Boy, 16, charged in rape at Hickey

Suspect is resident at youth center where worker was attacked

June 27, 1999|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

A 16-year-old offender at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Cub Hill was charged early yesterday in the rape of an employee at the facility for male juvenile delinquents -- an incident that an official acknowledged was the result of a breach in security procedures.

Felix Fitzgerald, whose last known address before Hickey was the 400 block of E. Biddle St., was charged as an adult with a first-degree sex offense and first-degree assault in the rape Friday night at the state-owned facility, police said.

At a bail hearing yesterday, Fitzgerald was ordered held without bond at the Baltimore County Detention Center in Towson, state police said.

The victim, who also suffered choking scratches on her neck and bruises on her back, was treated at Franklin Square Hospital and released after the incident, which occurred about 6: 15 p.m. in a building on the grounds of the facility, police said.

According to court documents, the victim was finishing her work day in the building when a youth with a white T-shirt wrapped around his head jumped a Dutch door to the office. The employee struggled with the assailant and began screaming, court documents state. The attacker grabbed her throat and threatened to kill her if she did not stop screaming, the documents show. She stopped screaming and he assaulted her, records show.

The assailant ran from the building, state police said. After the assault, the victim ran from the building and screamed to another employee outside the building that she had been raped, court records show.

The employee told police he had seen a student leave the building with a white T-shirt wrapped around his head and had him detained, court records show.

Two other youths near the building about the time of the assault were detained and questioned by state police but apparently were not implicated.

"We established that he acted alone, without assistance or lookouts," said 1st Sgt. Laura Lu Herman, a state police spokeswoman.

Michael Higgins, deputy director of Hickey, said Fitzgerald and the two other youths were assigned to work in the food service area during dinner.

"There were several apparent lapses in procedures and human errors," said Higgins, an employee of Youth Services International, a private company under contract with the state Department of Juvenile Justice to run the facility.

Higgins declined to be specific about how the system failed.

"We are conducting our own internal investigation," Higgins said. "There are still several pieces of the puzzle to fit together."

He said the staff would be retrained in security procedures.

Bob Kannenberg, spokesman for the Department of Juvenile Justice, said the state would launch its own investigation.

"We should have our people in there early this week," Kannenberg said.

He said there was no lockdown yesterday at the facility, which houses 355 juvenile delinquents, some of whom are sex offenders and emotionally disturbed youths.

Kannenberg said the state investigation would concentrate on whether there were "contractual violations" involving Youth Services International, which was recently acquired by Correctional Services Corp.

Higgins said he was prohibited by state law protecting juvenile records from disclosing the reason Fitzgerald was at Hickey, but did say he was not among those youths sent to the school for a sex offense.

Admitted on Nov. 5 last year, he was undergoing an unusually long treatment program of 12 to 18 months, Higgins said.

Fitzgerald was not seen by supervisors as posing a particular problem or threat at Hickey. In fact, Higgins said, working in food service was a privilege of sorts, giving Fitzgerald "a certain status" not accorded to those with discipline problems.

Youth Services International, which recently had a five-year contract renewed with the state, has generally had a good record since taking over management of Hickey six years ago, Kannenberg said.

"Incidents like this at Hickey are very rare," he said. "We think of it as a fine facility, this incident notwithstanding."

He acknowledged that "you're dealing with an unpredictable population."

Pub Date: 6/27/99

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