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Teen accused of killing worker at Utah youth ranch makes first court appearance

Published December 30, 2016 4:07 pm

Courts • The boy, 17, is charged as an adult with crimes linked to fatal Dec. 6 attack.
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Panguitch • A 17-year-old Arizona boy accused of killing a staffer at a southern Utah youth-rehabiliation facility made his first court appearance on Thursday.

Clay Brewer, of Snowflake, Ariz., is charged in adult court with first-degree felony aggravated murder, along with other charges, in the Dec. 6 death of 61-year-old Jimmy Woolsey.

He is accused of attacking Woolsey with a piece of metal rebar at Turn-About Ranch School, located north of Escalante, before leading police on a high-speed chase.



In court on Thursday, before Judge Wallace Lee, the boy stood solemnly, his parents seated behind him in the court gallery. He wore his shaggy brown hair unkempt, his hands shackled in front of him, the cuffs attached to a belly chain.

Brewer's first hearing was quick — his attorney, Ron Yengich, waived reading of the eight charges filed against him. Yengich then told the judge he needed more time to look over the evidence in the case before deciding how to proceed.

A Feb. 2 hearing was set for the defendant to decide if he wants a preliminary hearing.

The boy's parents did not comment to reporters as they left the courthouse Thursday.

Along with the aggravated murder charge, Brewer faces charges of attempted aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, failure to stop at the command of police, tampering with evidence, reckless endangerment, theft and reckless driving.

The teen had been in the facility for five days before the deadly attack, according to a probable-cause statement filed in court.

Brewer told police that he had a "bad pill addiction," and, on his second day in Utah, he began feeling suicidal, and feared his parents had betrayed and abandoned him. On the day before the attack, Brewer drank bleach in an attempt to kill himself, he told police.

On Tuesday morning, Brewer woke up feeling "heartless," he told police, according to the court document.

The assault began at about 7:30 a.m. at the facility, which advertises itself as a residential school and treatment program for troubled youths ages 12 to 18.

Woolsey had come to check on some teens sitting around a campfire when Brewer began attacking him with a weapon from behind, Garfield County Sheriff Danny Perkins told The Associated Press. Brewer told police that he used a "metal stick" — later identified as a piece of metal rebar that had been used as a fire poker — in the assault, according to court records.

After the attack on Woolsey, the other teens rushed to a nearby cabin, where they sleep, and alerted another staffer, Alicia Keller.

When Keller arrived at the cabin, the boy turned to her, according to her father, Bob Rechtsteiner. A struggle ensued at the cabin door as the teen tried to force his way in and Keller kept him out, Perkins said.

Keller held the doors shut so the teen couldn't get inside and hurt students, Rechtsteiner has said. The boy beat her hand, leaving fingers smashed and muscles twitching, and smacked her over the head.

Keller later told police that after she was assaulted, Brewer went to Woolsey's body and grabbed his wallet and his keys. He unsuccessfully tried to start Woolsey's truck.

The teen then returned to the cabin area, and threatened to break in and "kill everyone," Keller told police.

"Brewer said he just wanted to get away," an officer wrote in the probable-cause statement. "[Keller] told Brewer she would give him her keys if he would stop hurting people."

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

Keller was hospitalized but released later that day.

Woolsey, a husband and father from Escalante, was also taken to the hospital, where he later died from significant head trauma.

After Brewer took Keller's car, police say, a high-speed police chase ensued, with speeds topping 60 mph in 25 mph residential areas.

Eventually, the officer forced the car to stop and they arrested Brewer. The teen later told officers that he hoped they would mistake the metal bar for a gun and shoot him.

"Of course, when you're coming off of drugs and tobacco like I was, you lose your mind," he told the officers. "That's where I was at. I lost my mind."

Aggravated murder typically can carry the possibility of the death penalty, but prosecutors cannot seek Brewer's execution in this case because he is under age 18. He can face a maximum penalty of up to life in prison.

Because of Brewer's age and the severity of the crime, prosecutors were able to file the case directly in adult court, rather than the juvenile system.

The Salt Lake Tribune generally names juveniles charged with crimes only if they are charged in adult court, or have been certified in juvenile court to stand trial in adult court.

jmiller@sltrib.com

 

 

 

 

 

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