Senate panel seeks briefing on killing at juvenile home

State agencies, union say inquiries have been blocked

February 24, 2010|By Julie Bykowicz and Justin Fenton | Baltimore Sun reporters

A Maryland Senate panel will ask the Department of Juvenile Services for a briefing on the death of a teacher last week at a state juvenile facility in Prince George's County, after other agencies and the union that represents workers there said they have been blocked from making inquiries.

"We need answers, and we need them right away," said Sen. C. Anthony Muse, a Prince George's Democrat who asked the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to send an inquiry to Donald W. DeVore, secretary of the Department of Juvenile Services.

The partly clothed body of Hannah Wheeling, 65, of Bel Air was found Friday morning by other employees at Cheltenham Youth Facility. Sources say a 13-year-old boy has been identified as the suspect and moved to a facility in Western Maryland. State police said Tuesday that no arrests had been made, and they refused to release the initial incident report.

Muse expressed concern that state monitors have been unable to gain access to the facility to begin their investigations. In addition to state police and the Department of Juvenile Services, the attorney general's juvenile justice monitoring unit and Maryland Occupational Safety and Health must conduct separate probes of the incident but have not been able to begin, officials said.

"Our investigation looks not at whether a crime was committed or who might have committed that crime, but what kinds of either facility-related or systemic issues may have contributed to the incident," said Marlana Valdez, director of the monitoring unit. "Because there is at least a potential for staffer/youth safety to still be compromised, we need to begin our investigation."

The union that represents staff at the detention facility also said it had been prohibited from discussing the incident with staff and issues related to it.

"The place is still locked down, and the staff are pretty upset and scared," said George Myers, president of the Maryland Professional Employees Council.

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