Five juvenile escapees indicted on 15 felony charges

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Wednesday, November 19, 2014 11:14pm
  • News

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct which juveniles escaped and which facility they were transported to following their indictment.

Five inmates involved in the escape plot of the Kenai Peninsula Youth Facility on Nov. 7 have been indicted on 15 felony counts including assault, robbery, riot and escape charges.

Cody Rosenthal, 18, and four 16-year-olds, Joshua Crouse, Randall Gary, Jackson Dominick and Zachary Nehren, were arraigned in Kenai Superior Court Monday.

The five boys face seven counts of assault in the first-degree — a class A felony — two counts of second-degree and third-degree assault, robbery in the first-degree, conspiracy to commit robbery in the first-degree and riot. Class A felonies are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Rosenthal, Crouse and Gary were also indicted with escape in the second degree, a class B felony, while Dominick and Nehren were indicted on attempted escape in the second degree, also a class B felony.

Rosenthal was first charged with escape, theft and riot charges and transported to Wildwood Pretrial Facility. Rosenthal was found hiding in a Dumpster in the Kenai Multipurpose Facility parking lot with two other juveniles an hour after the escape. The other two juveniles found with Rosenthal were not included in the indictment because they were under the age of 16. Dominick and Nehren attempted to escape but were still in the facility when police responded to the riot, Catherine Stadem, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Serivces, wrote in an email.

Troopers located Crouse and Gary in Nikiski on Nov. 8.

The indictment was filed in Kenai Superior Court on Nov. 14. and the four juveniles were transported from juvenile facilities in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley to Wildwood Correctional Center, Stadem wrote.

Karen Forrest, Director of State Division of Juvenile Justice, said based on the additional charges any juvenile 16 years or older that is indicted with a class A felony can no longer be held in a youth detention center.

“Delinquency laws don’t apply,” she said. “The youths must be incarcerated in the same manner as adults.”

According to the police affidavit, the riot started while the nine juveniles at the facility were involved in a Friday night activity. One of the juveniles placed facility employee in a choke hold and strangled him until he went unconscious. Several other juveniles physically assaulted the other facility employee and five boys managed to escape after they obtained a set of keys and went out the front doors.

Forrest said she doesn’t know how long the facility employees will be out and couldn’t comment on their condition. Since the escape, two state employees have been transferred to the Kenai Peninsula Youth Facility. Currently, three juveniles are held at the youth facility.

Forrest said the role of the employees at the juvenile justice facility is to “work with the youth to improve their life circumstances to minimize their risk to re-offend.”

“Our goal is to help transition them back into the community,” she said. “(The employees) help the juveniles continue education, develop job skills and in some cases counsel on substance abuse and anger management.”

The Kenai facility, built in 2003, is the newest of the eight juvenile detention centers around the state. Forrest said the facility is intended for short-term service to house youths if they are a danger to the public or themselves. Typically, youths are placed in the center for less than 30 days, but some, depending on the court process, could be detained for several months, she said.

Forrest said while the circumstances leading up to the escape are under investigation, it is unclear why the juveniles felt the need to escape and risk additional charges that would increase their incarceration.

“Some youths are often not looking at the risk but at the more immediate situation,” she said.

Forrest said she has assembled a team that will begin to gather information from the eight juvenile facilities around the state and evaluate security policies and procedures.

The five boys will now go through the judicial system process, she said. As of Wednesday no future court dates for the five boys have been set.

Kenai Assistant District Attorney Amanda Browning said the state is unable to provide any additional information on the incident in order to comply with rules of professional conduct.

 

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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