Teens in custody after escape from youth detention in Fayette County; WREG investigates facility


FAYETTE COUNTY, Tenn. — Authorities in Fayette County said five juveniles who escaped from the Wilder Youth Development Center have been apprehended.

According to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, the youths ages 16 to 18, managed to escape on foot from the facility around 11 p.m. Sunday after making a hole in the security fence. Sometime later, authorities received reports of a group of five walking in the area of I-40 and Bernard Road.

Map showing the distance between the facility and where the juveniles were found.

The juveniles were taken into custody without incident.

Four of the escapees are from Memphis and the other is from Selmer, Tennessee. All of them have a violent history and were being detained on charges ranging from carjacking, aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, theft and evading arrest, authorities said.

They will also be charged with escape and vandalism.

Authorities are prevented by law from identifying the escapees due to their age.

The WREG Investigators found out in the past two and a half years, deputies were called to the youth facility for physical and sexual assault calls, reports of lewd behavior, disturbances and more.

“We’ve had to go out there and assist and help contain that parameter.  They’ve definitely had some issues,” said Ray Garcia, of the Fayette County Sheriff’s office.

DCS officials say there have been three other successful escapes since April 2019.

  • April 21, 2019, a youth ran from a dental appointment off campus.
  • June 28, 2019, three youth ran while being transported in a state vehicle.
  • November 7, 2020, five youth ran from Wilder.

The last was in November, when five broke out of the facility causing DCS to conduct what it calls a “thorough Internal Affairs investigation.”

It “terminated one employee and a second resigned.” Officials say they adjusted “staff assignments and responsibilities” and “put in place additional physical security measures to deter and/or mitigate future events.”

“Seems over the past few years we’ve been getting more and more calls out there,” Garcia said.

In 2020, we uncovered 71 people filed complaints about the facility. DCS officials say they investigated each one, but only three complaints were substantiated, for physical abuse or lack of supervision.

In 2019, 3 out of 58 complaints were substantiated for physical abuse, psychological harm and lack of supervision. 

And in 2018, only was complaint was found valid, for again, physical abuse and lack of supervision.

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