All 9 escapees from Berks County juvenile detention center taken into custody

Some of the escapees knocked on a random resident's door to surrender because they were cold, police say.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023
All 9 escapees from juvenile detention center taken into custody
All 9 escapees from Berks County juvenile detention center taken into custody

MORGANTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- All nine teenagers who escaped a juvenile detention center in Berks County have been taken into custody, Pennsylvania state police say.

The teens escaped from Abraxas Academy near Morgantown around 8 p.m. Sunday.

Police say four of the teens were taken into custody at 5:47 a.m. Monday on Oak Grove Road after they knocked on a resident's door to surrender. The residents then called 911.

"The four of them got cold, banged on a door, they were done," said Tpr. David Beohm.

We spoke to the homeowner who initially got a reverse 911 call alerting them of the escaped inmates. Then the homeowner got a notification on their doorbell camera.

"They were clearly giving themselves up. They waited for 7 or 8 minutes and I think they were looking to be given up," said the homeowner.

Within minutes, state troopers took the four escapees into custody without incident.

Around 6:36 a.m. the other five managed to steal a pickup truck with a trailer on Oak Grove Road but police were nearby and gave chase.

Troopers say the vehicle stopped at Furnace and Mountz roads and four of the teens were taken into custody.

The fifth took off into a field but was also captured. All were captured about four miles from Abraxas.

Beohm said he personally saw two of the teens.

"They were really dirty looking and look like they have probably been out walking in the woods since eight o'clock last night," he said.

Pa. State Police Tpr. David Beohm updates reporters after all 9 escapees from a Berks Co. juvenile detention facility were captured.

He told reporters that the teens will be charged with escape and any other crimes they committed while on the run. That includes allegedly breaking a car window on Estate Drive in an attempt the steal the vehicle.

According to state police, this all began when the male teens apparently worked together to overpower two female employees and take their keys.

Earlier reports of a riot are unfounded, Beohm said Monday morning. The nine teens were the only ones involved in this incident.

After taking the keys, teens went out a side door and then likely got out under a fence, investigators say.

"It probably was planned, but poorly planned," said Beohm.

The teens involved are between 15 and 17 years old. Seven of them are from the city of Harrisburg, one is from Berks County and one is from York County.

Some of them were being held on charges including firearms offenses, car theft and robbery. Others were transferred there due to behavioral issues at another facility.

All nine teens have been returned to Abraxas Academy after their capture. Abraxas has not responded to Action News' request for comment.

The Twin Valley School District closed all schools and offices on Monday out of an abundance of caution. Monday night's board meeting was also canceled and will be rescheduled.

Sunday night's escape is the second major incident at Abraxas since July, when dozens of teens were involved in a riot that started with a fight.

No one got out that time, but it took police several hours to regain control.

Abraxas Academy opened in October 2006 and is described online as a secure residential treatment and detention center for boys 14 to 18 years old.

The teens can be admitted for a number of reasons including serious charges, repeated behavioral issues, or a history of sexual offenses.

Abraxas is close to the Chester County line, where a high-profile escape recently had residents on edge.

Danelo Cavalcante, a convicted murderer, escaped the county's prison on Aug. 31.

"Not super shocking after last week. It was kind of like, 'I guess this is happening,'" said Morgantown resident Joe Russ. " I'm glad they weren't armed like last week, so that was a positive."

Cavalcante was on the run for 14 days before he was ultimately captured.

Beohm said the teenagers likely didn't have the desperation or motivation of someone like Cavalcante, a murderer with a life sentence.

"I figured we'd catch these kids because they are not as resilient" as Cavalacante, Beohm said at a press conference.