This is about a 15-year-old youth whose most notable talent, according to court authorities, is his ability to escape.
On March 21, he escaped from U.S. marshals in D.C. Superior Court when they left a door in a holding area unlocked. The next night, he escaped from pursuing D.C. police by leaping from a third-floor window of an abandoned building and disappearing.
Once, he got out of the maximum security section of Oak Hill at the D.C. juvenile detention center in Laurel, Md., by climbing a fence designed to be unclimbable. He did it by fashioning a grappling hook from a piece of furniture.
On March 4, he walked away from a Pennsylvania Youth Advocacy Program facility in York, Pa. He had been ordered there on Oct. 19, 1976, by Judge Fred B. Ugast of D.C. Superior Court under an arrangement by which the District government would pay the program $203 a week to keep him.
His disappearance from York followed an armed robbery in which the youth allegedly stole a $9,000 diamond ring and several watches from a jewelry store in that city, according to Assistant Corporation Counsel Robert Ross. Ross said the loot was recovered from the facility where the youth was living.
"We are really in a quandary about what to do with him," said Ross, who has followed the teen-ager's progress through the courts and in and out of various detention facilities for the past two years.
"He is a very rare case," said the prosecutor. "He is a 15-year-old who is incorrigible. For all intents and purposes, he is lost to society. We're never going to get him back."
Between the time the boy was ordered to York by Judge Ugast and the time he got there, he was held briefly in Oak Hill. He allegedly tried to escape. In the course of that alleged attempt, a guard was hit with a brick.
So the youth was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon by federal authorities in Baltimore. When federal authorities learned he was destined for the Pennsylvania Youth Advocacy Program they decided not to press the charges. But they could change their minds.
"Here is a 15-year-old who could wind up in a federal prison," says Ross.
The boy is an orphan. He grew up in the streets of Southeast Washington and is a functional illiterate. He has been in trouble with the law off and on since he was 9.
Just before being ordered to Pennsylvania, he pleaded guilty to five felonies, including armed robbery and burglary. In the past, he often carried a gun.
Just when he returned to Washington from York is not known. According to records of the Pennsylvania program, he escaped March 4. But officials did not report this fact to District authorities.
Ross said he learned of the youth's presence in the city when a police officer assigned to the area around the Valley Green public housing project in Southeast reported seeing the youngster on the streets.
"He came in and asked me what was up," Ross said. "I called Pennsylvania, and sure enough, they admitted the youth hadn't been with them for two weeks."
D.C. police say they spotted him March 18, but he got away. They spotted him again two nights later and gave chase in a squad car, and he got away again. A half-hour later, they got a call from a resident of the Valley Green project on Wheeler Road SE. The caller said a youth had come through the front door of an apartment and was hiding out.
Six detectives responded. They found the youth in an upstairs bedroom, and he tried to get out a partly opened window. Detectives Daniel Hanna and Joseph McCann wrestled him down on a bed and handcuffed him.
He was due in court March 21. That's when he escaped from the U.S. marshals.
Presumably, he went back to his old haunts, the basements of abandoned and partly abandoned buildings in Southeast Washington, which are known on the streets as "clubhouses."
It was in that area that he was spotted by police again March 22 and he escaped by leaping from a third-story window.
The next morning, the youth turned himself in at the juvenile branch of D.C. Superior Court. Judge Richard R. Atkinson ordered him incarcerated at the maximum security section of Oak Hill again.
"He made a very sophiscated argument to the judge about being allowed to go to the general population of Oak Hill," said Ross, the assistant corporation counsel.
"He said he knows he's done wrong and he's ready to do his time. He's maturing, but in the wrong way. Of course, he knows that if he went into the general population, he'd have an easier time escaping."