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A 17-year-old Arizona boy told police he "lost his mind" on the morning he allegedly killed a staffer at a southern Utah youth-rehabilitation facility before leading police on a high-speed chase.
Clay Brewer, of Snowflake, Ariz., was charged as an adult Friday in 6th District Court with first-degree-felony counts of aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, as well as a third-degree-felony count of failure to stop at the command of police, and misdemeanor counts of tampering with evidence, reckless endangerment, theft and reckless driving.
He is accused of killing 61-year-old Jimmy Woolsey during an attack at Turn-About Ranch School, located north of Escalante, on Tuesday morning.
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.
As he hit Woolsey, he struck him "in the head every time" the teen later told police.
Brewer also told police that he thought, "Jimmy was a great guy and he had only known him for two nights."
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.
A police officer wrote in a probable-cause statement that he and another deputy had a hard time keeping up with the teen because of how fast he was going.
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."
Brewer told police that he had never thought about beating someone before, but had "lost his mind" while in the "Roundy" area of the ranch.
Newcomers to the property spend days there sitting on the ground in a six-foot circle outlined by rocks, according to the ranch's website, and a participant's "only assignment is to think about who he is and how he arrived at this point."
A sign near the circle reads, "If you own it, you can change it."
"At 'Roundy,' the area of Turn-About Ranch where teens transition from life at home to life on the ranch, most students start out confused, overwhelmed and angry at their parents for sending them to the program," an informational article on the website reads. "Some threaten to run away, some actually try but all end up back in the circle, contemplating their choices and staring at that sign."
At Roundy, teens sleep in cabins with no running water and have to "earn" a mattress, pillow or shower, according to the website.
Brewer told police after the attacks that he had to cook his meals out of a can and sat in silence in the circle from early in the morning until it was dark.
"He said when you're in the circle, you're isolated from everyone and you're not allowed to talk to other students," a police officer wrote in the probable-cause statement. "… Brewer said he was not allowed to sleep or lay down and all you can do is think."
An initial court appearance for Brewer is set for Dec. 29 before Judge Marvin Bagley.
Aggravated murder typically can carry the possibility of the death penalty, but prosecutors cannot seek Brewer's execution in this case because the accused 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.
The ranch is in good standing with the state licensing office and hasn't had any major violations, said Department of Human Services spokeswoman Allie Jurkatis. She said it has been licensed for a number of years, but couldn't say exactly how long. The ranch's website says it has been in operation for 25 years.
Jurkatis told AP that officials are investigating this week's incident to see if there were any violations by the ranch, while also looking to see what the agency can learn from this to prevent future incidents.
At the ranch, teens typically spend their time in school, in therapy or doing chores, such as splitting firewood or caring for the chickens, according to its website. Participants are usually teens who have issues with depression, abuse, anger, substance abuse and other matters. The ranch does not accept teens who are aggressive, have psychotic behaviors, display sexual perpetrator behaviors or are actively trying to commit suicide, according to the website.
Perkins told AP that his agency has responded a few times over the years to reports of young people leaving the treatment center, but said it is usually a peaceful place.