Police investigate death of man in Davis jail's booking area

Friday , January 12, 2018 - 5:00 AM2 comments

MARK SHENEFELT, Standard-Examiner Staff

FARMINGTON — Police are investigating the death of a 33-year-old man who collapsed in the Davis County Jail’s booking area on Dec. 14, 2017, law enforcement officials say.

Gregory Leigh Hayes died in the jail intake area, where inmates are screened for substance abuse and mental health issues, Sheriff Todd Richardson said.

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Farmington Police Chief Wayne Hansen said his agency is investigating the death. Most often with county jail deaths in Utah, an independent agency, such as a city police department or another sheriff’s office, is brought in to investigate because of the county’s conflict of interest.

County Attorney Troy Rawlings said he was aware of the death and investigation but had no other information.

Hansen said investigators are waiting for toxicology test results from the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner. The state office has been saddled with a large backlog, resulting in some death investigations being delayed a year or more.

Susan Johnson of Layton, Hayes’ mother, said she learned of her son's death when a police officer came to her door. She said she has been able to glean little about the circumstances of Hayes’ death.

She has retained an attorney to look into the case.

Records show six people who were in the Davis jail’s custody died in 2016. Utah jails had 24 deaths overall, a 17-year high. According to federal statistics in 2015, Utah led the nation in per-capita jail deaths.

Hayes’ death apparently was the first one in 2017 related to Davis jail custody.

Utah jails are not required by law to report in-custody deaths. The deaths become public knowledge usually only after a family member of the deceased goes to the news media.

State lawmakers are considering legislation this year on prison and jail transparency.

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According to court records, Hayes had a history of drug-related problems.

He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft and vehicle burglary charges in Bountiful in November 2016, then was arrested on a felony DUI charge in May 2017, and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor trespass charge in Layton in early October 2017.

After the DUI arrest, Hayes was in and out of the Davis jail the rest of the year, going through the process of applying to participate in drug court. By completing a drug court treatment program of a year to 18 months, a defendant may have the charges dismissed.

On Oct. 18, 2017, Centerville police found Hayes lying against the side of a restaurant. They said he was incoherent. The police report said he had two bottles of prescription medicine, and officers arrested him for intoxication. Officers said they found a bag of methamphetamine when Hayes emptied his pockets.

The day before Hayes’ death, 2nd District Judge John R. Morris signed an order allowing Hayes to be released from jail pending a drug court plea hearing scheduled for Dec. 19.

It was not clear when Hayes may have been released from jail and how he came to be picked up again that evening for re-booking.

The jail booking log says he was arrested at 7:20 p.m. Dec. 13 and booked at 10:48 p.m.

Another order signed by Morris and dated Dec. 14 called for Hayes to be held without bail.

Johnson said her son had lived in Layton but was “basically homeless” when he died.

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/SEMarkShenefelt. 

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