Hickey youth's history violent

Teen accused of rape, Cullen escapees were left unguarded

Operators `read riot act'

June 29, 1999|By Todd Richissin | Todd Richissin,SUN STAFF

The 16-year-old delinquent accused of raping a woman at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School was a security risk with a violent past and was left unguarded when the rape occurred, two people with knowledge of his juvenile record said yesterday.

The incident Friday and an escape by three juveniles Sunday from the Victor Cullen Academy in Frederick County pushed Maryland's top juvenile justice official yesterday to threaten to fire the operators of the facilities unless major security improvements are made.

The three escapees from Victor Cullen remained at large last night. Authorities have not released their names.

In the Hickey School case, police arrested Felix Fitzgerald, 16, and charged him as an adult with first-degree rape and first-degree assault. But they said they could not release his criminal history because he is a minor.

Two people with knowledge of his past said Fitzgerald was sentenced to the Hickey School in November for a term that would probably have extended into next year. In 1997, he spent six months at Victor Cullen.

Among the charges for which he was sent to the detention centers, according to the two sources, were: robbery, assault, assault with a deadly weapon and handgun violations.

Fitzgerald, whose last address was the 400 block of E. Biddle St. in Baltimore, was taken into custody moments after the rape, which occurred in an unlocked, unguarded Hickey clinic where drugs are dispensed.

Gilberto de Jesus, secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice, met yesterday with the president of Youth Services International Inc., the private company that took over operation of Hickey and Victor Cullen in 1992.

He said YSI officials were "read the riot act" as a result of the two incidents, and he warned: "Ultimately, the strongest sanction we have in our arsenal is termination. If we're not satisfied with them, we'll exercise that option.

"We have a clear, unadulterated example of what I consider to be a major systematic flaw in their supervision of kids," de Jesus said. "Unfortunately, it came with disastrous consequences."

Fitzgerald was cleaning the kitchen Friday with six other delinquents about 6 p.m., juvenile justice officials said. They were left unsupervised except for a dish washer, with no posted guard, officials said.

Fitzgerald, 16, then slipped out an unlocked door and made his way to the building where the woman was working alone, according to police reports. Reports allege that a male masked with a T-shirt wrapped around his face attacked the woman, strangled her, forced her to the ground and then raped her.

"There was just sort of a breakdown in two security areas," said Jim Irving, president of Youth Services International. "It's where we were supervising a group of kids, and as for the [rape victim], we have supervisors who are there with her. But once the kids leave her building, usually the supervisor leaves."

An internal YSI investigation is under way , he said, and the company will report its findings Monday to de Jesus. The Juvenile Justice Department also is investigating and should have a report to make public in two weeks.

Irving said changes are being made at Hickey to increase security for its population of about 350 delinquents. Guards will be posted to watch delinquents while they are on kitchen duty, he said, and staff will be retrained.

At Victor Cullen, officials said human error also led to the escape of three juveniles from the facility, which holds about 220 delinquents. Authorities would identify them only as a 16-year-old black male, a 16-year-old white male and a 15-year-old black male.

They escaped by prying open security screens on two dormitory windows, officials said. Guards who are supposed to check on them every 10 minutes apparently failed to do so, said Kerry Knott, executive director of Victor Cullen and an employee of YSI.

"We're finding out where the mistakes were made," he said. "It's very clear the mistakes were in human error. Obviously, it was a failure to provide proper supervision for the kids."

After scrambling out the windows of the one-story building, the three delinquents escaped the grounds by stealing an academy car, officials said.

The company also will examine Victor Cullen's screens to see if they need to be strengthened.

Pub Date: 6/29/99

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