Ashton Marra Published

Six Charged in Riot at Wood County Juvenile Facility


Six residents of a Parkersburg juvenile facility are facing charges after State Police say they assaulted correctional officers and other residents and caused thousands of dollars in property damage.

In a press release, Lt. Michael Baylous said the incident occurred at the Lorrie Yeager, Jr., Juvenile Center on Feb. 18, 2014, during a recreation period when residents were in the facility’s dayroom.

Baylous said during that rec period, two male inmates began physically assaulting correctional officers, staff and other juvenile residents. The two inmates convinced two additional male residents to join them and the four continued to assault staff members with tables, chairs, and other items.

Correctional officers and staff began to move the other juveniles out of harms way, but two female residents refused to comply with orders and began participating in the disturbance.

Baylous said the six residents were locked in the dayroom, where they proceeded to cause damage to windows, sprinkler heads, a large flatscreen television and other property, resulting in more than $40,000 worth of damage.

The inmates broke into an adjoining laundry room and offices, fashioning weapons out of scissors and metal rods from a foosball table. They threatened to use the weapons against correctional officers if the entered the locked dayroom.

Baylous said the four male inmates also attempted to escape the facility by ramming a door with a folded ping pong table.

Correctional officers eventually entered the dayroom in riot gear, described as heavy padding covering their torsos, arms and legs and helmets with visors, and ordered the six residents to lie on the ground. The residents complied with the orders, were put in handcuffs and ankle shackles, and were escorted to their individual rooms. The entire incident lasted about two hours.

Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said staff attempted to keep the inmates separated in the following days, but ultimately four were moved to other Division of Juvenile Facilities, where they are currently being housed.

One of the six residents is currently in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Resources at an out-of-state facility. The sixth has since been released after completing his or her original sentence.

Messina said it took about two days to clean up the mess in the dayroom, but the facility is equipped with a gym and an outdoor recreational area so all programming for the inmates, including those charged in the incident, continued as usual in the days following the incident.

Since, Messina said, repairs are continuing, but the dayroom is back in use.

The West Virginia State Police investigated the incident and forwarded it to the Wood County Prosecutors office who charged the four male juveniles with destruction of a building by rioters, felony destruction of property, attempted escape and possession of a weapon by an inmate at a Juvenile Detention Center.

The two female residents were charged with destruction of a building by rioters and felony destruction of property.

Messina said the charges don’t allege any direct injuries as a result of the incident, but one correctional officer did fall and break her ankle while responding.

The Lorrie Yeager, Jr., Juvenile Center is a 24-bed, hardware secure unit located in Parkersburg that currently houses 26 juvenile residents ranging from ages 14 to 17.

The center’s website says hardware secure facilities are “intended to house West Virginia’s most violent offenders.” Residents of the facility are described as having proceedings pending, but their cases have not yet been resolved.

Messina said since the incident, the division has reviewed its policies to see what if any needed updated and has conducted trainings with correctional officers and staff members to help them better understand how to respond to similar incidents.

“The staff deserves praise for how they responded to the incident,” Messina said Wednesday.

“The situation could have ended very badly, all things considered, and the staff acted decisively without any juveniles getting injured.”

According to the facility’s website, the director position at Yeagar is vacant. Messina said that was a result of a planned retirement in May and had no relation to the incident. The hiring process is underway, but a new director has not been named.