A teen-ager who was a resident of a juvenile offender's facility was charged yesterday with the rape of a jogger in a Howard County park where the boy had been participating in a fresh air program for troubled youths, county police said.
The 15-year-old boy was charged as a juvenile with second-degree rape and sex offenses in the April 26 incident. Police said a 24-year-old woman was dragged into bushes at Centennial Park, near Columbia, and attacked.
Police identified the youth as a resident of the state-owned, privately operated Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center in Marriottsville, where he was undergoing court-ordered therapy for attempting two sexual assaults in Prince George's County.
Four supervisors from the center chaperoned the boy and 38 other participants of the program at the park the day of the rape, police said.
Witnesses who saw the final moments of the sexual assault told police that they saw the attacker run to the park's exit and flag down a crowded van that was departing, police said. The victim was treated at Howard County General Hospital.
Police later learned that the van was owned and operated by the O'Farrell center. After questioning supervisors of the outing, they learned the identity of the boy chasing the van, said Sgt. Gary L. Gardner, a police spokesman.
"Apparently, they came out to the park for recreational activities," Sergeant Gardner said. "This particular boy appeared to leave the group."
Police arrested the boy early yesterday at his family's home in Capitol Heights, where he was staying on a five-day pass from the youth center, Sergeant Gardner said. Police said they had questioned the center directors and the boy about the incident shortly before he received the pass.
Police said the boy was being held at the Thomas J. S. Waxter Children's Center in Laurel, a state correctional facility for juveniles.
Nancy Grasmick, secretary of the state Department of Juvenile Services, said last night that the department and police would conduct a "comprehensive" investigation of the incident. "We'll be making some decisions if the allegations are supported. Everything that may have contributed to this . . . we will judge each individually, all the circumstances of the trip," she said.
The O'Farrell center, built for 40 youths, offers juvenile therapy under state contract, said W. Girard Schwessinger, Howard County's master of chancery, a judge for juvenile cases. He said such centers commonly used "woodsy-type" approaches.
"We've had pretty good success with the program," Mr. Schwessinger said. "The idea is that you want to let someone who's had some trouble have a place to hop, skip and jump."
"All these programs will have problems from time to time, and when they do, the hue and cry is to say, 'Well, these people ought not to be outside,' " Mr. Schwessinger said. "But then what is one to do? Put up wire fences and close them in forever?"