ESCALANTE, Garfield County — A 17-year-old boy accused of beating a staff member at a youth rehabilitation facility to death had only been at the facility for less than a week and did not have any grudge against the staffer, according to the sheriff.
"It's just that Jimmy was there. I don't know why he did that. It was nothing personal. It's just these are troubled kids," Garfield County Sheriff James Perkins said.
On Wednesday, the sheriff's office identified the deceased staff member as James "Jimmy" Woolsey, 61, of Escalante. Woolsey had worked at the Turn-About Ranch for about five years.
Perkins said Woolsey lived in the area his whole life, and everybody loved him.
"Everybody knew Jimmy," Perkins said. "He's just a good guy. He loved to hunt, loved to fish. The kids (at the ranch) had nothing by praise for Jimmy."
Woolsey, who is survived by his wife and a 10-year-old daughter, was a "jovial, easygoing" guy, he said.
Even the 17-year-old accused of violently attacking Woolsey, resulting in his death, had mentioned in his short time at the ranch that he liked him.
"He had spoke very highly of this guy. He was just simply unhappy to be there and he wanted to leave. Why he (did) what he did, I don't know," Perkins said.
The teen, from Arizona whose name had not been released as of Wednesday, had only been at the Turn-About Ranch for four or five days, the sheriff said. Perkins believes Tuesday's incident was premeditated because the teen allegedly told another juvenile at the camp on Monday night that he intended to leave.
"I don't really think there was any conversations about murdering somebody, just that he was going to leave," Perkins said.
About 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, the teen and another juvenile woke up from the cabin they were sleeping in and went outside to an area known as "the circle" to start a fire, make breakfast and do other chores.
About 7:30 a.m., Woolsey came out to check on the boys.
"When Jimmy come to check on him, he had a weapon that he had hid. And when Jimmy turned around, he hit him in the head. And when Jimmy hit the ground, he continued to hit him for some time," the sheriff said.
Perkins declined to say what kind of weapon the boy had. He said Woolsey was hit from behind and knocked to the ground after the first blow, but the teen continued to strike him multiple times in the head.
"It was a brutal, vicious, violent, very violent attack," he said.
The other boy ran back to the cabin where another staffer and approximately four more teens were at. During this time, the 17-year-old allegedly took Woolsey's car keys. But when he couldn't get his car to start, he went after another staffer.
That woman was hit on the head a couple of times before she got into the cabin and attempted to close the door. The teenager demanded that she give him her car keys or he would kill her, Perkins said.
After driving off in the woman's car, a high-speed chase through Escalante ensued. Perkins said the teen was hitting gutters and going airborne and nearly hit the mayor and his wife who were out walking.
"He was reckless, he had no value of his life or anybody else's. Those (pursuing deputies) got him shut down in a really short period of time. They saved somebody's life over there. I guarantee if this would have went on very long, there would have been more tragedy," Perkins said.
The deputies used a PIT maneuver to stop the fleeing vehicle. The boy, who suffered only minor injuries, was taken to a local hospital as a precaution, Perkins said. He was expected to be released Wednesday and taken to a juvenile detention facility in Richfield. The female staffer that was assaulted was also treated for cuts to her head.
Charges against the boy were pending as of Wednesday.
A GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses for Woolsey was set up by friends in Escalante.