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Family of victim in Utah 'purge' killings speaks out following devastating death

Posted at 9:14 PM, Jul 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-13 23:53:31-04

SPANISH FORK, Utah — The family of the first victim in this weekend’s "purge" killings is trying to make sense of the random attacks.

Ogden Police say 28-year-old Christian Taele of Lake Shore admitted to hanging an Ogden man and killing another man, Ryan Hooley, in Spanish Fork.

According to police documents, Taele said that a “higher power” directed him to “’purge’ the city.”

“It’s like a nightmare that we’d so love to wake up from,” said Denice Maesta.

Maesta is Hooley’s former partner and the mother of their nine-year-old son, Rystan.

“I was going to go swimming with him, but then…you know,” said Rystan.

Officers reported Hooley was found beaten and stabbed to death Friday near 1200 North and 400 East in Spanish Fork. The attack appeared to be completely random.

“We feel like we’re living in a true crime show and we can’t change the channel,” said Jamie Woods, Hooley’s niece.

Police claim Taele then traveled over 80 miles from Spanish Fork to Ogden for another seemingly random attack Saturday. He allegedly hung a 23-year-old man in an apartment gym.

Ogden Police confirmed Wednesday that the second victim died in the hospital Tuesday. Officers have yet to release his identity.

“There’s always going to be the, ‘Why?’” said Woods. “The, ‘What if?’”

Hooley’s family remembers him as a caring, goofy, and harmless guy.

“He would give anything to see anybody, including his family, just be happy,” said Woods.

“He was a great person,” said Rystan. “And I loved him.”

His family said he made some bad choices, but was determined to turn his life around.

“He had amends to make. I know deep in my heart that he would have made those amends,” said Maesta. “To say the ‘I’m sorrys’ and the ‘I love yous’ and all those things. Someone took that from him. Took him from us.”

A GoFundMe has been created to help his family move forward and cover funeral expenses.