James "Jimmy" Woolsey

SALT LAKE CITY — The wife of a youth ranch counselor beaten to death two years ago by a teenager at the Turn-About Ranch in Garfield County has filed a lawsuit against the killer, his parents, and the people who operated the ranch.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed Wednesday in 6th District Court on behalf of Brenda Woolsey claims that the ranch was not equipped to house 17-year-old Clay Brewer, who was experiencing suicidal ideation and drug withdrawal, and should never have been accepted.

But a family connection may have gotten him into the ranch when he should have instead been placed into a detox center, the complaint alleges.

Brewer's step-uncle serves as president of the ranch, according to the lawsuit.

In December 2016, five days after he arrived, Brewer killed James "Jimmy" Woolsey, 61, with a metal fire poker as he tried to escape the facility.

He injured another staff member, Alicia Keller, when he struck her in the head before stealing her car and leading deputies on a brief chase, later telling investigators he had intended to act like he had a gun so officers would shoot him and he could die.

The lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount in damages from Brewer, his parents, the company that owns the ranch and ranch employees.

Those defendants "knew of Clay Brewer's suicidal state and his serious drug addiction and drug withdrawal condition, but nobody warned Jimmy Woolsey as to Clay Brewer's dangerous state, instead assigning Jimmy Woolsey to work with (Brewer), knowing and expecting that interaction with Clay Brewer would result in injury," according to the lawsuit.

When he arrived, Brewer "reported that he had suicidal thoughts and that he drank bleach in an attempt to kill himself," the complaint alleges, but he was not treated for those problems.

In online advertisements, the ranch says it does not treat youths with "active suicide attempts" or psychotic behaviors, according to the lawsuit.

1 comment on this story

Woolsey was unaware Brewer had those problems — and he had no specialized training to deal with them — when he was assigned to work with the boy, the complaint says.

The actions of those named in the lawsuit "include intentional, malicious, and reckless conduct taken in disregard of their respective obligations to (Woolsey) and heirs, causing emotional, physical, mental trauma and death," the complaint states.

Brewer, now 19, pleaded guilty in July to reduced charges of murder, a first-degree felony, and aggravated assault, a second-degree felony, as part of a plea bargain. He was sentenced to at least five years and up to life in prison.