SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Adding a new twist to an already bizarre kidnapping and murder case, a man charged in the killing of a Utah train worker has died after hanging himself in jail with a bedsheet, authorities said Monday.
Flint Wayne Harrison, 52, was found hanging in his cell shortly after midnight Monday at the Davis County Jail in Farmington, Utah, about 20 miles north of Salt Lake City.
Harrison and his son, 22-year-old Dereck James “DJ” Harrison, are accused of abducting 63-year-old Kay Ricks in Salt Lake City, driving 250 miles (402 kilometers) north to a hideout in the Wyoming countryside, killing him and then abandoning his car before hiding from authorities.
Prosecutors said Ricks’ violent death in May came days after the Harrisons lured five women to a basement and beat them until the women managed to escape.
The Harrisons were being held in Utah where they were first set to face 16 drug and kidnapping charges.
They were then expected to be transferred to Wyoming to face charges in Ricks’ death. Wyoming prosecutors said last week that they wouldn’t announce whether they would seek the death penalty against the Harrisons until they were transferred from Utah, likely sometime next year.
Flint Harrison was not on any kind of suicide watch and did not have a cellmate, said Sgt. DeeAnn Servey, a spokeswoman for the Davis County Sheriff’s Office. She declined to say when he had last been checked by jail staff, citing a pending investigation into the death.
Servey said the younger Harrison, who is at the same jail, was notified of his father’s death and placed on a suicide watch.
Ricks’ family said in a statement it is disappointed Flint Harrison won’t have to answer for a “brutal and senseless” crime.
“The Ricks Family knows full well that nothing will bring Kay back,” the statement says. “However, we hoped that Flint and DJ Harrison would both answer for their crimes. Now, DJ is left to explain.”
The family also called on Utah authorities to release Dereck Harrison to Wyoming so he can be tried faster in Ricks’ murder.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings declined to comment Monday.
Lincoln County Attorney Spencer Allred said Monday he is disappointed that Flint Harrison killed himself.
“For the family, I was hopeful that they would be able to seek justice in a court of law for the death of Kay Ricks. Because of Mr. Harrison’s actions, they will not be able to have their day in court with Flint,” Allred said.
He said that despite the Ricks’ family request, he doesn’t expect that the younger Harrison would be sent to Wyoming until Utah prosecutors have wrapped up their case.
In Utah, the Harrisons are accused of luring a woman and her four teenage daughters to their house outside Salt Lake City on May 10 with an invitation to a barbecue. The men had been using drugs heavily and apparently thought the mother had reported them to police, authorities have said.
Prosecutors said the Harrisons tied up the women and beat them with a baseball bat, but the women managed to escape and call for help.
While on the run from police after the women’s kidnapping, prosecutors say the Harrisons abducted Ricks, a longtime employee of the Utah Transit Authority, and took him in his work truck to Wyoming.
Wyoming charging documents say the Harrisons beat Ricks to death on their way to a remote hideout.
The pair was arrested in Pinedale, Wyoming, after a five-day manhunt. An autopsy found that Ricks died from head injuries and his throat was slashed.
Utah prosecutors were set to lay out their evidence in the women’s kidnapping against Flint Harrison at an Aug. 9 hearing. His son had waived his right to such a hearing and pleaded not guilty.
Servey, the Utah sheriff’s spokeswoman, said the neighboring Weber County Sheriff’s Office is investigating Flint Harrison’s death. The State Medical Examiner will also conduct an autopsy.
Associated Press writers Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City and Ben Neary in Cheyenne contributed to this report.