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'I lost my mind,' says teen charged with murdering ranch counselor

In taped interview, 17-year-old says pill addiction 'took over my mind'

Turn-About Ranch is pictured in Escalante on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. The Garfield County Sheriff's Office said a 61-year-old man died from injuries he sustained during an assault, and a female staff member was injured when she confronted the suspect. A 17-
Turn-About Ranch is pictured in Escalante on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. The Garfield County Sheriff's Office said a 61-year-old man died from injuries he sustained during an assault, and a female staff member was injured when she confronted the suspect. A 17-year-old boy was arrested.
Marc Weaver, Deseret News

PANGUITCH — Handcuffed to a hospital bed in December after police say he violently beat a staff member to death and fled from a rehabilitative youth ranch, 17-year-old Clay Brewer told the man who arrested him he wasn't thinking about going to jail.

Instead, he expressed concern about the man who was dead, James "Jimmy" Woolsey, 61.

"I don't care about going to jail," Brewer told the sheriff's deputy in a videotaped interview. "What I care about is Jimmy. I found out he has a 12-year-old daughter."

Deputy Eric Dunton told Brewer he agreed that Woolsey was a good man, and explained that he knew his young daughter.

"I taught her to ride a bike," Dunton said.

Video of the conversation between the teenager and the deputy was played in court Thursday during a preliminary hearing for Brewer. Sixth District Judge Marvin Bagley later determined there was sufficient evidence to order Brewer to stand trial for the staff member's death.

Brewer is charged as an adult with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, and multiple other crimes. Because he is a juvenile, he cannot face a death penalty if convicted of the capital offense. The charge carries a potential punishment of 25 years and up to life in prison.

The 17-year-old is accused of beating Woolsey to death with a metal fire poker on Dec. 6 as he attempted to escape the ranch, as well as striking another staff member in the head before stealing her car and speeding off in a chase with Dunton and another deputy.

As the deputy told him his choices would carry serious consequences, Brewer said in the video he wished he could undo what had been done. Not just that day, he explained, but going back several years to a path that would eventually lead him to addiction.

"I just wish I could go back and change everything, because honestly it took over my mind enough to hurt a man," Brewer said.

After saying he had been deeply hurt by his parents' divorce when he was about 14, Brewer told Dunton he caved to pressure from older friends and began chewing tobacco. As a sophomore in high school, he also started taking pills.

"I've done them since, every day, several times a day," Brewer explained, speaking quickly, quietly and without emotion.

Brewer had been at the Turn-About Ranch in Garfield County for just five days when he allegedly attacked Woolsey. The rural program left Brewer alone with his thoughts, he said, and the thoughts turned dark as he detoxed. In the video, he claimed he drank bleach in an attempt to kill himself, told Turn-About staffers he was having suicidal thoughts, and then stayed up most of the night feeling unloved and abandoned by his parents.

"I just wasn't in my right mind. I've never seen myself be like that before," Brewer said.

Brewer told the deputy that the next morning, he told another boy he was planning to escape and invited him to join. He grabbed the fire iron, waited in the "circle" where his group would meet, and as soon as Woolsey walked up, he said he stuck the man in the head when he wasn't looking.

In the video, Brewer estimated he struck Woolsey about 10 times, agreeing the blows had mostly been to the head.

Brewer said he tried to drag Woolsey's body out of sight, but he was too heavy.

"I paused, I couldn't bear to think about what I had just done," the 17-year-old said, explaining how he fought tears as he shed two layers of bloody clothing.

That's when he saw another staff member, Alicia Keller, approaching, though he didn't know her name at the time. He realized she'd seen Woolsey's body when she ducked into a nearby cabin.

"I charged the cabin. I think I hit her once or twice," Brewer said, going on to describe how Keller begged him not to hurt her as he apologized and took her car keys.

Not knowing how to unlock the woman's car, Brewer told Dunton he broke the window and sped off, heading into the nearby town of Escalante where Dunton and another deputy took up chase. Brewer told Dunton he knew it was just a matter of time before police caught him, and he intended to act like he had a gun to try to get the officers to shoot him so that he could die.

"When you're coming off of drugs and tobacco like I was, you lose your mind. That's where I was. I lost my mind."

In another video taken from Dunton's body camera just after Brewer was pulled from the overturned car Dunton had hit to bring the fleeing boy to a stop, Brewer is seen sitting in the back of the deputy's SUV.

Dunton compared Brewer to "a caged animal" wanting to escape, testifying that his pupils were widely dilated. He described the teen as covered in dirt, unkempt, with his hygiene neglected and dark circles under his eyes.

In the video, Brewer tells Dunton, "When you guys were chasing me, it was like I felt nothing. It took over my whole life, it really does control me."

Then, as Dunton tells Brewer his erratic driving could have killed someone, noting a nearby elementary school, Brewer asks the deputy if he had heard what happened at the ranch.

"Did you hear about the man at Roundy? Is he still alive?"

As the videos ended, Dunton was emotional on the witness stand, saying simply: "I think the video speaks for itself."

On the stand, Dunton described Woolsey's death as "barbaric" and "savage." He said he knew the man personally.

"In a town of 700 people, you know everybody," he said.

While Dunton said Brewer didn't appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, on cross-examination, Brewer's attorney, Ron Yengich, pressed the deputy on whether he tested Brewer for drugs at the hospital, whether he had asked the boy if he had used drugs, or recognized the signs of someone going through withdrawals.

Dunton answered no, saying that because Brewer had been at the ranch for five days he believed he hadn't used drugs. Yengich asked whether he'd looked into whether the teen could have gotten access to drugs while at the ranch.

"It didn't even occur to me," Dunton replied.

Brewer returns to court June 22.

In addition to aggravated murder, the teen is also charged with attempted aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, first-degree felonies; failing to respond to an officer's commands, a third-degree felony; tampering with evidence and reckless endangerment, class A misdemeanors; plus theft and reckless driving, class B misdemeanors. The judge ordered Brewer to stand trial on all eight charges.