BALTIMORE -- A 17-year-old sex offender escaped from a juvenile treatment program in Baltimore County while on a group outing to the movies and spent the night at the home of a female counselor at the facility, where the pair had sex, police said Thursday.
The youth was arrested Wednesday in Laurel, Del., police said. The 26-year-old counselor, Tyra M. Greenfield, was taken into custody Wednesday at her home near the juvenile facility.
Greenfield was charged with sexual child abuse and harboring a fugitive. While the age of consent for sexual intercourse in Maryland is 16, it is a crime for an adult to have sex with a minor who is in the adult's custody or care.
The circumstances of the escape were surprising to police, said Lt. James DeWees, commander of the Maryland State Police Golden Ring barracks, who investigated the incident.
"Very rarely do you ever think that someone inside a facility like that would go to the lengths that they went to, to assist him in escaping and then harboring and to ultimately be charged with a sex crime at the end of it," DeWees said. "It's a bit shocking."
Greenfield has been fired from the privately run New Directions Program, which is the only secure treatment facility in Maryland for juvenile sex offenders, said Tammy M. Brown, a spokeswoman for the Department of Juvenile Services.
Greenfield had only worked there for three months, said Pat Bixler, director of the program.
The department's inspector general will investigate the incident and evaluate the program, and child advocates will interview juveniles, Brown said. While the escape itself is not likely to lead to sanctions against the program, the department could stop referring youths there if broader problems are uncovered, she said.
Other youths have escaped from New Directions while on group outings, but the facility has not had any violent escapes in its 10-year history, Bixler said.
New Directions sits on the Parkville campus of a larger juvenile facility, the Charles H. Hickey School. While the residential treatment program at Hickey was closed in 2005, a detention center remains. Eighteen youths are enrolled at New Directions and are kept separate from the other youths at Hickey, Bixler said.
She said staffers are cooperating with police and that the program will conduct an internal review "to see if there was anything that we did poorly in our hiring process or our training process."
Youths in the program can earn the privilege to leave the facility for group outings. Seven youths and three counselors went Monday night to a showing of the PG-13 rated Tyler Perry movie "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" at the AMC Loews White Marsh multiplex, Bixler said.
The teen ran off when the group was in the parking lot after the movie. Greenfield was waiting for him in a car parked nearby, DeWees said.
The two went to Greenfield's home, where they spent the night and had sex, DeWees said. Greenfield told police that her relationship with the youth was not sexual before the escape.
On Tuesday night, she drove the youth to a relative's home in Delaware, then returned home. The youth used Greenfield's cell phone to call the family member, and that led police to discover her involvement, DeWees said.
There was no indication that Greenfield had an attorney.