Echo Glen inmates to appear before judge following attempted escape

Inmates who escaped Echo Glen Children’s Center are scheduled to make appearance before judge Monday

Three inmates who escaped from Echo Glen Children’s Center near Snoqualmie on Nov. 26 made their first appearance before a judge Monday afternoon. All three are being held and could faces charges.

The hearing at the Clark Children and Family Justice Center in Seattle comes after three inmates attempted to escape the facility and led law enforcement on a roughly two-hour search Sunday evening.

Echo Glen staff notified law enforcement of three missing inmates at 6:15 p.m. Sunday, the King County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. One of those inmates was apprehended only a few minutes later.

Officers with the sheriff’s office and Washington State Patrol conducted an “intense search” of the area for the remaining two inmates, who were both apprehended without incident before 9 p.m., law enforcement said.

The state Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), which runs Echo Glen, said in a statement that two of the youth were found on campus grounds near a facility maintenance yard, while a third was caught in the woods southwest of Echo Glen. No staff or youth were injured, they said.

The inmates, who are between the ages of 16 and 17 years old, were booked into the Children and Family Justice Center.

“We can confirm all the escaped juveniles were taken into custody last night and there are no outstanding juveniles,” Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Manny Apostol wrote in an email. “Officers will continue to investigate this case and endeavor to determine the events that led up to the escape.”

A Juvenile Rehabilitation Critical Incident Review Team has also been initiated to conduct a review of the incident, DCYF said.

Casey McNerthney, spokesperson for the county prosecutor’s office, said charges have not been filed as of Monday afternoon. The court has ordered the three teens be held while possibly facing charges for first degree escape. Prosecutors have until Wednesday (after press time) to make a charging decision.

Names and details on the inmates were not available at press time. The Valley Record does not name juveniles unless they are charged in adult court.

Echo Glen, located near Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, is a medium-maximum security rehabilitation center primarily serving residents ages 17 and under. It’s one of Washington’s two primary juvenile residential facilities.

A handful of escapes have happened at Echo Glen over the past few years and in most cases — like the one Sunday — inmates are apprehended not long after leaving the facility.

A pair of high-profile escapes over the past two years, however, where a group of inmates escaped in a stolen vehicle and eluded law enforcement on a cross-county search, have prompted calls for immediate security improvements. Those incidents were the first times inmates had stolen vehicles during an escape, Snoqualmie Police previously said.

Jason Wettstein, a DCYF spokesperson, said a preliminary analysis from Echo Glen staff and law enforcement found a variety of procedural improvements helped ensure inmates did not get off the property during Sunday’s incident. DCYF received $8 million from the state this year to make improvements to facility safety.

“Security vulnerabilities were closed prior to this incident, including removal of vehicles on campus, the addition of contracted staffing, additional training for staff, an improved code system for radio communication,” he said. “These factors along with an immediate call to law enforcement as the situation emerged helped ensure quick apprehension of the youth and thwarted their escape attempt.”

Security upgrades come after Snoqualmie Mayor Katherine Ross and King County Councilmember Sarah Perry held a stakeholder meeting regarding Echo Glen in July. The meeting followed the most recent major escape in May and was an effort to shore up communication lines and request safety improvements.

Incidents at Echo Glen had become more frequent in the past few years, King County Undersheriff Jesse Anderson said at the meeting, noting a need for a more cohesive and coordinated response.

In an email to the Valley Record Tuesday, Snoqualmie spokesperson Danna McCall said communication has improved since that rountable meeting.

During the escape Sunday, the city used its new Echo Glen Escape Notification altert system, McCall said. The system was developed along with the King County Office of Emergency Management to quickly notify residents in close proximity of Echo Glen during an escape.