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Police not looking for suspects in shooting deaths of two boys

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 4:55 p.m. MDT

Two boys, ages 12 and 15, were shot to death in this home at 4781 W. Pine Canyon Way in the Daybreak development in South Jordan on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Police say the boys did not live at the house. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Two boys, ages 12 and 15, were shot to death in this home at 4781 W. Pine Canyon Way in the Daybreak development in South Jordan on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013. Police say the boys did not live at the house. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SOUTH JORDAN — Police said Saturday they are confident there are no other suspects involved in the shooting deaths of two boys, ages 12 and 15, at a home in Daybreak.

But there are still many unanswered questions about the deaths and South Jordan police say they are "going slow" and being careful in their investigation.

Taylor Wheeler, 12, and Dayton Gessell, 15, died Friday inside a home at 4781 W. Pine Canyon Way. Neither boy lived at that home and they are not related.

"We don't know right now what happened in that house," South Jordan Police Sgt. Sam Winkler said late Saturday. "We haven't been able to talk to all of the parties in the house. We're still examining the evidence."

But investigators are not looking for any suspects.

Dayton Gessell, 15, was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, in South Jordan. (Family photo) Dayton Gessell, 15, was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, in South Jordan. (Family photo)

"The community does not need to fear that there are gunmen on the loose, running around the community," Winkler said.

Detectives recovered three handguns from the home, but Winkler said they have been unable to confirm where the guns came from, who the owners are or if they were even involved in the incident.

"This case is still in its infancy," Winkler said. "We do not get a lot of homicides in South Jordan so we are making sure we are going slow and we are taking the proper steps."

Winkler said an autopsy was scheduled for Sunday to determine the cause of death.

The bodies were discovered in the home's basement about 4:30 p.m. Friday by an off-duty West Valley City police officer who had been driving through the neighborhood. A boy who apparently had been inside the home when the shots were fired summoned the officer.

Dayton Gessell, 15, was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, in South Jordan. (Family photo) Dayton Gessell, 15, was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, in South Jordan. (Family photo)

Upon discovering the boys' bodies in the basement, the officer notified South Jordan police. They secured the home until investigators could return with a warrant, Winkler said. Officers obtained search warrants for the residence overnight.

Three teens who were in the home at the time — ages 16, 14 and 14 — were taken to the South Jordan Police Department on Friday. Two of the three are boys who live in the home. All were "processed" and released to their parents, Winkler said. But the three were not questioned.

"Right now we don't consider them suspects but we haven't ruled it out either," he said. "We know that they were in the house. We don't know where in the house they were when this took place."

Police expect to question the boys in the near future, but Winkler said they are being sensitive to the teens and their mental well being. He said the teenagers were shaken by the deaths.

Dayton Gessell, 15, was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, in South Jordan. (Family photo) Dayton Gessell, 15, was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, in South Jordan. (Family photo)

"Obviously you can assume that when they have a couple of their friends that this happened to, that they'd be quite traumatized," the sergeant said. "That's why it took so long to go through the process. We wanted to be gentle with them. We wanted to make sure we comforted them and met their needs in addition to doing our investigation."

Police have contacted the Jordan School District and counselors will be available for students and parents Monday should they need the services.

"A tragedy like this, it affects a lot of people," Winkler said. "Our hearts go out to the family of the victims and the families involved. This is a tragedy, especially when we're talking about children."

An uncle of Dayton Gessell who asked not to be named, said he was heartbroken and devastated when he heard the news.

"He didn't deserve to die," the man said of his nephew. "He was the greatest kid. He was into sports. He loved baseball, football, all kinds of stuff."

The uncle said he doesn't know all of the facts of the incident, but did say Dayton had some struggles in life. He said the boy had made some mistakes and spent time in juvenile detention.

"He's 15 years old," he said. "He hasn't lived nothing, absolutely not a fraction of his life and he's gone. He's gone like no other."

The man said he hopes the deaths will remind parents that they should teach their kids to make their own decisions without giving in to outside pressures. He also offered a message to other teens like his nephew.

"Everybody needs to be a leader," he said. "Everybody cannot be a sheep or a follower. You have to find what you want in yourself."

Contributing: Marjorie Cortez

Email: eeagar@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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