Authorities are searching for a teen-age boy--convicted last year of throwing a chunk of concrete from a freeway overpass and severely injuring a motorist--who escaped from a minimum-security juvenile facility, reportedly with the help of his mother, who was under court order not to see him.
But the mother, interviewed by a San Diego television station, said she doesn’t know the whereabouts of her son, even though she talks with him from “time to time.” She also said the youth had been mistreated at the facility.
“He’s cold. He’s tired. He’s hungry. He was getting beat up out there,” Sharon Hendricks told TV station KFMB (Channel 8) in a brief interview about the disappearance of her 16-year-old son, Lance Hough. Speaking from behind a screen door, Hendricks, who lives in Golden Hill, said she wants her son “to get a fair trial.”
‘Word of Mouth’
Carlos Armour, chief of the juvenile division for the San Diego County district attorney’s office, said the office is investigating whether Hendricks is involved in the escape.
“All we have is word of mouth,” he said, adding that the escape was not reported until a few days later.
The escape was “not an unusual occurrence,” Armour said. “It happens a lot. It’s probably a daily occurrence, but this is a notorious case.”
The escape brought harsh words from the brother of Kurt Meyering, the 24-year-old aspiring model who was injured. Meyering was sitting in the passenger seat of his girlfriend’s newly purchased Corvette on Feb. 29, 1988, when a 6-pound chunk of concrete crashed through the sunroof as the couple were about to pass under the Pershing Drive overpass on Interstate 5.
Meyering, who was in a coma for three months, underwent rehabilitation but has not regained his full mental capacity. He lives with his parents in Wenatchee, Wash.
Meyering’s brother, Ralph, said Thursday that Hough’s escape “was very predictable. This only goes to prove what we were trying to tell the judge a long time ago: This kid has got some serious problems. . . . I pray to God nobody else gets hurt. Nobody should have to go through what my family went through.
“It’s like a bad movie, and the judge wrote the script,” he said.
Hough escaped Feb. 19 from the St. John’s School for Boys in Whitewater, near Palm Springs. According to authorities, an arrest order has been issued for the youth, who was convicted of three counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Also convicted for taking part in the incident was a 13-year-old boy.
Hough was sent to the Southwood Psychiatric Residential Treatment Center in Chula Vista before being transferred to the residential school, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert O. Amador, who prosecuted the case.
Hendricks, who was barred by Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Kapiloff from seeing her son until she completed psychological treatment, was accidentally permitted by a probation officer to visit him Feb. 19 at St. John’s, said Doug Willingham, deputy chief probation officer in charge of juvenile services in San Diego.
“The mother was not supposed to have contact with her son until she went into therapy with the boy,” Willingham said, but a probation officer missed the judge’s order and failed to notify the school about the restriction. Officials from the school declined to comment on the escape.
The mistake was made by a probation officer who “deals with thousands of court orders a month,” Willingham said. “He missed that one item, and (Hough) happened to be a newsworthy kid. . . . Those things happen.
“It’s not the facility’s fault. They were doing as they were supposed to do.” Parental visits to the school are supervised, he said.
Willingham, who also said such escapes occur daily, downplayed Hough’s disappearance.
“He was in an open setting. This is not the great jail escape. Every day someone AWOLs. There are over 300 juveniles from San Diego County in 50 open private facilities,” he said.
Willingham said Hough was undergoing treatment by a psychiatrist and was participating in a group program at the school. He said the boy was “doing fine,” before his escape.
“He was there a short time, but he was quite treatable and making progress,” he said.