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Alicia Keller was not scheduled to work Tuesday morning.

She usually had just a few nights a week at the rehab facility near Escalante, clocking in late and coming home early the next day. But the 35-year-old woman had picked up the extra shift to cover for a co-worker who was out for surgery.

It started with the same humdrum as it always did — quiet until 6:30 a.m., when the students woke up and got to work. They would feed cattle, harvest crops, go to class. That's what the Turn-About Ranch does — takes kids from "the worst situations" and teaches them how to run a farm.

It was all operating the same way Tuesday — until Keller heard a scream at 7:30 a.m.

She ran toward it.

'She held it together' • Standing near a doorway was a 17-year-old boy. Some have said he was carrying a fire poker, others a shovel. The Garfield County Sheriff's Office won't confirm whether he had a weapon at all.

The teen apparently was attacking 61-year-old Jimmy Woolsey, a night guard at the facility who was lying on the ground. When Keller arrived, the boy turned to her, according to her father, Bob Rechtsteiner.

Keller held the doors shut so the teen couldn't get inside and hurt students, he said. The boy beat her hand, leaving fingers smashed and muscles twitching, and smacked her over the head. She remained standing and tossed her car keys onto the sidewalk so the teen would leave.

Before he picked them up off the ground, a student huddling nearby with three others uttered, "I don't want to die today." A male student who first witnessed the attack and ran for help broke down, Rechtsteiner said, recalling what his daughter told him later in the hospital.

"I don't know how she did everything right," he said, noting that the teen towered at least a foot over his 5-foot-tall daughter. "She was afraid and she held it together."

After the teen drove away in her car, Keller marched the four kids to the woods near the school to hide until officers arrived.

Trouble from a new face • The suspect — whom police are not identifying because he is a juvenile — drove toward Escalante, police have said. Two deputies responding to the scene tracked down the vehicle. A high-speed chase ensued. Officers stopped the car by crashing into its side and arrested the teen.

He remained in the hospital Wednesday, said Garfield County Attorney Barry Huntington. No charges have been filed. The boy will likely be tried for murder in juvenile court, though prosecutors are waiting for more information from police to finalize that determination.

Doctors released Keller from the hospital Tuesday afternoon, but she returned later when her parents noticed some memory problems. Her 9-year-old son cried when he saw his mom's head wrapped in white bandages, Rechtsteiner said.

"I question whether she's going to recover," he added.

Woolsey also was taken to a hospital, where he later died from significant head trauma. It was unclear what prompted the attack.

Michelle Lindsay, the ranch's executive director, said the student had been attending the school "just briefly." She could not say, specifically, how long he had been at the facility, but said the teen had spent less than a few weeks there.

The ranch, located at 280 N. 300 East, serves as a treatment program for students ages 13 to 17 who suffer from "emotional and behavioral issues," according to its website, including depression, ADHD, substance abuse, "defiance, rebellion, low self-esteem and poor academic performance."

A giving man • Jimmy Woolsey parked his blue truck in the same spot each day to pick up his daughter from Escalante Elementary School.

He always got there well before the 3:15 p.m. bell to ensure that he was at the front of the caravan line of parents — right where his daughter could see him.

"They were like sidekicks," said Stacy Davis, a family friend. "They loved each other."

Davis taught Woolsey's daughter last year at school and watched the daily pickup routine. Davis also grew up with Woolsey's wife, Brenda, in nearby Boulder. Those are the connections that make up small-town life where slightly more than 700 people reside, she said. "I know him because everyone knew him."

Woolsey married Brenda Roundy about 13 years ago, Davis said, and never stopped saying how much he loved her. Their daughter, now 11, is in the sixth grade. Both are devastated by the loss.

Sena Spencer, 36, said Woolsey, her uncle, took the job at the ranch because he liked helping people.

"Sometimes he'd be like 'Oh we have a hard kid out there right now. It's going to be a hard road for this kid,' " she recalled, fighting back tears.

Spencer said Woolsey was more like a father to her, especially after her relationship with her parents deteriorated 16 years ago.

"They stepped out of my life," she said, "and Uncle Jim stepped up."

She'll miss cutting wood with him, which Woolsey would deliver to people throughout the town. He also distributed fruit and vegetables from his garden, including handfuls of berries.

Woolsey used to spend every day at his mother's house, taking care of her before she died a year ago. When Spencer was little, she said, Woolsey used to have his nieces and nephews — he had four siblings — step on his back while he lay on the floor of his childhood home.

He also fished with the kids, took them on picnics and had them feed his baby lambs. He almost always teased them, nicknaming Spencer "Sena-Katrina."

"This whole thing didn't have to happen," Spencer said. "If this kid knew my uncle at all, even if he was given the chance to defend himself, he wouldn't have. He would never so much as shoved someone. ... I'm sad that this kid will never be able to know what he's taken from us."

Staff at the facility also mourned Woolsey, calling him "one of our family" in a prepared statement. "His caring personality and loyal dedication to helping the youth in our program will be greatly missed."

Hope for healing • Throughout Escalante, yellow ribbons lined the roads after Tuesday's incident. For Woolsey, they are a commemoration of life; for Keller, they're an encouragement for recovery.

"At least my daughter's alive," Rechtsteiner said. "But I can't do anything. I don't have a magic wand. I can't heal her."

Keller had worked at the facility for a few years, and so had her mother, who responded to the incident as part of the medical crew. Seeing her daughter injured rattled her. It was the first time in years, Rechtsteiner said, that he's seen his wife cry.

Though she was having trouble speaking after the attack, Keller apparently told her dad, "I did my job."

ctanner@sltrib.com Twitter: @CourtneyLTanner

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