A Burtonsville man under psychiatric care since killing his 23-month-old son six years ago has disappeared from a group home in Montgomery County and so far has eluded police, who say he is mentally disturbed and may be dangerous.
Michael A. Lazas, 32, was last seen Oct. 2 at Parkwood House in Silver Spring, where he was assigned to live after his release last year from a state mental hospital in Jessup. Police said they were first notified of Lazas's disappearance three days later by someone at the group home.
Montgomery police have notified law enforcement agencies in the eastern United States about his disappearance because they believe Lazas, a schizophrenic and drug addict, could be unstable and dangerous after several days without medicine.
"This is someone who has shown that he is a very violent and dangerous person," said Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler, criticizing what he called a lax criminal justice system for placing a violent, disturbed man in a group home with scant supervision.
"Clearly he is a danger to the community and he should have been better supervised," Gansler said. He said Lazas's family members, some of whom live in the Washington area, are fearful and deeply concerned about his escape.
In July 1993, Lazas was found guilty but not criminally responsible for suffocating his toddler son and was admitted to Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center. According to court records, Lazas told police that voices urged him to kill his crying child, which he did with his hands. Lazas was released from the state hospital to Parkwood House in June 1998 by court order, which stated that if Lazas violated the terms of his release, "the court and state's attorney shall immediately be notified and he may be recommitted."
In October 1991, Lazas pleaded guilty to stabbing a man in the neck and ear at Olney Manor Park after an afternoon of drinking. He was sent to a state mental hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, where his schizophrenia, alcoholism and cocaine addiction were diagnosed. He received two years probation and an 18-month suspended sentence.
Derek Baliles, spokesman for the Montgomery County Police Department, said Lazas most likely has not been taking his prescribed medication since his disappearence. He said Lazas also suffers from high blood pressure.
"It's very hard to predict whether he will become violent based on the many problems he has," Baliles said. "It is possible that when confronted he might become very violent and act in the ways he's done before."
The chronology of Lazas's disappearance and the reason for his release from Perkins Hospital Center remained murky yesterday. According to court records, he was last seen about 2 p.m. Oct. 2 at Parkwood. Police took a missing persons report from a Parkwood House official three days later.
At that time, police said, they did not know that Lazas had violated the conditions of his release from the state hospital, which include living at Parkwood and attending regular therapy sessions.
Police on Tuesday issued a bulletin to Washington area law enforcement agencies to keep an eye out for Lazas. Baliles said police discovered Lazas's criminal record after running a computer search on his background. Once they discovered Lazas was a fugitive, police said, they sought an arrest warrant.
On Thursday, two days after Lazas was reported missing, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Paul H. Weinstein signed the arrest warrant. Gansler's office also filed a request that Lazas's conditional release from Perkins Hospital Center be revoked.
According to court records, Lazas was released in June 1998 from the state hospital and sent to live at the ranch-style Parkwood House, an unlocked facility where residents receive little formal supervision. The state hospital's superintendent, Richard Fragala, did not return a phone call yesterday seeking an explanation for Lazas's release.
The terms of Lazas's release included therapy sessions at St. Luke's House, a nonprofit specializing in psychiatric rehabilitation. It was founded by St. Luke's Episcopal Church decades ago and operates several group homes each with a small number of residents and staff members. Robert G. Brewer Jr. an attorney for St. Luke's House, said state law prohibits the nonprofit from commenting on whether Lazas was a patient in the program.
Gansler said he did not know the reason for the delay in obtaining an arrest warrant, saying only that his office requested one Thursday, as soon as police notified his office of Lazas's disappearance.
"The real issue is, `Why do we have a judicial system that allows someone like this to be out on the streets?' " Gansler said.
Staff writer Tom Jackman contributed to this report.