According to police, a staffer at Provo Canyon School died after an attack on a youth treatment center

A nurse at Provo Canyon School called 911 on an April night to report a riot. It was the second time that the Springville Police Department had been contacted about the campus that day.

“It’s really bad,” the caller told the dispatcher, according to a nearly three-minute phone call obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune about an open-ended file request. She noted that she was on the inpatient treatment center’s Springville campus, not the eponymous campus about 9 miles away in Provo. “I need help. Like this got out of hand. Girls are trying to break out.”

She said eight girls have already been detained – “and there will be more.” I just looked through the window and there are girls trying to break in the window with chairs,” the audio recording of the call said. An employee was injured and the caller was the only nurse not actively attending to the riot, she said.

When police arrived, eight girls were taken into custody, Lt. Warren Foster of the Springville Police Department. A police report says the girls argued with staff and each other. They were later sent to a juvenile detention center on suspicion of a crime. The report shows that more than a dozen emergency response units were at the scene.

When The Tribune reached out to Provo Canyon School officials for comment about that night, the inpatient treatment center manager described the incident as a “disorder,” prompting police to be called “as a precaution.”

“We were able to rectify the fault quickly and safely. No patients or staff were injured. The facility is currently fully operational,” Tim Marshall said in an April 21 email, adding that the residents taken into police custody returned to the center the next day.

He did not respond to further questions about the events, including discrepancies between his statement and the 911 call, nor did he respond to questions from The Tribune about other police responses to the school between February and April – including a reported attack on a staff member on March 27. March that preceded the man’s death.

When The Tribune asked Provo Canyon School for more details In an April 26 email, Marshall said, “He hereby reiterates that no patients or staff were injured as a result of the April 12 riots.” Separate from the incident, Mr. Torrens’ family at Provo Canyon School is speaking to her sorry out. He was loved and we will miss him.”

Utah’s youth treatment industry has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Former residents, including the socialite Paris Hilton, have made allegations of abuse and mistreatment they have been subjected to at these centers, emphasizing lax government oversight to prevent such cases.

[Read more: Provo Canyon School’s history of abuse accusations spans decades, far beyond Paris Hilton]

A change in the law in 2021 increased the required number of annual inspections in inpatient treatment facilities; provided more money to pay inspectors; and restricted the use of restraints, medication, and isolation rooms for residents. However, some proponents say these changes didn’t go far enough.

In December, a 17-year-old girl died at Diamond Ranch Academy, an inpatient treatment facility in Hurricane, after the facility’s managers denied her medical care, her family’s attorney said in a statement in April. Medical examiners concluded that Taylor Goodridge died of peritonitis, an infection of abdominal tissue that the attorney said is usually “easily treated with antibiotics.”

Accusations and few answers

Springville Police Department Foster told The Tribune that a male resident punched Torrens on March 27 “basically an idiot.” Torrens underwent surgery to treat his injuries and subsequently died in Orem.

Foster said Springville and Orem police are investigating the attack and whether or not it contributed to the employee’s death. Orem police spokesman Nicholas Thomas declined to answer questions about the case on May 9.

Police records show officers were contacted eight times about the school between February and April:

  • February 19: Someone calls the police and says they found more than 6 grams of methamphetamine and paraphernalia at the school. According to the documents, officers closed the case on February 27 “due to a lack of suspicious evidence.”

  • February 27: Officials learned of a teenage resident who ran away. Officials found the child and brought him back “without incident,” the documents say.

  • March 27: Officers are dispatched to the school over a reported assault. Three people were injured – including Torrens – and the The alleged perpetrator, a boy, was held in a juvenile detention center. According to the records, the boy’s father was notified.

  • April 4: The Department of Children and Family Services referred a case of sexual assault reported at the school to the Springville Police Department, according to a heavily redacted report.

  • April 11, 9:16 am: Police received a report of a 16-year-old boy who escaped from a lockdown facility. Officers arrested him after a “brief foot chase” and took him back to Provo Canyon School, the documents say.

  • April 11, 5:46 p.m.: A staffer at the school reported that someone posing as her had sent another staffer a message telling her they were being suspended, the records say.

  • April 12, 1:25 p.m.: The Springville Police Department called the school to assist another agency, the records say.

  • April 12, 10:16 p.m.: Officials responded to a call that girls were “rioting in their living quarters” and that the girls were “actively fighting staff and each other,” the records say.

Complaints were received by state regulators about each of these potentially criminal events, according to Charla Haley, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. The Office of Licensing, which oversees juvenile treatment programs, is housed at DHHS.

Haley said officials investigate licensed facilities after receiving such complaints, “but cannot release specific details” until investigators complete their review.

Officials last examined Provo Canyon School in Springville on Jan. 17 as part of an announced routine inspection, according to DHHS. An inspector went through a checklist of applicable state laws and found that the The school followed all guidelines. Regulators who inspected the school during an unannounced visit Dec. 12 also found no problems.

Haley said Monday regulators are likely to complete investigations into these more recent cases “in the next few weeks” and release findings in cases where inspectors have found “non-compliance with licensing requirements.”

“A Father Figure”

According to a personal obituary Torrens died on April 20. His family remembered him as “a cowboy at heart,” “happiest in a freshly ironed and crumpled pair of … jeans, a long-sleeved Ariat shirt, a belt with a fancy buckle, and a comfortable pair of cowboy boots.”

The obituary adds that Torrens enjoyed working with his hands and had recently purchased woodworking equipment to make furniture. It does not mention the reported attack of March 27.

“He loved his family, his Irish heritage, rodeos, fishing, the Kansas City Chiefs, BYU football and history,” the obituary reads. Torrens considered going back to school to teach history.

The Tribune has been unable to reach Torrens’ family regarding his death.

Torrens previously served 10 years in the army, where he worked as a mechanic, his obituary said. He continued that career after leaving military service, but eventually “got tired of smelling of grease and having grease under his fingernails,” according to his obituary.

He took advantage of GI Bill to attend Utah Valley University’s culinary arts program and become a chef. He opened a restaurant, The Arbor in Orem, and went on to work at Brigham Young University’s Skyroom restaurant and in food production, according to the obituary.

According to his obituary, Torrens eventually landed a job as head kitchen at Provo Canyon School. He later became a mentor for student life and worked with boys at the inpatient treatment center.

“The boys loved and respected Dennis,” the obituary says, “and viewed him as a father figure that many had not previously experienced.”

Torrens is survived by his mother, wife, four children, two grandchildren, three sisters and his “mistress”. [Plott] Dog, Boone,” reads the obituary.

Editor’s Note • This story is available only to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers. Thank you for supporting local journalism.

Justin Scaccy

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