Man charged with aggravated murder found dead in jail cell in Kane County

File photo of the Kane County Public Safety Complex | Courtesy of Kane County Facebook page, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — An inmate charged with aggravated murder was found dead in his cell at the Kane County Jail on Saturday, one day after he was found incompetent to stand trial. Authorities suspect his death was due to suicide.

According to a statement released by Kane County Sheriff’s Lt. Alan Alldredge, Jason Thomas Hager, 39, was found dead during a routine bed check by corrections staff in the early morning hours Saturday. And while authorities suspect the manner of death was suicide, Alldredge said, the cause is not being released at this time, since the incident is under investigation.

Hager was facing multiple charges in connection with the death of Matthew Wayne Young, 49, who was shot and killed in his home in Church Wells near Kanab on April 13, 2021. The investigation was initially handled as a suspicious death,

The defendant was arrested on April 29, 2021, as part of a joint operation between Kane County Sheriff’s detectives and the U.S. Marshal’s Service and was booked into jail in Coconino County. He was extradited shortly thereafter and transported to the Kane County Jail and has remained there since.

Hager was initially charged under one of his aliases, Jason Thomas Bates, and was booked on two counts of discharge of a firearm with serious bodily injury, each a first-degree felony. He was also charged with second-degree felony aggravated assault and a third-degree felony firearms charge. In July the murder charge was enhanced to aggravated murder, a capital offense.

From there, a series of court proceedings and evidentiary hearings ensued. This included competency hearings that began in October, after Hager’s defense attorneys, Gary Edwards and Scott Garret, filed a petition requesting their client be evaluated. The defendant was unable to assist counsel in his defense, along with several other issues related to Hager’s mental health.

The defense’s request was granted and the evaluation conducted by the  Department of Human Services took place over the course of several months. On Friday, the day before Hager’s death, evaluators released their findings in a report that was submitted to the court stating the defendant was incompetent to stand trial.

Also included in the report was a court order committing Hager to the Department of Human Services for commitment to Utah State Hospital for the purposes of providing treatment intended to restore Hager to competency, according to court records.

Alldredge said the defendant was to be transported to the state hospital as soon as a bed became available, and they were waiting for a bed to open up when the incident took place last week.

The inmate’s death is part of a joint investigation between the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Utah State Medical Examiner’s Office, which Alldredge said is standard in cases involving in-custody deaths, since it provides a degree of separation between the investigators and the jail. The remains were turned over to the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. 

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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