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Police waiting to release South Jordan boys' cause of death

Published November 19, 2013 9:13 am

Police won't release findings until they have talked to all of the witnesses.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Police know how two South Jordan boys died Friday at a Daybreak home, but are keeping those details close to the vest for now.

Taylor Wheeler, 12, and his friend Dayton Gessell, 15, were found in the basement of a home at 4781 W. Pine Canyon Lane (11730 South) shortly after gunshots were heard Friday afternoon. South Jordan police are still investigating, and few details have been made public, other than that police found three handguns at the scene.

The state medical examiner's office performed autopsies on the boys Sunday, but police are withholding those findings until they have a chance to talk to all the potential witnesses, Lt. Rob Hansen said Monday. He does not expect to publicly announce the cause of death until at least early next week.

Three other boys who were at the home were taken to the police station Friday night, but investigators did not interview all of them before releasing them, Sgt. Sam Winkler said Saturday. The officers moved the boys from the home to get them into a warm environment and away from bystanders, Winkler said, adding that the investigators are purposefully moving carefully for the sake of the three boys' mental well-being.

Police have said they are confident that there are no outstanding suspects.

In the meantime, "students are saying, we need to know what happened," said Jordan School District spokeswoman Sandy Riesgraf.

On Monday, the district provided extra counselors to Taylor's school, Copper Mountain Middle School, and Dayton's, Riverton High. Taylor, especially, was well known at the middle school; Dayton had transferred to Riverton from Bingham High last month, Riesgraf said. Bingham High's counseling staffers are fielding students' needs, she added.

Regardless of how the boys died, Riesgraf said, "it happened and we need to deal with the loss of these two students."

The principal at Copper Mountain asked students not to spread rumors about what happened Friday out of respect for the Wheeler family, said G. Norma Villar, district consultant for student intervention services. As a result, most of the students there have been talking about Taylor as their friend, rather than about the incident, Villar said.

Deaths like Taylor's and Dayton's create a ripple effect in a school. Even students who did not know them personally are reminded of other people close to them who have died, and those memories and emotions are brought to the surface, Villar said.

"The best thing is to respond with a lot of listening, a lot of nurturing and caring," Villar said. Counselors ensure that the students are sleeping, eating and talking to someone about what they are going through, she added.

Beyond Monday, the district will keep the additional counselors on call on an as-needed basis. Copper Mountain has three in-house counselors year round, and Riverton High has four, on top of a school psychologist at each campus.

The district is urging students who are depressed to not stay home. "We want you to come to school," Riesgraf said. "We have resources."

Dayton's family has set up a Paypal account for donations, located here, according to KUTV.

Taylor's family set up a fundraiser at YouCaring.com to help pay for the funeral costs. According to a Facebook page created to memorialize Taylor, the family has also set up an account at Chase Bank.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mikeypanda