Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Young Patients Blamed in Fire, Chaos at Hospital They Wanted to Escape, Authorities Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Young Patients Blamed in Fire, Chaos at Hospital They Wanted to Escape, Authorities Say

Article excerpt

It began as a routine fire call Monday night when a dormitory room at Spirit of St. Louis Hospital in St. Charles County caught fire. But when police arrived, they saw patients at the psychiatric center for adolescents running the halls and assaulting firefighters, staff members and one another.

In the end, a team of about 25 law enforcement officers took seven juveniles into custody - five girls and two boys - in connection with assault, arson and property damage. The plan for some was to set a diver sion and escape, authorities said.

In addition, the state Division of Family Services, responsible for licensing the hospital's residential treatment program, suspended all admissions Tuesday while the matter is being investigated. "We want to make sure no new children are introduced to a situation where we may have to take more drastic actions," said Keith Krueger, state supervisor for residential licensing with family services. Four of the girls were charged Tuesday in St. Charles County Juvenile Court with first-degree arson. Investigators say a diary was found in one of the rooms implicating some of the girls. Two girls, roommates, started the fire by sticking a pencil into an electrical outlet, creating a spark, and lighting several pieces of paper, which they threw on their beds, authorities said. A fifth girl and two boys have been returned to the hospital, on Missouri Highway 94 South near Weldon Spring. Juvenile officials say charges of assault and property damage are pending. Authorities say that one of the boys threw a butter knife at a law enforcement officer and that the other attacked a police officer and hospital staff member. Two other patients were treated Monday night at a hospital and returned to the center after a few hours, one for smoke inhalation and the other with bumps and bruises. Lt. Dave Todd, of the St. Charles County Sheriff's Department, said: "It started with two of our guys showing up to assist on the fire, but it was a free-for-all when they walked in. So they called for additional help." Patients at the hospital are confined to their rooms after lights-out and kept inside the compound at all times. …

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