Friday, October 2, 2009

BALTIMORE | A 17-year-old sex offender escaped from a juvenile treatment program in Baltimore County while on a group outing to the movies and spent the night at the home of a female counselor at the facility, where the pair had sex, police said Thursday.

The youth was arrested Wednesday in Laurel, Del., police said. The 26-year-old counselor, Tyra M. Greenfield, was taken into custody Wednesday at her home near the juvenile facility.

Miss Greenfield was charged with sexual child abuse and harboring a fugitive. While the age of consent for sexual intercourse in Maryland is 16, it is a crime for an adult to have sex with a minor who is in the adult’s custody or care.

The circumstances of the escape were surprising to police, said Lt. James DeWees, commander of the Golden Ring state police barracks, who investigated the incident.

“Very rarely do you ever think that someone inside a facility like that would go to the lengths that they went to, to assist him in escaping and then harboring and to ultimately be charged with a sex crime at the end of it,” Lt. DeWees said. “It’s a bit shocking.”

Miss Greenfield has been fired from the privately-run New Directions program, which is the only secure treatment facility in Maryland for juvenile sex offenders, said Tammy M. Brown, a spokeswoman for the Department of Juvenile Services.

The department’s inspector general will investigate the incident and evaluate the program, and child advocates will interview youths, Ms. Brown said.

While the escape itself is not likely to lead to sanctions against the program, the department could stop referring youths there if broader problems are uncovered, she said.

Ms. Brown and Lt. DeWees both said they could not recall any major incidents in recent years at New Directions, which sits on the Parkville campus of a larger juvenile facility, the Charles H. Hickey School. While the residential treatment program at Hickey was closed in 2005, a detention center remains.

About 20 youths are enrolled in the New Directions program and are kept separate from the other youths at Hickey, Ms. Brown said.

Youths in the program can earn the privilege to leave the facility for group outings, and between 10 and 12 youths went to a movie Monday night at the AMC Loews White Marsh multiplex, accompanied by several counselors.

The teen ran off when the group was in the parking lot after the movie. Miss Greenfield was waiting for him in a car parked nearby, Lt. DeWees said.

The two went to Miss Greenfield’s home, where they spent the night and had sex, Lt. DeWees said. Miss Greenfield told police that her relationship with the youth was not sexual before the escape, he said.

On Tuesday night, she drove the youth to a relative’s home in Delaware, then returned home. The youth used Miss Greenfield’s cell phone to call the family member, and that led police to discover her involvement, Lt. DeWees said.

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