Murder suspect escapes juvenile hall

February 15, 2008 6:52:38 PM PST
A 17-year-old murder suspect has escaped from a juvenile facility on the Peninsula Jailors at the detention center are trying to figure out how, and people living nearby are furious they weren't told sooner.

Probation officers tell us that Josue Orozco had help from both inside and outside. Now there is a state for this 17-year-old murder suspect who is scheduled to go to trial in May.

The $150 million dollar facility from which Orozco escaped opened in 2006. The name went from Hillcrest Juvenille Hall to Youth Services Center with an emphasis on rehabilitation, not punishment. Neighbors are outraged it held a gang member accused of murder.

"Criminals do not belong in a detention center that have committed murder. They belong in jail," said neighbor, Tanya Ballard.

Orozco escaped Thursday night when he and others were playing basketball in what is considered a secure recreation area. We're told supervisors had left the boys to check on other wards in their rooms.

"One minor assisted the other in climbing up and using a light standard and then climbing over the fence and down the outside. Apparently it was a preplanned escape as the fence had been cut from the outside," said Asst. Chief Probation Officer Stewart Peterson.

Security cameras captured video of what investigators believe was the getaway car -- a black Chevrolet Impala.

Orozco's mother lives in Sunnyvale. She was not home Friday, but Orozco's cousin told ABC7 they have not seen or heard from Orozco.

"I am worried. I am worried because right now I don't know where he is," said Orozco's cousin, Javier Gonzalez.

Sheriff deputies say they have reason to believe Orozco was heading to Mexico. That explanation doesn't satisfy neighbors who say they should have been notified immediately about the escape.

"I think that the police could have driven though with the loudspeaker to warn us not to let anyone in and be careful," said Ballard.

"That's what's most concerning, that there doesn't appear to have been some type of triage planned in the event something like that did happen," said neighbor, Eileen Arbues.

The probation department has launched an internal investigation to see which of its security measures failed and is also having the sheriff's department do a complete audit of its facility and procedures.

"I still feel like it is a very secure facility, but until we're addressing what did not work, I can't feel totally comfortable," said Deputy Chief Probation Officer James Nordman.

A spokesperson for the San Mateo County Sheriffs Department says that they did not notify neighbors of the escape because all of the evidence suggested that Orozco had left the area. The probation department says it does not have a protocol or triggers as to when it alerts the public of an escape, but assures it's going to revisit that issue along with numerous others associated with this very serious security breach.