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I-Team: 4 teens who escaped from St. Louis juvenile center still on the run

One of the teens who escaped was struck and killed while running from police Tuesday

ST. LOUIS — A teen who was struck and killed Tuesday morning while running from police was one of 10 teens who have escaped from the Juvenile Detention Center in St. Louis since September.

Police were closing in on a car Martez Sipes, 17, was riding in with a woman around 8:30 a.m. near Broadway and Biddle Street, just north of downtown. The car hit an embankment and the two started running, eventually ending up in the westbound lanes of the Interstate 70 ramp.

Sipes was hit and killed, and police are still searching for the woman.

Police believe he was one of four juveniles who escaped from the detention center Sept. 4. At the time, he was being held on charges including second-degree assault, tampering with a motor vehicle and escape or attempted escape from custody with a deadly weapon.

Since then, six more juveniles have escaped from the building in two additional incidents on Oct. 16 and Nov. 16.

Half of the juveniles who escaped are back in custody.

Sipes was among the five who remained on the run.

So, why does it keep happening?

The 22nd Judicial Circuit oversees the Juvenile Detention Center.

Jacob Long, a spokesman for the courts, said none of the administrators were available for an interview Tuesday. He has also declined the I-Team’s requests for on-camera interviews to discuss what’s causing the escapes and what’s being done to prevent them.

Sources told the I-Team in one escape, the teens stole a set of keys from a desk and assaulted some staff members before breaking out of the facility along Enright Avenue. In another escape, two teens broke out of a window and ran.

St. Louis University Associate Criminology Professor Kenya Brumfield-Young worked in juvenile detention facilities, including the St. Louis center, before joining the world of academia.

She said other communities including Memphis and Nashville have struggled to keep kids detained, too.

“We're looking at issues with antiquated buildings, we're looking at staff shortages, we're looking at underpaid staff and sometimes even under-trained staff,” she said.

When she heard of Sipes’ death, she said her heart sank.

“My first feeling was sadness, and my first thought is always, ‘How did we get here?’” she said. 

The names of the juveniles who escaped are not public information, but the I-Team requested the ages, custody status and the charges they are facing.

Sept. 4 escape

Martez Sipes, 17

Custody status: Killed while fleeing from police Tuesday.

Charges: Escape or attempted escape from custody with deadly weapon, second-degree assault, tampering with a motor vehicle.

Male, 16

Custody status: Returned to detention on Sept. 6

Charges: Tampering with a motor vehicle, resisting/interfering with an arrest/stop, resisting arrest by fleeing-creating substantial risk of serious injury or death

Male, 17

Custody status: Still at-large

Charges: Tampering with a motor vehicle, resisting arrest by fleeing-creating a substantial risk of serious injury or death, resisting/interfering with an arrest/stop, leaving the scene of an accident

Male, 17

Custody status: Returned to detention, date unknown

Charges: First-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon-shoot at/from a motor vehicle, at person, motor vehicle, or building, second-degree property damage, first-degree robbery

Oct. 16 escape

Male, 17

Custody status: Returned to detention on Nov. 19

Charges: Third-degree assault, stealing, violation of a court order

Male, 16

Custody status: Returned to detention on Oct. 21

Charges: First-degree tampering, resisting/interfering with an arrest, detention or stop, resisting arrest, escape from custody, first-degree property damage, third-degree assault

Male, 17

Custody status: Still at-large

Charges: Stealing from a person, probation violations, violation of conditions of release.

Male, 13

Custody status: Returned to detention on Oct. 26

Charges: Probation violations, third-degree assault

Nov. 16 escape

Male, 17

Custody status: Still at-large

Charges: First-degree murder

Male, 15

Custody status: Still at-large

Charges: Two counts of first-degree tampering, three counts of resisting/interfering with an arrest, tampering with electronic monitor, violations of terms of release.