News

Youth runs away from Echo Glen

SNOQUALMIE _ A 12-year-old Spokane boy who had only been

in the Echo Glen Children's Center for less than a week tried to made a

break for it but was found 10 hours later at a nearby home.

The youth escaped from the facility at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March

21, while he was on his way to physical education class in the gym.

Superintendent Dr. Don Mead said all of the teachers step into the hallway

and watch as their students shuffle to their next class.

"The staff were watching the group move but he just slipped

away," he said.

Administrators and the King County Sheriff's Office K-9 unit

and helicopter began a search of the 85-acre facility which is bordered by

trees but no fences. Searchers were unable to locate the boy — who was at

Echo Glen for a residential burglary conviction — until 11:30 that night when

he went to a home near the Preston-Fall City Road. The residents then

called the police.

"He said he wanted to go back home and wanted to call his mom

to come and get him," Mead said. The youth was only at Echo Glen for

five days before the attempted escape.

"The community is safe and that's one of our concerns, and that the

youth who come here are getting the treatment for the issues that bring

them here. That's a high priority," Mead said. "The neighbors are pretty

safe and we want to keep it that way."

But not all of the nearby residents felt safe. Dave Chervenak of

Preston said he was driving around during the time of the helicopter search and

said he was concerned about the safety of his family.

"The search light swept across the car and I could see neighbors

standing outside and it was eerie," he said. "When I got home I looked under

every bed and checked [into] every closet."

Chervenak said he recalled several years ago when there was another

escapee from the facility and he was worried about it happening again.

"It concerns me that it's a minimum security place that's supposed

to be for bad teenagers and they've gone way beyond that and everyone

has been asleep about it and they've been slipping convicts in there," he said.

Echo Glen Children's Center has been open since 1970 and is

located near Interstate 90 and Highway 18. The facility houses youths between

the ages of 10 and 21 who have committed a variety of crimes including

burglary, assault and murder. Currently there are 208 youths in the facility

_ with 32 of those being in maximum security and 16 in the mental

health cottage.

The superintendent said that historically there's about one escape

a year from Echo Glen, with most of the escapees not making it past the

dense wooded area that surround the facility. The youth that was involved in

the latest incident has now been transferred from the medium security

cottage to the maximum-security area. That means he will be closely

monitored by staff members and will be able to participate in fewer activities.

The youth's sentence time will probably be affected, as well. He

was originally sentenced to three to eight months, but with this new

situation, Mead said he's uncertain how that will affect the term.

"It's too early to tell how the escape will impact his length of stay,

but it will undoubtedly have some impacts," he said.

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