over again and never really get anywhere with it," AhQuin said. "Anson was just really gifted with the boys. This is so completely left field."


E-mail: nperkins@infowest.com

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