Escapee caught in N.H.

Man facing murder charge flees Rosewood again

July 09, 2008|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,Sun reporter

A man committed to the Rosewood Center after being found incompetent to stand trial on a murder charge escaped this week and made it to New Hampshire before police found and arrested him early yesterday.

And it wasn't the first time that Thurman Wilson, 25, got out of the Owings Mills facility for the developmentally disabled.

After Wilson escaped five years ago, state officials responded with a plan to move court-committed Rosewood residents to a more secure facility.

But the plan was delayed, and Wilson, who was charged with another teenager in the killing of a Prince George's cabdriver, was returned to Rosewood.

His escape early Sunday by crawling through a bedroom window and walking off the grounds is renewing questions by community leaders about the security of the facility, which is to close next year.

"There are clearly safety issues for the community and for the patients there," said state Sen. Bobby A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat.

Construction has begun on a more secure facility on the grounds of the Springfield Hospital in Sykesville, said Michael S. Chapman, director of the state's Developmental Disabilities Administration.

But one neighborhood activist is concerned that the more secure facility, scheduled to open in October at the earliest, might not provide a quick enough solution.

"I don't know that we can wait that long," said Christy DiPietro, who lives near Rosewood. "Our community is clearly at risk. There's not even a fence over there."

She and others said they would like to make sure schools and residents are informed about security breaches.

State police were notified about Wilson's escape by Rosewood staff about 8 a.m. Sunday, but officers didn't notify nearby residents because authorities had reason to believe that, by then, Wilson was well out of the Baltimore area, said Sgt. Arthur Betts, a spokesman for police. Investigators believed the man was headed to Manchester, N.H., and they alerted police there, Betts said.

Officers in Manchester were given a photo of Wilson at roll call and were told that Maryland authorities thought Wilson might be in the area with a friend in a black Toyota Corolla with a vanity license plate. About 12:30 a.m. Monday - about 12 hours after his escape was first reported - two officers on bicycle patrol saw Wilson in a black Toyota, according to Manchester police.

Wilson was taken into custody as a fugitive from justice and is being held at a local jail awaiting extradition, Manchester police said.

Maryland state police are investigating how Wilson got to New Hampshire, Betts said.

Wilson is one of 22 Rosewood residents who are court-committed, generally because they were found incompetent to stand trial or not criminally responsible.

Officials could not say yesterday how many court-committed residents have escaped from Rosewood. Between 1999 and 2003, four residents in the center's custody escaped, officials said then.

In August 2000, Wilson, then 17, was charged in three crimes. He and another teenager were charged with murder in the June 2000 killing of a 64-year-old Prince George's County cabdriver who was gunned down as he unloaded groceries from his car in Oxon Hill.

Wilson and two other teenagers also were charged with attempted murder after they stormed into an Oxon Hill convenience store and shot at a clerk, the bullet grazing an employee. Wilson and a friend were arrested in August that year after an attempted carjacking.

Wilson, who was found incompetent to stand trial on murder charges in Prince George's, escaped from a locked unit at Rosewood in May 2003. He climbed a 10-foot fence and took a cab to the Greyhound station in Baltimore, where he caught a bus to Washington, police said.

In the aftermath of the escape, state officials made plans to move about 15 residents accused of the most severe crimes to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, where the state planned to build a 48-bed facility for all court-committed residents. But the plan was derailed by the need for individual hearings for each Rosewood resident moved and by a lack of funding for the proposed facility.

Gov. Martin O'Malley announced in January that Rosewood would close by June next year.

Based on security assessments, about a dozen Rosewood residents who have been found not competent to stand trial will be moved in October to the new facility, Chapman said.

Others will be transferred, along with the other remaining Rosewood residents, to group homes or other facilities, Chapman said. As of June 30, there were about 130 residents.

"There's a balance between having the right security measures and meeting treatment needs," he said. "Rosewood is not a prison, it's a treatment facility.".

laura.barnhardt@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

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