A 15-year-old boy charged with raping a jogger in a Columbia park while on a field trip with a state juvenile offenders group had been sent to look for two others who had wandered off just before the attack, Howard County police said yesterday.
The youth was undergoing court-ordered therapy for two attempted sexual assaults in Prince George's County at Thomas O'Farrell Youth Center when he went on the group trip to Centennial Park April 26.
About 3:30 p.m. that day, a woman jogging along a path around a lake at the park was dragged into the woods and attacked.
Sgt. Robert Adams, a police spokesman, said, "One of the counselors from the O'Farrell center told police investigators that the defendant was sent to look for two others who had left the group right before the rape occurred."
The police report comes as the incident is being investigated by the state Department of Juvenile Services and the Northeastern Family Institute, a Danvers, Mass., non-profit agency that runs the state-owned O'Farrell center.
The police account does not square with a version reported by one of the center's counselors to authorities at Northeastern, which oversees about 30 centers for troubled youth and juvenile offenders in three states.
Frieda Miller, assistant director of Northeastern, said a counselor acknowledged that the boy was sent to look for two other youths, but said that they were back with the group by the time the rape occurred.
"That occurred way before the incident happened," Ms. Miller said. "The counselor reported seeing the youth come back, and she was watching him. The other two boys were where they were supposed to be."
About three dozen youths and four O'Farrell supervisors were on the trip.
Jacqueline Lampell, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Juvenile Services, declined to comment on the police report.
She said the agency's chief, Nancy S. Grasmick, expects to decide what action should be taken at the O'Farrell center after she receives a report Wednesday from Northeastern. Ms. Lampell said Juvenile Services has conducted its own investigation.
Juvenile Services is reviewing all resident case files for the center, located in the Carroll County town of Henryton, and has forbidden it to take in any more sex offenders.
Bobbie Fine, a county prosecutor, said she is preparing a petition requesting Juvenile Services to investigate the youth, pending a decision on whether to have him tried as an adult in the county Circuit Court on the rape and sex offense charges.
"I would like to see him tried as an adult at this point, but I have to await the investigation by Juvenile Services," said Ms. Fine.
She said it could take up to two months before the courts decide whether the youth should be tried as an adult. He is being held at the Noyes Children Center in Rockville.