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Escapes highlight juvenile justice woes

August 01, 1997

By DON AINES

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The hunt continued Thursday for two escapees from the Eastern Regional Detention Center as officials pointed out problems at the center and throughout West Virginia's juvenile justice system.

"It was not designed to be a secure facility," Tom Moreland, the center's director said Thursday. He said it is too small and at the time of the escape had 13 residents, rather than the 10 it was designed to hold.

"National statistics show when you overcrowd a facility homicides go up, serious assaults go up, diseases go up and escapes go up," Moreland said.

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He said there have been two other escapes this year, but that the escapees were soon recaptured.

"We've just had a very few escapes in my first six years here. The majority have occurred in 1997," said Moreland, who came to the center in 1990.

Just after 1 a.m. Tuesday accused killer Miguel Quinones, 19, of Framingham, Mass., overpowered guard Cheryl Lutz and locked her in his cell, officials said. Another staff member, Larry Murphy, was outside investigating a loud noise. When he came in Quinones overpowered him as well, officials said.

Quinones took Lutz's keys to the center and to her car, officials said. He and Adam Rozas, 17, then escaped in her car. Rozas was recently convicted of possession of stolen vehicle in Jefferson County, officials said.

"That's very suspicious," Moreland said of Quinones' ability to get out of his cell. "In a place like this we all live with locks. We constantly lock and unlock doors all day," Moreland said.

He said he is trying to determine how Quinones got out of his cell, which has an automatic lock and a bolt on the outside.

A court official in Fayette County said Quinones and two other people were accused in the killing two years ago of Christopher Reardon, who was shot in a crack house.

Quinones was a juvenile then and the state petitioned to transfer his case to adult court, the court official said. He appealed to the state Supreme Court and the case is "in limbo," the official said.

Quinones had been at the center seven months, according to Moreland. Authorities believe he and Rozas may have headed for New York, where Quinones has connections.

Along with Lutz's car, Quinones also took his records from the center, officials said. Lutz and Murphy were freed after four other juveniles asked permission to break out and alert deputies at the nearby Berkeley County Sheriff's office.

"That's to their credit. They probably haven't been thanked for too many things," Moreland remarked.

Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely put much of the blame for the condition of the state's juvenile centers on state lawmakers.

"The legislature has failed to provide adequate resources for incarceration or rehabilitation, or for training of juvenile workers," she said Thursday.

"It's going to take someone on the outside getting killed or someone on the inside getting killed... That's how reform happens," she said.

"These people are sitting ducks out there in these juvenile detention centers, and that's wrong. They are not properly funded. They are not properly staffed," Games-Neely said.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Oshel Craigo said the legislature has made strides toward improving the system, including tougher laws and more funding, but admitted more needs to be done. Plans include building centers on the grounds of regional jails for better security.

House Speaker Bob Kiss said the legislature had to deal first with the adult prison problem.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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