24 January 2020

  • Weber County sheriff asks public for help learning about woman whose remains were recently identified
    Adobe Stock image

    The badly decomposed body of Latoya Wyasket was found in 2017

    OGDEN — Authorities have identified the body of a woman found by ranchers in September 2017 in a remote area of Ogden Bay, and now they’re asking for more information about the final weeks of her life.

    With the assistance of the FBI, the remains were identified as 34-year-old Latoya Wyasket, who was homeless at the time of her death and was last known to be living in Ogden, according to a press release from the Weber County Sheriff’s Office.

    Wyasket’s body was found Sept. 27, 2017, when a group of ranchers moving cattle came upon the badly decomposed body west of Hooper in a waterfoul management area, the release said.

    “The body was in a very advanced stage of decomposition and investigating deputies were unable to identify whether the body was male or female,” the release said. “The (Utah) Office of the Medical Examiner responded to the scene and took possession of the body and no manner of death was able to be determined.”

    Eventually investigators determined that the remains were female between the age of 28 and 48. Meanwhile, detectives “worked tirelessly to attempt to identify the female, scouring through records of missing females. Detectives were unable to identify the remains through this process.”

    It wasn’t until investigators reached out to the FBI that the sheriff’s office was able to identify Wyasket’s remains. Now police are hoping to learn more about the last months of her life in the Ogden area. She was last known to frequent the area of 18th and Childs Avenue in Ogden, the release said.

    Anyone who may have seen Wyasket in the spring of 2017 near that area is asked to contact the Weber County Investigations Bureau at 801-778-6631 and reference case #17WC30742.

    Detectives continue to investigate how Wyasket died. The Weber County Sheriff’s Office expressed condolences to Wyasket’s family.

  • Student safety summit at University of Utah begins with moment to ‘remember individual students lost on our campuses’
    Annamarie Barnes, University of Utah student body president, talks with Marlon Lynch, chief safety officer at the U., prior to a student safety forum at the Alumni House on the U. campus in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

    SALT LAKE CITY — The first-ever student safety summit at the University of Utah started on a somber note, with a moment of silence to remember “individual students lost on our campuses,” said U. President Ruth Watkins.

    Watkins said the event, convened by the Utah System of Higher Education, was a first for the state of Utah.

    Friday’s event included a keynote by Dr. David Reetz, president elect of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors and numerous breakout sessions that included the voice of students and discussions about mental health issues, campus public safety, Title IX, equity and healthy relationships, among others.

    “All of our institutions, all of our campuses and all of us individuals have experienced acts of violence on our campuses. We have experienced suicides. We have experienced students with mental health concerns and we have experienced loss of life,” said Watkins, asking attendees to take a moment to reflect on the issues at hand and the affected students.

    Watkins said student safety is a top priority at the U.

    Following the slaying of student athlete Lauren McCluskey in 2018, the university implemented multiple initiatives to enhance safety, including the hiring of a senior-level chief safety officer and a new police chief, clustering evening classes in quadrants, and serving those areas with security patrols and courtesy escorts and transportation options that include an on-campus on-demand ride service.

    McCluskey, 21, was shot and killed near her campus dorm by 37-year-old Melvin Rowland, a convicted sex offender who was on parole at the time. The two had dated, but McCluskey ended the relationship after she found out Rowland had lied about his name and age.

    Her parents later filed a $56 million lawsuit against the university alleging campus police and housing officials ignored their daughter’s multiple reports of stalking, abuse, intimidation, dating violence and other behavior prohibited under Title IX.

    Watkins said the changes at the university are tantamount to “changing a culture, really creating a culture of safety on our campus in everything we do.”

    “This is not an easy journey. This is not a fast journey, but it is a very vital journey,” she said.

    The changes are a “continuous improvement effort. I don’t think we’ll ever be done but we’ll continue to improve. We are far better off than we were a year ago, and a year from now we’ll be better still,” Watkins said.

    Reetz, director of counseling and psychological services at Rochester Institute of Technology, told attendees that growing numbers of college students report that they are sad, lonely and anxious, according to results of national college health assessments.

    Other instruments, such as UCLA’s Incoming Freshman Survey, show fewer youth obtain driver licenses, hold part-time jobs, date or even hang out with friends compared to previous generations. Participation in youth sports is also on the decline.

    When students have few face-to-face social connections, they do not have opportunities to interact with others, learn to engage in conflict or to reconcile with one another.

    “That’s what we’re losing more and more of, the ability to navigate those situations,” Reetz said. Consequently, face-to-face conversations “feel scary.”

    When youth are socially anxious, they don’t engage, which can lead to isolation and depression and academic challenges.

    Educators need to be aware of the prevalence of social anxiety and the expectations of college classrooms, and strive to create environments where students can succeed, he said.

    All college classes require some level of social interaction, which can be highly difficult for students who struggle with social anxiety. If they are two minutes late to class, they may just skip the class instead of walking into a room when people are already seated because of their anxiety.

    Anxiety is affecting graduate students as well, Reetz said.

    A recent international study of 2,300 students seeking master’s and doctorate degrees who underwent mental health screenings showed 41% experience moderate to severe anxiety. The rates were similar for depression.

    By comparison, just 6% of the general population experiences severe anxiety and depression.

    “There’s something that happens in higher ed. It’s the demands. It’s the pressure. It’s the social expectations,” Reetz said.

    Friday’s summit also served as a welcome to the University of Utah’s inaugural chief safety officer Marlon C. Lynch. Previously, Lynch was senior vice president for campus services and safety at New York University.

    Lynch said one of his immediate objectives is to engage students and the larger campus community in fully implementing numerous safety initiatives set into motion following McCluskey’s murder.

    When he applied for the position, Lynch said he found the U.’s commitment to make meaningful changes “was very attractive for me to see as a candidate” because many large organizations are not nimble enough to quickly implement new practices or policies.

    Lynch said administrators left some changes to the new public safety leadership. “There’s some things that are needed right away, with regards to opportunities for a public safety advisory committee that would be comprised of students, faculty and staff, and health science leaders,” he said.

    His overarching goal is to implement best practices, ensure officers are well trained and considered part of the university community.

    “There has to be trust that’s involved. There has to be knowledge of what and how we can be a resource, and that we’re not just there to tell them (students) what they cannot do. It has to be, ‘We’re here every day. Let’s look just like they are, part of the community,’” he said.

    Lynch said college campuses are communities unto themselves that have unique dynamics.

    “I think our student enrollments is 33,000 and you look at the health system that’s here, I’m not sure the statistical data on how busy that is on a day-to-day basis, but it’s a pretty significant amount of people that are that are here all the time,” he said.

    Beyond that, hundreds of thousands of people visit the campus each year for sports, arts and community events.

    The university is also home to students, some as young as 17 years old who are living away from home for the first time.

    They’re learning to be independent “but at the same time, those life experiences that they’re confronted with can be a little overwhelming at times. That’s why I think it’s important for the role of, you know, public safety and student affairs to have that day-to-day engagement, not just when there is a critical incident.”

    Board of Regents Chairman Harris Simmons announced that all eight of Utah’s colleges and universities will be participating in a JED Campus program to support student mental health and well-being. JED is a nonprofit focused on emotional health and suicide prevention for the nation’s teens and young adults.

    The initiative was made possible with funding from the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, Simmons said.

    JED Campus guides participating schools through a four-year process intended to build upon existing student mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention efforts.

    The evidence-based program has been implemented at more than 290 colleges and universities nationwide but Utah is the first state to participate systemwide. The program supports the Board of Regents’ mental health recommendations, which were revised last year.

    “The Utah System of Higher Education is fully committed to developing solutions for our campuses in the areas of student mental health and well-being,” Simmons said in a statement.

    “We are appreciative of the commitment from the Marriott Foundation and look forward to utilizing the resources and expertise of JED in the years to come in supporting our students statewide.”

  • The Utah Jazz’s schedule is about to get much more difficult
    Utah Jazz forward Georges Niang (31), Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) and Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) celebrate a point near the end of game with the Portland Trail Blazers in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2019. Utah won 121-115. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

    SALT LAKE CITY — Much has been made during the Utah Jazz’s run of 18 wins in their last 20 games about how their schedule has been rather easy, as only two of those victories have come against teams above .500.

    Things are about to get significantly more difficult over the next month, not to mention more important from a playoff positioning standpoint, even as the Jazz still have 38 games remaining in the regular season.

    Starting on Saturday afternoon against the Dallas Mavericks at Vivint Arena, Utah’s next four games are against teams in the top eight of the Western Conference. Seven of their 10 games after that through Feb. 26 are also against squads currently in playoff position, with five being against Western Conference foes.

    Alone in second in the West entering Friday night’s games, the Jazz won’t play the two Los Angeles teams that are sandwiching them in the standings during this stretch, but in addition to facing the fifth-place Mavericks twice, they’ll also see the fourth-place Denver Nuggets and eighth-place San Antonio Spurs two times apiece over the next month and the sixth-place Houston Rockets three times.

    Five of those games will be at Vivint Arena and four will be on the road. Just one game is separating Utah and Denver in the standings entering Friday night.

    Additionally, there will be two games against the Portland Trail Blazers, who aren’t currently in the West’s top eight, but they’ve been incredibly ravaged by injury this season and are getting healthier.

    Jazz point guard Mike Conley acknowledged after practice on Friday that the team isn’t ignoring the fact that the schedule is about to get more difficult. Rather, they’re looking forward to embracing the challenge after cruising through much of the last six weeks.

    “We’re not shying away from the task at hand,” Conley said. “We understand that we have a lot of good teams coming in and when we go on the road as well, but I think we’re just in a good place physically and mentally where every day we’re coming in, working, trying to get better each day and worry about the next game, not looking too far ahead.”

    The obvious flip side of playing these teams so many times over the next few weeks is that Utah hasn’t seen any of the above listed playoff teams at all this season, and they’ve only played the Trail Blazers once.

    “I wouldn’t say it’s problematic. It’s unique in a certain sense,” Utah head coach Quin Snyder said Friday of the fact his team has had such little firsthand look at so many in-conference contenders. “At the same time, we’ve played the Clippers and Lakers and (Oklahoma City Thunder). That’s part of the scheduling.”

    Saturday’s contest against Dallas will be the lone time wunderkind Luka Doncic will play in Salt Lake City (barring a playoff series) this season. The 20-year-old from Slovenia was named a starter on Thursday for the Feb. 16 NBA All-Star Game and is averaging 29.1 points, 9.6 rebounds and nine assists per game.

    “Man, he’s impressive,” Conley said. “He’s got everything in his game. With his size and skill, he’s one of the few players that can do what he can do, so it’s going to be a tough challenge for all of us. We’re definitely locked in and going to try to figure out a way to try to slow him down as best we can.”

    Saturday’s game will be somewhat unique given its 3 p.m. start as part of the NBA’s efforts to make more games available to watch at an earlier hour in Europe and Africa. Rather than point to anything negative about a different start time, Conley said it’ll be nice to be done earlier than usual.

    “I think mostly all of us like it,” he said. “You get to go eat dinner afterward at a good time, you know, 7 p.m. instead of 10, 11:30. I think it’s really cool.”

    On Friday afternoon, the Mavericks reportedly made trades to acquire centers Willie Cauley-Stein and Justin Patton in the wake of the Achilles injury Dwight Powell suffered earlier this week. Dallas reportedly sent the Golden State Warriors a second-round pick that once belonged to the Jazz in exchange for Cauley-Stein.

  • ‘It just gets harder’: BYU looking for another road win at San Francisco; Haws set to break school record
    BYU guard TJ Haws (30) drives to the basket against San Francisco guard Jordan Ratinho (25) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, in San Francisco. | Tony Avelar, Associated Press

    Going into the week, the WCC had a logjam of five teams tied for second place in the league standings. But after Thursday night’s results, including BYU’s 74-60 victory at Pacific and USF’s 58-48 loss at Saint Mary’s, the Cougars and Gaels are now tied for second place in the WCC.

    SAN FRANCISCO — On the heels of earning its first West Coast Conference road win Thursday at Pacific, BYU is seeking another.

    The Cougars visit San Francisco Saturday (3 p.m., MST, KJZZ; at War Memorial at the Sobrato Center with a chance to sweep this Bay Area road swing.

    “It just gets harder. It does. This game was the hardest game we’ve played and that game will be even harder,” coach Mark Pope said Thursday night. “It’s a quick turnaround.”

    At the Spanos Center, Yoeli Childs returned after missing four games due to a finger injury and he poured in 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Guard Jake Toolson scored a career-high 28 points, including 6 of 8 from 3-point range. He had 14 of those points, including three consecutive 3-pointers, during BYU’s game-clinching 21-0 run late in the contest.

    Toolson and Childs combined to shoot 21 of 35 from the field. Currently, BYU is sixth in the nation in field goal percentage (49.6) and fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (40.6).

    Going into the week, the WCC had a logjam of five teams tied for second place in the league standings. But after Thursday night’s results, including BYU’s 74-60 victory at Pacific and USF’s 58-48 loss at Saint Mary’s, the Cougars (15-6, 4-2) and Gaels are now tied for second place in the WCC. The Dons (14-7, 3-3) are one of the teams that fell out of second place.

    “We don’t really think about standings or any of that. We just try to win every game,” Toolson said. “It’s important because we want to give ourselves the best chance every night. Winning is really important and I’m glad we were able to do that (against Pacific).”

    A year ago, San Francisco swept the Cougars, including a 82-63 trouncing of BYU at War Memorial.

    Guard Charles Minlend averages a team-high 15.1 points for the Dons.

    “It’s going to be another fight. They’re a really good team. Offensively, they’re great,” Childs said of USF. “Defensively, they’re really good team as well. It’s going to be another dogfight. All these games on the road are.”

    The Cougars are bolstering their NCAA Tournament resume — they have now won two true road games this season and this week have catapulted in the NET rankings from 38 to 28. BYU is rated No. 21 in the rankings and it is projected as a No. 10 seed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

    Meanwhile, guard TJ Haws is on the verge of achieving a historic milestone. Saturday, he’s expected to make his 123rd start, eclipsing Jeff Chatman for most consecutive starts in school history.

    “It’s pretty remarkable,” Pope said of that feat. “You think about doing anything more and better and longer than anybody in the history of BYU has done it, that’s really hard to do. There’s a museum of great players here. The fact that TJ is trying to peek through that door is pretty special.”

    The Cougars received strong fan support Thursday and they’re hoping for more at USF.

    “Cougar Nation, baby. Cougar Nation. It’s so much fun when we come out on the road and it feels like a home game, it’s unbelievable,” Childs said. “Cougar Nation travels everywhere. It’s the best fan base in the world, it really is.”

    No doubt, another road victory Saturday would be another boost to BYU’s NCAA Tournament hopes.

    “It’s exciting. It’s going to be another tough battle,” Toolson said. “There’s no nights off in this league. There’s a bunch of good teams. This team is going to be ready for it and I’m really excited.”

    Cougars on the air

    BYU (15-6, 4-2) at San Francisco (14-7, 3-3)

    Saturday, 3 p.m. MST

    War Memorial at the Sobrato Center

    TV: KJZZ; Stadium;

    Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

  • Utah regents’ task force takes on defining college affordability with a March deadline
    Adobe Stock image

    SALT LAKE CITY — Responding to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s call for a tuition freeze at public colleges and universities until the Utah System of Higher Education defines affordability, a board of regents committee has appointed a task force to complete that work with an ambitious March deadline.

    “We want to be responsive to the governor,” Regent Wilford Clyde, chairman of board’s finance and facilities committee, said on Friday.

    David Woolstenhulme, interim commissioner of the Utah System of Higher Education, said the system is working on a two-prong approach, an immediate strategy to set the framework for upcoming tuition deliberations normally conducted in the spring, and a long-term strategy to guide the system and its governing body for years to come.

    “The good thing is, there’s been a lot of work done up to this point so it’s not like hurry up and jump through hoops,” said Woolstenhulme.

    The task force will include members of the board’s finance and facilities committee, two other regents, three college and university presidents, representatives of the Utah System of Technical Colleges and a member of legislative staff among others.

    According to regents documents, the board regularly reviews tuition increases and institutional finances for affordability. Moreover, affordable participation has been one of the board’s three strategic priorities since 2015. However, it has yet to adopt a formal, specific definition of affordability for the system of state colleges and universities.

    The full board of regents heard a presentation on the results of a study on tuition, state aid and affordability conducted by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

    “We feel we’re in a really good spot for that task force to take that information and get to that starting point,” Woolstenhulme said.

    According to the report’s summary, Utah ranks seventh out of the 15 Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education states for lowest tuition and fees. The group includes 15 Western states and U.S. Pacific territories.

    Since the 2008-09 academic year, net price of tuition and fees has decreased in Utah by 13.7% because of the amount of aid received by new students.

    The report also states that for the 2016-17 academic year, approximately 50% of Utah undergraduates at four-year colleges and universities received grant aid.

    Juliette Tennert, the Gardner Institute’s director of economics and public policy, said the issue of college affordability is subjective and based on multiple factors unique to every students.

    Living circumstances make a significant difference in affordability. College is significantly more affordable for a student who lives at home with his or her parents, less so if they live on campus. By three different measures, living off campus but not with family is the least affordable.

    “College affordability is not simply tied to rising tuition and fees or as a ratio of price to income. Rather, measuring the relationship between a student’s assets and the cost of college via methodologies used in the Rule of 10 and the expected family contribution provides a baseline for the price a student might be reasonably able to afford,” the report states.

    The Rule of 10 suggests that students should pay no more than the savings generated from saving 10% of discretionary income for 10 years and the earnings from working 10 hours per week while enrolled in school.

    The Rule of 10 was developed by Lumina Foundation. According to its website, Lumina Foundation is an independent, private foundation in Indianapolis “committed to making opportunities for learning beyond high school available to all.”

    A return-on-investment calculation also provides a sense of the expected lifetime value of a degree.

    “However, these methodologies do not address an individual’s ability to pay for postsecondary education. A holistic approach to address cost, ability to pay, and the expected value of a college degree is a more accurate measure,” the report states.

  • 2 women dead after wrong-way crash on I-215
    Utah Highway Patrol troops clean up after a double fatal accident due to a wrong-way driver on I-215 near 2000 East in Cottonwood Heights on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

    Elderly woman had driven 2-3 miles on freeway the wrong way before crash, troopers say

    HOLLADAY — An elderly woman driving the wrong way on eastbound I-215 caused a head-on crash that killed her and another woman Friday afternoon, troopers said.

    According to the Utah Highway Patrol, a woman in her 80s had driven the wrong way for 2 to 3 miles before the crash happened near 2000 East early Friday afternoon.

    Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
    Utah Highway Patrol troopers clean up after a double fatal accident due to a wrong-way driver on I-215 near 2000 East in Cottonwood Heights on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020.

    The woman who died in the other car was in her 20s, troopers said. Her name was not immediately released.

    The woman in her 80s died later Friday afternoon, troopers said.

    Eastbound I-215 between 2000 East and 3000 East remained closed as of about 5 p.m., according to the Utah Department of Transportation.

    “Please find an alternate route and be aware of first responders and tow trucks in the area,” UHP tweeted.

    This story will be updated.

  • Democrat Elizabeth Warren hires campaign staff in Utah
    Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

    SALT LAKE CITY — Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has hired staff members to lead her campaign in Utah.

    Marcus Stevenson will work as Warren’s organizing director in the state. He served as the campaign manager for David Garbett’s Salt Lake City mayor bid last year and worked on now-Rep. Ben McAdams’ campaign for Salt Lake County mayor in 2016.

    The Warren campaign also named Marlene Esquivel as regional organizing director for Salt Lake County and Travis Suite as regional organizing director for central and southern Utah.

    Warren made a campaign stop in Salt Lake City last April.

    Utah is among 14 states holding a presidential primary on Super Tuesday.

  • Utah unemployment rate lower than it’s ever been
    Adobe Stock

    SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level ever recorded last month — registering at 2.3% for the month of December.

    “The economy continues adding to multiple years of robust job creation. This dynamic has carried Utah to its lowest recorded unemployment rate,” said Mark Knold, chief economist with the state Department of Workforce Services.

    “The job market is humming along at a feverish pace and is absorbing as much labor as possible.”

    The Utah Department of Workforce Services reported Friday that the seasonally adjusted jobless rate declined one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous month. Data showed approximately 37,900 Utahns were considered unemployed and actively seeking work during December.

    Nationally, the U.S. unemployment rate held steady at 3.5%.

    The final month of 2019 culminated with a historic employment picture heading into the new year, according to a local analyst.

    Knold said nonfarm payroll employment for December 2019 increased by an estimated 3.3%, with the Utah economy bringing on 50,400 new jobs since December 2018. Currently, approximately 1.6 million Utahns are considered gainfully employed.

    Knold said Utah’s private sector employment grew by 3.6% over the past 12 months, adding 46,700 new positions to the local economy. Data indicated that nine of the 10 private sector industry groups measured in the establishment survey posted net job increases for December — with the category of “other services” as the lone outlier — remaining unchanged, adding no net jobs for the period.

    The report showed the largest private sector employment increases were in education and health services, which added 12,400 jobs; construction, which added 9,700 new positions; along with professional and business services adding 7,500 jobs. The fastest employment growth occurred in construction — up 9.5%, with education and health services climbing 6%, along with leisure and hospitality services increasing 3.8%.

    Meanwhile, employment specialists note that with jobs so plentiful in the Beehive State, employers will have to do more to attract and retain the best talent with so many viable options available to job seekers.

    “Companies are really needing to pay more and (create) different compensation packages,” said Damian Garcia, regional vice president for the employment agency Robert Half. “So (it’s) not just compensation, with the rising cost of health care, benefits are becoming more and more and more important.”

    He said candidates are looking for high-quality benefits packages that can help mitigate the cost of living and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Being able to work remotely has become a highly valued option for prospective workers who appreciate the ability to not be in an office all the time, he said.

    “Studies have shown over the last decade that people working remotely are getting just as much — and in some cases, more accomplished working remotely than they are being in the office 40 hours a week,” Garcia said.

    Other popular benefits offered include fitness memberships or on-site gyms as well as variable work schedules to accommodate families and differing lifestyles, he added.

    Another highly coveted perk is unlimited paid time off, which he said more employers are including in their benefits packages.

    “It is very unique. You just take however much time you’d like — 24-hour notice is all you need (in some cases),” he explained.

    “It’s a sign of the importance that people are putting on ‘not living to work, but working to live,’ the focus on family and the focus on things outside of their of their vocation,” Garcia said. “(Work) is still very, very important but employers are starting to — and quite frankly — need to recognize that they’re going to be stuck with candidates that maybe aren’t the quality or have the experience or the skill set that their business needs to continue to grow (without including such perks).”

    He said with the economy being so robust, companies are growing at a faster pace and they need to hire qualified talent to continue their upward trend.

    “If you don’t have the talent to do it and you can’t attract the talent to do it because you’re not offering a package of benefits (with) compensation, opportunity and training that’s attractive, you’re going to be hamstrung,” he said. “You got to have the talent in the seat to grow and to achieve your initiatives. It starts with the people.”

    He noted that the construction industry is currently the No. 1 sector for prospective employees, along with education, health services as well as leisure and hospitality and natural resources. Technology is also a high demand employment sector, he said.

    Garcia said because workers have so many choices, employers will have to make more of an effort to retain quality talent than in previous years.

    “Once you get them in the door, invest in the individual and really spend the time to connect with every individual in your organization and find out what’s important to them (and) finding out what drives them,” he said. “You’re focusing on the individual first and do that with everybody in your organization and on your teams, whether you’re a midlevel manager, senior manager or an entry-level manager.

    “That is what’s going to retain your staff — really helping them but at the same time challenging them and helping them get better.”