Escape probe gains direction

While the internal investigation into the escape of a murder suspect from San Mateo’s juvenile detention center has proceeded much more slowly than expected, the county’s independent investigation has a new helmsman.

“We’ve found our guy,” County Manager John Maltbie said.

Though the chosen lead investigator won’t be named until contract negotiations are complete, Maltbie described him as a “nationally known expert” who will be “instantly recognizable to those who are in the juvenile justice community.” The investigation is likely to cost about $50,000 and take about 30 days, he said.

The county Board of Supervisors last week authorized the independent investigation into the Feb. 14 escape of 17-year-old Josue Raul Orozco from the Youth Services Center. Orozco, who had been at the facility since it opened in 2006, was awaiting trial on charges that he allegedly killed a 21-year-old member of a rival gang. He escaped over a 15-foot wall and through a hole in an outer fence.

The county’s Probation Office launched its own internal investigation after the escape. At the time, they said the investigation would be complete within a week. That date was later pushed back to Feb. 26, at which point it was delayed for a week.

Chief Probation Officer Loren Buddress said Tuesday that the release is now anticipated for the end of this week or early next week. One reason for the delay, he said, is that investigators have had to sift through hundreds of hours of film from security cameras.

“I’d rather take a little bit of time and do a very comprehensive job than rush something through prematurely and not look at all the elements,” he said.

Supervisor Bill Church, whose district includes the facility, said he hopes the results of both investigations are available soon.

“It’s important that we have the findings and recommendations soon so we can implement the changes we need to,” he said.

kworth@examiner.com

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