BRIGHAM CITY, Utah — The sheriff of a northern Utah county has died, a day after he was sworn into office to serve his third term.
An officer checked on Sheriff Joseph Lynn Yeates at his Brigham City home Tuesday morning after he did not show up to work and found him unresponsive, Box Elder County Commissioner Stan Summers said.
Yeates was 68.
Kevin Potter, the sheriff's chief deputy, said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that Yeates died of natural causes.
The sheriff's wife, Lynda Nelson Yeates, died in November.
Joseph Yeates' law enforcement career spanned decades and included stints on ambulance crews, in addition to as work as a crime laboratory technician, patrol officer, detective, jail commander and the chief deputy sheriff. The sheriff's office serves a population of 53,000, and Yeates was particularly fond of the county's most rural areas, Summers said.
"It's a huge loss for a community," he said. "It's a community that doesn't take our officers lightly. We appreciate the people that put their lives on the line to keep our freedoms and the happiness we enjoy."
Sgt. Dale Ward, who supervises detectives at the sheriff's office, said Joseph Yeates lived for public service and had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the 6,700-square-mile county. Ward said the sheriff had been slowed in recent years with two knee replacements.
"It's just starting to hit us all," he told the Standard-Examiner. "We're a freaking mess right now."
The vacancy left by Joseph Yeates' death will be filled through a special election.