UTAH STATE PRISON — When he arrives here, 15-year-old Carlos Hernandez will be the youngest inmate.

The Utah Department of Corrections is now preparing for how it will house someone who is considered an adult in the eyes of the law — but is still physically a child.

"Because of his age, obviously we will keep an eye on him and make sure he is housed in a place that's appropriate for him," corrections spokeswoman Angie Welling said Wednesday.

Hernandez is expected to arrive at Point of the Mountain sometime in the next week, at which time he will undergo an orientation to determine where he will be placed. He pleaded guilty on Tuesday to raping and strangling 15-year-old Keely Amber Hall to death in a St. George park on Jan. 10. He was 14 at the time of the crime.

Hernandez was sentenced to serve 15 years-to-life in prison for murder and a five-to-life term for rape. Prosecutors dropped an aggravated sexual assault charge.

Hernandez is not the first child inmate with whom the Utah State Prison has had to deal. Others include:

• Brookes Colby Shumway, who was convicted at age 16 of stabbing his friend Christopher Ray 39 times during a sleepover in 2000.

• Sean Winget, who was sentenced to prison in 1993 at 16 for strangling 10-year-old Tara Stark.

• Doug Anderson, who was convicted at 16 for sexually assaulting

and strangling 5-year-old Bobbi Jo Hart in 1992.

• Johnny Angelo Perez, who was sent to prison in 1977 at 15 for stabbing an Ogden motel clerk to death.

• A 14-year-old girl who has been in the juvenile court system nearly 100 times, corrections officials said, and finally was certified as an adult.

Once he was certified as an adult, Hernandez was moved from juvenile detention to the Purgatory Jail. Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith said that, because of his age, the boy was kept in isolation.

"We wanted to make sure nothing happened to him," Smith told the Deseret Morning News on Wednesday.

Smith described Hernandez as "reflective and contemplative" while in jail. He said prison will not be easy for the boy, who has no father in his home and whose mother is an illegal immigrant from Mexico working several jobs in the St. George area.

"It's going to be a rude awakening for him," the sheriff said. "Purgatory is not like Point of the Mountain."

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com