Officials previously claimed the juvenile facility was a safe and secure environment for Mayes, who was moved to the adult center within a day of a foiled escape attempt that, in its planning stages, included murdering a guard.
Mayes, until Monday, was kept isolated from the general population in part for his own protection and in part to help him transition into the adult facility but prior to the move, officials were increasingly concerned about the 19-year-old's mental well-being.
That concern led detention center Administrator Tom Havel to approve a contact visit with Mayes and his parents, City Manager Rob Mayes and his wife, during which they celebrated Mayes' 19th birthday with a cookie cake.
The visit was one of two contact visits allowed. Each visit took place in a visitation room in the booking area of the facility.
Havel could not recall the dates of each visit.
"We don't keep track of the special visits we have," he said. "When we give them, it's a privilege and they are not always granted. But we don't keep a log on it."
Despite the appearance of special treatment, however, Havel adamantly contends the visits were permitted as they would for other inmates under appropriate circumstances.
"Not all inmates have the potential (for a visit)," Havel said. "They can ask if there is a purpose for it."
Mayes faces life in prison for killing James Nordstrom on July 9, 2011, in Nordstrom's north Foothills home. The young man claims that Nordstrom made sexual advances toward him and he was defending himself.
Mayes, at that time, was on a break from the Boys Ranch and ran away from his parents' home. He sought shelter with Nordstrom, according to his statements to police.
Havel cited a death in the family or ill family members as possible reasons for a contact visit and said the main purpose behind Mayes' visit with his parents was because of Havel's concerns that Mayes was deteriorating emotionally.
During an June 26 interview, Havel said a secondary reason was one of his parents was not feeling well. At the time the visit was granted, Mayes' mother asked Havel if she could bring a cookie cake because it was around Mayes' birthday. That request was granted.
Mayes, since his transfer from the juvenile facility, was housed in the booking area, which provided an area of isolation away from the general population. While in the booking area, Mayes was allowed out of his cell for about an hour each day.
But Havel believed Mayes was beginning to shows signs of emotionally deteriorating. He was refusing to come out of his cell and he appeared less interactive.
Up until the contact visits with his parents, Mayes had received no visitors, including from his parents, Havel said.
Mayes was allowed to visit with his parents in an isolated room, away from guards for about 12 minutes. The visits were not recorded. Following the visit, Mayes was searched by guards, Havel said.
Typically visits with inmates are conducted via video or in person, but separated by a glass window. Contact visits, although rare, can occur. Havel said he has granted about 100 in the past 13 years.
"No special or preferential treatment was given, and I am not going to give preferential treatment to anyone," Havel said.
The fact that Mayes' father is the city manager had nothing to do with Havel's decision to allow the visit, he said.
"My job is to ensure the care, custody and control on the inmate population," Havel said.
After the visits with his parents, he was moved to the medical unit, and on Monday, Mayes was placed in general population.
The transition, according to Havel, was a necessary one.
Coming from the juvenile facility where he was considered to be a juvenile, he had to be incorporated into the system.
"I would be concerned he is housed in a way that does not let him physically or emotionally deteriorate prior to trial," said Deputy District Attorney Brent Capshaw, who is prosecuting the case.
Capshaw said he wondered about Mayes' possible deterioration during Mayes' last court appearance.
The 19-year-old did not look as "physically stout as he did at the time of his arrest," Capshaw said.
"John likely is not exercising at this point like he was when he was at the juvenile detention center, making his escape plans and training for the mad dash," Capshaw said.
"What I perceived as deterioration might be lack of physical training," he said.
The concern was not necessarily stemming from feeling sorry for the man, but to ensure his protection and mental well-being so Mayes can stand trial.
Sheriff's Detective Tim Nyce said he understands officials' concerns about Mayes being isolated, but he expressed his concerns about the type of visit that was allowed.
"There seems to be a bit of a boundary that was crossed," Nyce said. "It seems above and beyond."
Havel, however, believes it was the right choice.
"It really helped the kid," he said. "He's doing a lot better."
"It's one of those catch-22 things: shame on you if you do, shame on you if you don't," Havel said Tuesday. "I have to look at all the legitimate concerns of all the parties."
The trial could begin sometime in 2013.