ST. GEORGE — An Arizona teen was sentenced to serve five years to life in prison for beating a man to death while at a youth treatment facility in Garfield County in 2016.
Clay Brewer, 19, of Snowflake, Arizona, was sentenced Thursday in 6th District Court in Panguitch for the murder of 61-year-old Jimmy Woolsey on Dec. 6, 2016, while at the Turn-About Ranch rehabilitation facility near Escalante.
According to court records, Brewer pleaded guilty in July to a first-degree felony count of murder and second-degree felony for aggravated assault. The first charge carries a prison term of five years to life, while the second carries a one-to-15-year prison term.
The felony aggravated assault charge stems from Brewer attacking a second Turn-About Ranch staff member after killing Woolsey.
According to police records, Brewer, then 17, told Garfield County Sheriff’s deputies following his arrest that he woke up “heartless.”
Brewer had been at Turn-About Ranch for about five days and said he had “a bad pill addiction,” and later stated “his addiction had taken over his life and that it controlled him.”
Brewer’s mother, who submitted a letter to the court on her son’s behalf, said Brewer had been a “happy and friendly person” since he was very young. He always had a smile on his face and a great sense of humor. He would also get compliments from teachers, friends and others about the “good things he did.”
She also described him as “generous and caring, loving and forgiving.”
However, problems began to arise following the divorce of Brewer’s parents and ended on less-than-amiable terms due to an “ugly custody battle,” Brewer’s mother wrote. She noticed her son started to change when he was 15. He started to hang out with different friends and started drinking alcohol and chewing tobacco, and he occasionally used marijuana and prescription pain pills.
“By the time I was aware of his drug use, he had advanced to cocaine and other illegal drugs,” she wrote.
Brewer’s mother and father decided to have their son admitted to Turn-About Ranch in Utah.
According to police records, after arriving at the rehabilitation facility, Brewer said he had had suicidal thoughts and had drank bleach in an attempt to kill himself.
His mother was made aware of the situation and the pain of withdrawals he was going through.
“The next communication I received was the early morning on December 6, 2016, where I was told of the horrific nightmare that had occurred at the hands of my son,” she wrote.
The morning of Dec. 6, Brewer obtained a piece metal rebar, according to police records.
Woolsey, who had gone outside to check on a group of teens sitting around a campfire, was attacked by Brewer and hit with the rebar multiple times. After Woolsey became unresponsive, Brewer took his wallet and keys. He tried leave the area in Woolsey’s vehicle, but it wouldn’t start.
Brewer told another teen who witnessed the attack not to say anything. However, the other teen told another ranch staff member – Alicia Keller, according to The Salt Lake Tribune – that “Clay hit Jimmy.” Keller went to see what had happened and saw Woolsey on the ground with a sleeping bag on top of him.
While outside, Brewer went after Keller.
“He’s at me full blast hands up with the rebar in his hands and he hit me on top of the head twice,” Keller later told sheriff’s deputies.
Keller ran back into a building where other residents were and kept the door closed so Brewer could not enter. He demanded the keys to her vehicle or else he would “break in” and “kill everyone,” Keller said, according to police records.
Keller gave Brewer her keys and he left. To keep the others safe, she took them out of a back door where they hid behind a building.
According to the police records, Keller had two black eyes and her head in a bandage, and had multiple stitches when deputies spoke to her. She was also distraught and emotionally traumatized from the incident.
“(Brewer) just killed Jimmy,” she said. “He tried to kill me.”
Keller was later praised by the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office for keeping others safe.
Following the assaults, Brewer took Keller’s vehicle and led responding sheriff’s deputies on a high speed chase. The deputies performed a maneuver that caused the vehicle to roll and crash against a tree. They arrested Brewer but not before he made it appear as if he had a gun.
“His plan when the cops caught him was to hold up the ‘iron’ and act like he had a gun,” the deputy wrote.
“‘So I could be shot and killed,’” Brewer said, according to the report.
Brewer went on to tell deputies that, with everything that had happened to him, coupled with coming off of drugs, he had “lost his mind” and allegedly never had a thought of beating anyone. He even described Woolsey as a “great guy” he had only known for two days prior to the assault.
“Oh course, when you’re coming off drugs and alcohol like I was, you lose your mind,” Brewer said. “That’s where I was at. I lost my mind.”
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, emotions ran high in the courtroom as Judge Wallace Lee pronounced Brewer’s sentence and ordered him to prison.
Brewer’s family was present and supportive of the young man who has been described as “an All-American boy” by an aunt in a letter to the judge.
In their letters to Lee on Brewer’s behalf, family members asked for mercy and said how the teen had improved in the two years since the Dec. 6 incident at Turn-About Ranch.
When he had a chance to address the court, Brewer apologized for what happened and said he regretted his actions every day. When he pleaded guilty in July, he told the court he would accept whatever sentence he was given, the Tribune reported.
However, due to the nature of the crime and the impact it had on the surrounding community – Woolsey was touted as a man many people knew and loved – Garfield County Attorney Barry Huntington told the judge a prison sentence was necessary.
Lee, who said he grew up alongside Woolsey and knew his family, also became emotional at one point, according to the Tribune. He told Brewer he didn’t consider him a monster or a bad person, nor did he hate him, yet he hated what the teen had done.
Woolsey left behind a wife and 10-year-old daughter.
Woosley’s widow, Brenda, was present at Brewer’s sentencing hearing and told the court she wanted Brewer to be incarcerated for life, the Tribune reported.
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