In the wake of the death of a ward of the District in a Texas residential treatment facility, District mental health officials have removed three other District wards from the center and returned them to the city.

The death of Diane Harris, 17, a District ward who died April 11 at the Seguin (Tex.) Community Living Center, has been investigated by the Guadalupe County Sheriff's Office and is expected to go to a Texas grand jury, according to an investigator in the office.

Harris, who had been at the center for 12 days, died after the center's staff tried to calm her down using a restraining technique that involved five staff members, according to Texas officials.

A preliminary autopsy report indicated that Harris died of "asphyxiation due to compression of the neck," according to Guadalupe County Justice of the Peace Walter Bargfrede.

The Seguin center, which treats people with emotional illnesses, mental retardation and physical handicaps, is one of more than 50 such facilities used outside the District because the city lacks adequate treatment centers.

The decision to remove the other three District youths from the Seguin facility "pending the investigation by Texas authorities" was made during a site visit by District mental health and school officials and a lawyer, according to a statement released yesterday by the D.C. Commission on Mental Health Services.

The team of mental health officials who went to Texas conducted their own investigation and are preparing a "confidential report of its assessment of the incident" surrounding Harris's death, according to the statement.

Craig Ward, administrator for the Texas facility said the three District wards were discharged from the 15-bed facility at the request of District officials.

"We certainly believe that the center is a very safe place," said Ward, who is conducting his own internal investigation into Harris's death. "At the same time we understand the pressure folks from D.C. are under. It was my impression that {the decision} is a precaution until all the investigations are done."