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Published: Tuesday, 1/13/2004

Mich. police catch teens fleeing from youth facility

HILLSDALE, Mich. - Two local boys locked an employee in a room at the Hillsdale County Youth Home, overpowered a second guard, and escaped from the detention center.

According to Michigan State Police in Jonesville, the boys escaped at 5:15 p.m. Saturday. Authorities caught them about 21/2 hours later after a 1-mile foot chase with officers from several area police departments.

State Police Trooper James Weldy said authorities believe a 15-year-old local boy, who had just returned to Hillsdale County from a boot camp in Muncie, Ind., orchestrated the event. Three juveniles and two employees were at the unsecured juvenile detention facility at the time.

The 15-year-old, whose name was not released yesterday, first tricked a female employee into a detention center room by telling her he saw contraband inside, Trooper Weldy said. When she entered, he locked the door behind her.

The youth cut phone lines at the home, then pulled a string off some blinds and demanded that another juvenile at the home tie up the second employee. The youth refused. At one point, the 15-year-old grabbed a sledgehammer and threatened to cause damage with it.

The boy ultimately overpowered the second guard, who was trying to free the first woman inside the locked room, and stole the second guard's keys. He gained entry into an office but was unable to access any vehicles, Trooper Weldy said.

The boy allegedly took money and a lighter from the guard's purse.

The 15-year-old demanded that a second boy, a 16-year-old, leave with him, Trooper Weldy said. The two left on foot and headed north. The 15-year-old was caught in a residential backyard just inside Hillsdale city limits. The second boy went to his mother's house and was returned to the youth center.

Trooper Weldy said charges of escape are pending against both boys. The 15-year-old could face charges of felonious assault, malicious destruction of property, cutting phone lines, and assault. A charge of kidnapping could be filed because the 15-year-old made the other boy leave with him.

Neither youth center employee required medical treatment, the trooper said.

Hillsdale County Probate Judge Michael Nye said he sent the 15-year-old to the Maurice Spear Campus in Lenawee County. He said the boy had just returned Friday from boot camp in Indiana. The teen had been sent there for prior escape, Judge Nye said.

The second juvenile remains at the Hillsdale youth center.

The youth center houses juveniles who are sentenced for criminal activity or need time in a structured environment. Unlike most other Michigan juvenile facilities, the home is an unsecured facility.

In June, a 14-year-old escapee died after he ran into traffic on M-99.



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