One year ago, Salt Lake City was on the tail end of one of its worst winters to date. Freezing cold temperatures and several inches of snow blasted the city for months. No one was more affected than the city’s unsheltered population.
Salt Lake City reported just five homeless deaths during the blistering cold months between December 2022 and February 2023, however, homeless advocate Ty Bellamy reported 15 deaths. All these deaths were tragic, but the final death is a testament to the degree in which unsheltered people are forgotten in Utah’s capitol city.
“This isn’t her; something happened in that tent,” said Barry Egolf, the father of Candice McCray, who was the fifteenth unsheltered person to pass away on the street last winter.
According to McCray’s family, she had become unsheltered just six months prior to her death. Egolf points to a drug problem that began following the sudden death of her husband as the leading reason for Candice ending up on the street.
On Feb 1, 2023 at 7:01am, McCray was found deceased in a tent at 50 S 750 W in Salt Lake City. Bellamy was one of the first on the scene.
“I had a connection to a local funeral home that would get the bodies of unsheltered people,” said Bellamy, who has been called in by Wiscombe Memorial Funeral Home on multiple occasions to help identify unsheltered individuals who were found deceased without ID.
McCray’s body was found naked in 8 degree weather with burn marks and street-tattooing on her right arm. Police immediately pointed to an overdose of methamphetamine as the cause of death.
“The investigator for the medical examiner … was telling me that they have every reason to believe that there’s possibly foul play here,” said Egolf.
While the police report filed by the SLCPD places the Medical Examiner Investigator at the crime scene, no comment is made about her assessment.
Bellamy detected a number of strange circumstances leading up to McCray’s death, none of which were considered by the SLCPD Homicide Unit.
“It was strange to me that she wouldn’t open up the tent,” said Bellamy, adding that she periodically checked on McCray throughout the winter, and that during her final week, McCray refused to leave her tent, which she shared with a man who claimed to be McCray’s boyfriend.
McCray’s body was found with the street name of the man sharing McCray’s tent inscribed into her arm. Street-named “New York”, the man in the tent with her at the time of her death was later identified by police as Darren Fayson.
“Why would you essentially brand somebody?” asked Bellamy, adding that Fayson is well-known as having priors involving drug trafficking and prostitution.
According to the police report, Fayson told officers that McCray had used methamphetamine earlier that morning around 2:00am before complaining about overheating, leading to her removing her clothing. According to Bellamy, her clothes were never recovered at the crime scene.
“Even my friends in law enforcement wouldn’t touch this,” Bellamy said.
When asked why he didn’t call for help earlier, Fayson told investigators that McCray suffered from occasional seizures. Fayson also told police that McCray had already suffered a seizure the night before.
According to Egolf, in the months following his daughter’s death, he called the detectives and medical examiner multiple times per week, but received little to no information about the case. Egolf added that detectives told him they were watching him closely for something to bring him in on. Five months after the incident, SLCPD finally released the police report to the Egolf family which showed no further investigation into Fayson.
In 2018, Fayson was arrested for threatening a hotel employee with a gun. Fayson was later booked on charges of aggravated assault, possession of a controlled substance, interfering with an arresting officer, possession of spice, possession of drug paraphernalia, and criminal trespass, according to a report by ABC4.com. He was also accused of domestic violence in front of children in 2011.
Bellamy claims Fayson also took a video of McCray as she was dying, however, no attempts have been made by police to recover the video.
“He’s still on the street, dealing drugs to other people,” Egolf said.
Egolf points to the label of “homelessness” as the number one reason his daughter’s case was dismissed by police and the media.
“The media never reported my daughter’s death,” said Egolf, adding that police “… left him [Fayson] in the back of the police car to take a nap while they were removing my daughter’s body.”
“I never thought that this would happen to her [or] one of our kids,” said Brenda Egolf, McCray’s stepmother.
Barry Egolf said that through this experience he’s learned that Salt Lake’s homeless population get treated inhumanely, adding that without people like Ty, they wouldn’t even know that she passed away.
“Maybe something can be done in the future for other people [but] it’s too late for my daughter,” said Egolf.
According to Bellamy, Mayor Erin Mendenhall placed moratoriums on temporary shelters, despite an increasing number of unsheltered deaths last winter.
“When you lock the doors that can essentially preserve life, I absolutely think that you’re responsible for the deaths that resulted from that,” Bellamy said.
Candice McCray leaves behind two kids, two parents and two step-parents. She was close to all members of her immediate family.