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Utah teen left in holding cell after closing time; sheriff investigating

Published: Monday, Aug. 5 2013 5:30 p.m. MDT

Uintah County Sheriff Jeff Merrell confirmed Monday that he is trying to determine why a teenage girl was forgotten in an 8th District Court holding cell and how long she remained in the cell after the courthouse had closed for the day.

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VERNAL — Uintah County Sheriff Jeff Merrell confirmed Monday that he is trying to determine why a teenage girl was forgotten in an 8th District Court holding cell, and how long she remained there after the courthouse closed for the day.

The incident happened Thursday, after the girl made an appearance in juvenile court. During the hearing, the judge ordered bailiffs to take the girl into custody.

The bailiffs, who are Uintah County sheriff's deputies, placed the girl in a holding cell to await transportation to the Split Mountain Youth Detention Center, which sits about 500 feet west of the courthouse. Then, they apparently forgot the girl, leaving her in the cell until she was discovered sometime after the court had closed.

"The person was fine. There was no problem there," Merrell said, noting that the holding cell had a toilet and a sink with running water.

"But we do have a concern that the person was left in a holding cell for a period of time and we're looking at that accountability," the sheriff said.

The investigation was still in its infancy Monday. So much so that the sheriff told the Deseret News he did not know the teenage girl's age, exactly how long she spent in the holding cell, or who found her.

Merrell said he is collecting surveillance video from the courthouse and reviewing officer reports on the incident. He will also be looking at whether there was an adequate number of bailiffs on duty Thursday.

"We're looking at policy, procedure and protocol of how long we leave somebody in a cell," the sheriff said.

Email: gliesik@deseretnews.com

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