Two of Three Teen Jail Escapees Captured

Authorities have captured two of three 16 year olds who escaped from the Harris County Juvenile Probation Center just after midnight Sunday.

According to Assistant District Attorney Martina Longoria, the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force captured two of the offenders—Alferis Coby and Deionthay Harper, charged with capital murder and aggravated robbery respectively—after receiving tips from citizens and contacting various family and friends of the suspects. Coby was taken into custody after asking a person if he could use his cell phone; the man recognized him from news reports and contacted authorities. Harper was captured at a private residence. (Longoria did not have further details, except that they were found in southwest Houston).

Jahrell West, also charged with aggravated robbery, remains on the loose.

“He should be considered dangerous,” Longoria said. “These juveniles are youthful offenders—they really have nothing to lose at this point, and we are concerned for the safety of the public.”

The teens escaped from the facility after Coby asked a guard for toiletrees, then overpowered the guard and attacked him when he opened the cell door, according to authorities. Coby, after stealing the guard’s keys, freed West and Harper. The trio then were able to escape through several locked doors—Longoria said she does not believe they encountered any other guards along the way. Longoria said the 61-year-old detention officer Coby attacked has since been released from the hospital; he suffered severe bruising and lacerations on his face and lost a few teeth.

All three escapees will be charged with escape causing serious bodily injury, a first-degree felony. If they are certified to stand trial as adults for this charge, punishment ranges from five to 99 years (or life) in prison.

Coby, who is charged with fatally shooting a man outside a Midtown nightclub and then hijacking a car, already faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years (he is not subject to life without parole as a juvenile). Judge Michael Schneider, who originally certified Coby to stand trial as an adult, told the Chronicle, “I’m worried not only about what he is capable of, but his very demonstrated lack of empathy to other people. I usually don’t like to talk about kids in our juvenile system, but this is a dangerous kid.” Schneider's certification was based in part on a  psychology exam that found Coby was in the 98th percentile for "overall risk for dangerousness and the high range for violent and aggressive tendencies, psychopathic features, and planned and extensive criminality."

This is the first escape that the facility has seen in its nine years of operation—something that Longoria said spoke to the teens’ sophistication. After reviewing video footage, she said, “it’s apparent that this was something that they planned and has been in the works for the while.”

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