R.I.P James “Jim” Shirey



James Richard “Jim” Shirey

Date of Birth: June 07, 1994
Date of Death: January 10, 2009
Country of Birth: United States
Place of Birth: San Diego, CA
Place of Death: Diamond Ranch Academy in Hurricane, Utah

James’ Memorial Page


“The last time we were together, January 3, 2009, as we waited for his plane at the airport, James said to me, “Mom, if something ever happens to me I want you and Dad to ‘go on’”. It was completely out of the blue and I said, “James I could never go on if something happened to you or Matt”. I didn’t know why he would say something like, his future was so bright, and he was healthy and young.”

– Sue Shirey

James “Jim” Shirey was a lively, fun loving 14 year old when he met his untimely end in the care of the improperly trained staff at Diamond Ranch Academy. His death was attributed to a genetic disorder called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, which does not usually pose significant health risks, however can lead to low blood sugar and dehydration when left untreated. A first hand account of the circumstances surrounding Jim’s death has yet to be released however several DRA survivors have mentioned the school failed to provide adequate medical care for Jim when he first fell ill. Because the medical examiner had been unable to determine the specific illness that caused James to succumb to death, Jim’s parents sought out the opinion of an independent pathologist.

“We have the opinion of the independent pathologist.  He says James died from an adrenal crisis brought on by the flu.  James had congenital adrenal hyperplasia, an adrenal disorder.  His body was missing an enzyme that converts cholesterol to cortisone.  He was being treated by a pediatric endocrinologist since he was 4 with medication and blood monitoring.  Apparently the vomiting and high fever caused his body to go into an adrenal crisis.  We were not told that his condition could be life threatening – but it is the opinion of this pathologist that it clearly was.  We are heartbroken that his death could have been prevented if we had been given this information.  We are working on informing others through blogs and websites that address congenital adrenal hyperplasia.  Thank you for your prayers and please continue to pray for our family to heal from this tragedy.” – Sue Shirey

All to often kids in behavior modification programs  who complain of health problems are ignored, refused treatment and even punished for “manipulating”.  We have seen pathologists excuse deaths in programs before, and I suspect there is more to Jim’s story. Survivors of Diamond Ranch Academy will describe punishments that include grueling outside work projects in which students are forced to push a cart around a field for hours on end with no breaks, no food and no water. Failure to complete these punishments often resulted in children being tackled and restrained. Treating a child even without any health issues with such force and violence has potential to cause elevated levels of anxiety, injury and even death.

The truth about Jim’s death needs to be uncovered and those responsible should be held accountable. Perfectly healthy 14 year old kids don’t just die suddenly, especially not from the flu. If Jim had special medical needs it was the responsibility of the medical staff at Diamond Ranch Academy to monitor those needs and provide proper medical care. As reported by his mother, Jim had been treated for his condition since he was 4 and was stable taking medication. DRA was aware of Jim’s condition however they failed to take his complaints seriously and seek emergency treatment when he fell ill.  Had they done so, his death could have certainly been prevented… and Jim would still be here today.

If anyone has any information especially witness accounts regarding the death of James “Jim” Shirey, please contact us or comment below.

Please see CAFETY’s campaign concerning Diamond Ranch Academy

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7 Responses to “R.I.P James “Jim” Shirey”

  1. A comment by a DRA Survivor, Chris Macaron

    I knew Jim Shirey; I was there when he arrived, and was there with him until I graduated. I only heard of his death, and the details of it, much later (to clarify, he died a number of months after I graduated). One of my closest friends while I was there, Alex W., was best friends with Jim, and they were in the same dorm the night it happened. Alex told me the details.

    I had an experience while I was there that the story of his death reminded me of. About halfway through my stay at DRA, I got severe food poisoning, for the first time in my life, and thought I was going to die. It was at night, so there were no nurses, everything was closed, and they refused to take me to a hospital. Instead, one of the dorm staff that thought he knew what he was doing, fetched bagels out of the kitchen because bread supposedly would help. Later I was informed by a doctor that this was far from the right thing to do. Anyways, the story is I felt sick early on in the night (after lights out) and spontaneously felt the need to throw up. I was on the top bunk, and it hit me so fast I just leaned over and did it. The staff told me to go to the bathroom. Because of how serious it was, I couldn’t – I just stayed there and threw up again shortly after. I received a citation (a ticket meaning you’ve done something wrong and are in trouble) for “Not Following Staff Directives”, for not getting up off the top bunk in between hurls to go to the bathroom. I was notified of the citation on a later day, after everything had passed (recovery spanned multiple days), and I was stunned. Believing it to be clearly unfair and ridiculous, I decided to “court it” (fight it out in the mock court system… which was really just a staff and a high-level student that decide whether you’re wrong or wrong). They knew the whole story. And they made it stick.

    I can give many specific accounts of neglect, abuse, and what I consider to be physical torture, experienced firsthand and/or as a witness, by me during my stay at Diamond Ranch Academy. Just let me know how you’d like me to share it.

    • Hi Chris

      Thank you for having the courage to post this online, not many people do or won’t take the time to do so.

      Can you please contact me regarding any information you have about Diamond Ranch and your stay there. If you know of anyone else that could provide information to me that would also be a big help.

      My son is there noe, he started Sept 10, 2012 I have been fortunate enough to have some conversation with him because of the 2 football games I went to that he was playing in. I just spoke with him yesterday and he is telling me things that I am concerned about and now after reading some posts online I see they are some the same things he was telling me. It sounds like things have evolved there a bit over the years from what I have been reading but I believe the intimidation is still the same from what he has been telling me.

      I would greatly appreciate it if you could contact me.

      Thank you
      Charise Simmers

  2. Today, January 10, 2012, is the 3 year anniversary of Jim Shirey’s death. I can’t believe its been so long. He was my best friend. I’ll never forget how unfairly the staff treated him while he was sick, just a few hours before he passed. R.I.P Jim. I love you bro.

    Alex Weiner

  3. Hi Alex

    I am so sorry to hear about your criend Jim it is truly awful. Please contact me with any information you have regarding Diamond Ranch. My son is there now and I don’t like what is have been reading or hearing from him. I would greatly appreciate any information you have.

    Thank you

    Charise Simmers

  4. Dear Sue Shirey,

    I continue to talk about Jim on Bipolar Nation Radio on LATalkradio.com. My daughter, Jani, has schizophrenia and my son Bodhi is autistic with intermittent explosive disorder. We have learned from parents like you never to send our children to a residential treatment center. Although there may be some “good ones” out there that I don’t yet know about what we are doing instead is creating community help facilities that include daycares for mentally ill and autistic kids that are currently discriminated against. We are working to change what went wrong with your situation and Jim represents, which are so many “wards of the state” who don’t have parents like you and your husband to speak out on his behalf. I can’t imagine your grief, but I’ve come pretty darn close and as you know, this is a lifetime. So feel free to contact me at any time.

    Susan Schofield


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