Workers reported disciplined in killing of teacher at Cheltenham

Juvenile Services head schedules news conference in Baltimore

March 18, 2010|By Peter Hermann | peter.hermann@baltsun.com

State juvenile authorities are expected to announce today that they disciplined one or more employees at the troubled Cheltenham youth detention center in Prince George's County, where a 65-year-old teacher from Bel Air was killed in February.

Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore has scheduled a news conference in Baltimore, and a statement sent to the news media Wednesday said he will discuss "employee discipline" and the results of a preliminary inquiry into how Hannah E. Wheeling was killed.

Department spokesman Jay Cleary declined to elaborate or say whether anyone has been fired as a result of any security lapses. Authorities were trying to determine whether a juvenile offender or Wheeling herself somehow obtained a key to enter or leave secure buildings at the Cheltenham Youth Facility. Wheeling's body was found outside the building Feb. 18.

George Myers, the president of the Maryland Professional Employees Council, a union that represents teachers, including the victim, met with DeVore on Tuesday but said he had not been told that any of his members face discipline. Security guards are represented by a separate union, whose officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

State juvenile officials said last month that an administrative review could not begin until police concluded the criminal investigation. Sources have said that probe focuses on a 13-year-old who was being held on burglary charges. Before Wheeling was killed, the boy had been moved from a high-security area to Murphy Shelter, which is less restrictive, so he could participate in an educational program.

Cleary said that authorities allowed the review panel to talk last week with some witnesses in the criminal case, clearing the way for the discipline being announced today.

Roman Korionoff, a spokesman for the Prince George's County state's attorney's office, said that prosecutors "are working very closely with the Maryland State Police to develop a very strong criminal case. The Department of Juvenile Services and the people who are working on the administration of Cheltenham can decide how they would like to proceed on the matter of their internal protocols."

Because rules require that juvenile officers be tried within 30 days of charges being filed, unless a judge grants a waiver, authorities said they want to build the strongest case possible before making any arrest. Sources have said the juvenile suspect is being held in Western Maryland.

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