GARFIELD COUNTY, Utah -- The town of Escalante is in mourning after a local man known for working with troubled youth was killed by a teenager he was trying to help at a residential school and rehab facility.
Jimmy Woolsey, 61, was attacked by a 17-year-old boy at the Turn About Ranch Tuesday morning, according to Garfield County, and he died due to blunt force trauma to the head.
The Turn About Ranch is a residential school and treatment center for troubled youth. Woolsey had been counseling at the ranch for more than a decade
Another staff worker was also injured while trying to help. She is in the hospital in serious condition.
“Yesterday was a bad day, I don’t think there was anybody without a tear in their eye, or an ache in their heart,” said Valerie Sparks, who works at a local gas station and knew Woolsey. “There are a lot of people angry because they don’t understand.”
Woolsey leaves behind a wife, a 10-year-old daughter and a whole town of people who called him a friend.
“Jimmy was a jokester, and he loved his jokes, and he loved to make you smile," Sparks said. "That’s what most people are going to remember."
Residents have tied yellow ribbons around trees in support of the Woolsey family as well as the Turn About Ranch, which has been part of Escalante for the past 25 years.
“We have no problem with the facility, those kids that come out of there are amazing, anywhere you go, you got your few, you know, this was just one of those," Sparks said.
The teenager allegedly responsible for Woolsey’s death was arrested after leading sheriff’s deputies on a high-speed chase in a vehicle he took from a staff member. According to the county, the student was from out of state and had only been at the ranch for about a week.
“We were efficiently staffed, I believe all the intake protocols were followed, I believe we did everything we could,” said executive director Michelle Lindsay.
Lindsay said Woolsey cared deeply for the students at the ranch and made a difference in their lives.
“Something simple like making them smile, and making them feel they were worth something, and that change was possible and they could do anything they really wanted to do,” Lindsay said. “He will be greatly missed; it’s hard to replace somebody like that.”
Lindsay also praised the other staff member involved, who hasn’t been named, for stepping into a very dangerous situation.
“Quick thinking on her feet, she may have prevented an even worse tragedy from happening to other students, she put herself in harm’s way to protect them,” Lindsay said. “She seems to be in better spirits, she is doing well, thinking clearly, and recovering from the injury that she received.”
Lindsay said this one incident shouldn’t take away from all the good Woolsey and the ranch have done for students over the years.
“We had an opportunity this morning to process with the students, they are obviously grieving as well, he made a huge impact on their lives,” Lindsay said.
As for the student accused in the fatal attack, he remains in custody and has yet to be charged. His name is not being released because he is a minor.