CAMARILLO : Youths Briefly Escape From Hospital

Five teen-agers escaped from Camarillo State Hospital and headed for the beach Monday afternoon, but were captured less than an hour later in nearby brush, police said.

The five youths, ranging in age from 13 to 17, were part of a larger group walking back from lunch in the facility's dining room when they broke away from their escorts and ran.

Hospital officials said most of the youths suffer from conduct disorders and aggressive personalities, and a few have served time in Juvenile Hall.

The pack was spotted shortly after escaping by a motorist on Hueneme Road who alerted a California Highway Patrol officer making a traffic stop in the area.

Officer Todd Wonders took off after the group, and one of the youths surrendered immediately. The rest hid in the brush while units from the CHP and Camarillo State Hospital's police force searched for them. The Ventura County Sheriff's Department also assisted in the manhunt.

CHP officials said Wonders later discovered the youths in the brush near Hueneme, Potrero and Lewis roads, and the runaways surrendered peacefully, saying they had been headed toward the beach. Their names are not being released because of their ages.

Camarillo State Hospital executive assistant Lanette Castleman estimated that about three to five patients walk away from the facility each month, but are usually caught.

"This is not a maximum-security facility," Castleman said. "Yes, it does happen occasionally, but it doesn't happen as often as people might think."

She said group escapes like the one that occurred Monday are highly unusual.

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