SOUTH JORDAN — Police have identified the two boys found dead at a home in a Daybreak development after an ongoing investigation Saturday into the shooting deaths.
South Jordan Police officers identified the boys found dead in the home as Dayton Gessell, 15, and Taylor Wheeler, 12. The two victims did not reside at the residence and they are not related to each other.
"I've been devastated," said Gessell's uncle who asked not to be identified. "I'm heartbroken. He didn't deserve to die."
The bodies were discovered in the basement of a home at 4781 W. Pine Canyon Way 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.
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, South Jordan Police Sgt. Sam Winkler said. Officers secured search warrants for the residence overnight.
"He was just the greatest kid," Gessell's uncle said. "I love him with all my heart — all of my heart. I can't even explain it to anybody how much love I had for that kid."
Gessell's uncle said the 15-year old was more like a little brother than a nephew.
"He was the greatest kid," he said. "He was into sports. He loved baseball, football, all kinds of stuff."
Around 11 a.m. Saturday investigators from the medical examiners office did remove two victims from the residence and will be conducting an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
Everybody needs to be a leader. Everybody cannot be a sheep or a follower. You have to find what you want in yourself.
–Uncle of Dayton Gessell
Gessell uncle said his nephew had some struggles in his life, and that he had spent time in juvenile detention and used marijuana. He said Gessell made some bad choices, but he was a good kid who didn't deserve to die.
Detectives said they recovered three handguns from the crime scene and are confident there are no outstanding suspects at this time. The guns are being examined to see if any were used in the shooting.
South Jordan police interviewed three juveniles Friday but they were later released to their parents, police said. The juveniles are not suspects, nor is a suspect at large, police said Saturday.
"There should be no concern for the citizens that there's someone around with weapons or harm to their neighborhood," Winkler said.
The teens in the home were shaken by the deaths.
"Obviously you can assume that when they have a couple of their friends that this happened to, that they'd be quite traumatized," Winkler 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."
Neighbors say there are five kids who live in the home where the deaths occurred. Some of the boys who were in the home yesterday when the shooting took place are not related. The boys all attended the same school, according to police.
"We don't know right what happened in that house," Winkler said. "We haven't been able to talk to all those parties in the house. They're still examining the evidence."
Gessell's uncle said parents should teach their kids to make their own decisions without giving in to outside pressures. He said he also has a message for teens like his nephew.
"Everybody needs to be a leader," Gessell's uncle said. "Everybody cannot be a sheep or a follower. You have to find what you want in yourself."