Victim of rehab facility attack near Escalante identified

Posted at 3:09 PM, Dec 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-07 14:04:58-05

GARFIELD COUNTY, Utah -- A staff member at a rehabilitation facility near Escalante died after an alleged attack by a 17-year-old male student Tuesday, and another staff member was hurt while trying to confront the suspect.

The Garfield County Sheriff's Office identified the victim Wednesday as 61-year-old Jimmy Woolsey of Escalante.

According to a press release from the Garfield County Sheriff's Office, the deadly assault occurred around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. The attack was at the Turn-About Ranch School, which advertises itself as a residential school and treatment program for troubled youth ages 12 to 18.

Another youth who witnessed the initial attack ran to a nearby building for help, and a female staff member responded and confronted the teen suspect. That staff member prevented the suspect from entering a building, protecting the other occupants, according to the press release.

"Her act really, really saved what could have been so much worse," said Cheryl Church of the Garfield County Sheriff's Office of that staff member's intervention.

After the assaults, the suspect took a staff member's vehicle and fled the scene at high speeds.

Deputies responding to the report of the assault spotted a vehicle driving erratically and noticed that it matched the description of the stolen car. Church said the chase ended after the teen drove down a dirt road and encountered a dead-end, but then turned around and kept driving.

"And they were able to catch up to him at that point and able to do a PIT maneuver, which caused the vehicle he was driving to crash and they were able to apprehend him," Church said.

The staff member who confronted the teen was injured in the assault and was taken to a hospital in stable condition.

The names of the victims have not yet been released. Church said the tragedy has struck the small community hard.

"We live down here in southern Utah with many small communities and we know each other, and it’s so tragic and sad," she said.

Because the suspect is a juvenile, his name is not being released at this time.

Turn-About-Ranch released a statement later Tuesday, saying they could not comment specifically about the teen suspect due to his age. They also expressed gratitude to the community for their support and sorrow over the death of a member of their staff.

A portion of the statement reads:

"Turn-About Ranch is deeply saddened by the loss of one of our family today. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and with everyone involved in this tragic incident. His caring personality and loyal dedication to helping the youth in our program will be greatly missed. His good nature and commitment to our students had a positive impact on those who attended and worked at Turn-About Ranch. This tragedy affects a significant number of people. With heavy hearts, we mourn with his family and honor his service and character.

We and our students are grateful for the bravery of our staff. Despite significant injuries to herself, the other staff member kept the rest of the students safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family as well. Turn-About Ranch is better because of dedicated employees like these two wonderful people.

Working with troubled youth comes with certain risks, nevertheless, we wish to express our commitment to continue to provide outstanding values-based treatment for troubled youth as we have done for the last 25 years--something that has been and continues to be possible because of our great staff."