2 teen escapees from Cheltenham hunted

Pair facing juvenile and adult charges

3rd who fled is recaptured

August 13, 2008|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

Three teenagers escaped Sunday from the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George's County, and police were still searching for two of them yesterday.

The Maryland State Police, which investigates incidents at juvenile facilities, said Tyrone Johnson, 18, of Baltimore and Demarco Smith, 18, of Washington are being charged as adults with escape.

The third, a 17-year-old from Baltimore, was arrested Monday by Maryland Transit Authority Police in Baltimore County, state police said.

That teen, who was not identified by Juvenile Services or state police, had been held at Cheltenham on charges of assault and robbery, said Tammy Brown, a spokeswoman for the Department of Juvenile Services, which operates Cheltenham.

The 18-year-olds were at Cheltenham on juvenile charges of drug dealing and failure to appear in court in a theft and burglary case, Brown said.

Online court records also show that Smith was indicted July 17 in Prince George's County on adult charges of committing an armed carjacking a month earlier. Johnson was arrested in May on adult charges of drug possession, according to the court records.

He is due in Baltimore District Court this week.

Brown said her agency was aware that Smith and Johnson were facing adult charges when they were placed at Cheltenham.

On Sunday, the three used needle-nosed pliers to breach a metal fence near a school on the property, Brown said. Cheltenham is a secure detention center, where youths are held while awaiting trial or placement in another facility. About 90 youths were held there yesterday.

Brown said her agency notified the community Sunday through an automated phone system, which also distributes updates on the situation. The agency did not issue a news release or otherwise attempt to inform the public through the news media until a reporter asked about the escape yesterday. At the end of June, the U.S. Department of Justice ended six years of investigation and oversight of Cheltenham, a facility that once was overcrowded and beset by health care and education deficiencies.

Responding to Sunday's escape, Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore has "ordered that a corrective action plan be developed immediately and disciplinary recommendations be made if merited," Brown wrote in an e-mailed statement.

In June, two youths climbed over razor-wire fencing at Victor Cullen Center in Western Maryland, the only secure facility for teenage boys who have been found responsible for serious crimes - the juvenile equivalent of guilty. Both were apprehended within days.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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