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Alleged sledgehammer attacker to be tried as a juvenile

Posted at 10:11 PM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 00:11:10-04

SPANISH FORK, Utah — A teen accused of a vicious attack will remain in the juvenile justice system.

The attack happened in August of 2020. The suspect, who was 17-years-old at the time allegedly beat a man with a sledgehammer before punching and attacking several children at a daycare facility in Payson.

Several victims were taken to the emergency room and suffered lifelong emotional and physical injuries.

Read - Teen charged with 14 felonies for Payson daycare attack

“It bothers us to watch him hurt, have to see him struggle through day to day,” said Brad Van Tassell, the father of a four-year-old boy who was attacked. “He’s scared to go in another room without someone there.”

In mid-June, Utah County prosecutors argued the attacker, who is now 18-years-old, should be tried as an adult.

A judge disagreed.

“I feel betrayed. I feel betrayed by the judge. I feel betrayed by the legal system.” Van Tassell said.

Utah County Attorney David Leavitt says with this ruling, the alleged attacker can only be held until he’s 25-years-old if he is convicted.

Read - Victim of Payson sledgehammer attack identified; fundraiser set up to help with medical costs

Any conviction in the juvenile court system would not be included on his adult criminal record.

“We trust the system to do what’s best to protect society and the judge believes it was best in the juvenile court and that’s where we’ll prosecute it.” Leavitt said.

Van Tassell wants to see things change. The ruling has inspired him to speak with lawmakers about passing legislation that would require teenaged offenders in violent cases like this to be tried as adults.

“I wanted justice for Coy, but it’s not going to happen,” he said. “We aren’t going to get that for ours, but I’ll be damned if we don’t do something about the next one.”