GRANBURY -- The Texas Juvenile Probation Commission is investigating the death of a 14-year-old Cleburne boy in an apparent game of tug of war at a juvenile detention center in Granbury.
It is the first death of a juvenile in detention in Texas since 2003, said Lisa Capers, deputy executive director and general counsel of the commission.
"This is rare," Capers said. "It is very much an active investigation."
Granbury police are also investigating the case and have not yet determined whether the death was deliberate or accidental.
"Our investigators have been interviewing people for the last week trying to figure out if we can put some kind of rhyme or reason to it and how it all went down," Granbury police Capt. Alan Hines said. "Right now, we're either looking at a criminal incident or accident."
Hines said investigators learned that detainees at the Granbury Regional Juvenile Justice Center at 1300 Crossland Road sometimes fought boredom by placing their bedsheets under their cell doors and playing tug of war with other detainees.
He said Jordan Adams and an unidentified detainee in another cell were apparently playing the game Oct. 10 when Jordan wrapped the sheet around his neck and the other detainee pulled. Guards found Adams unconscious during a routine check. He was taken to Cook Children's Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead six days later, on Sunday.
On Monday, the Tarrant County medical examiner's office ruled that the cause of death was asphyxiation due to strangulation, but the manner of death is pending.
The for-profit facility, operated by 4M Granbury Youth Services, houses juveniles from all over the state, including those awaiting the handling of their cases by the judicial system. Records show the secure facility has 96 beds.
Ted Cooley, facility administrator of the detention center, said he could not comment on why Adams was being held but noted that both detainees were awaiting the handling of their cases.
He said Adams was in a single-person cell with solid walls and a solid door with a single window on top. The other detainee, Cooley said, was in an adjacent cell.
The facility has video cameras but not inside the cells, he said.
Cooley said he had not heard of such games taking place at the facility and said they would be strictly prohibited. He said structural changes that could prevent such occurrences are already being discussed.
"Obviously we want to err on the side of caution," he said. "This was a very unfortunate incident. We don't want it happening to anyone else."
Cooley said the facility immediately reportedly the incident to the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of this young man," Cooley said.
Ana Correa, executive director of the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, said the death raises questions about management and oversight in the facility. The group has pushed the Legislature unsuccessfully to require independent ombudsmen at each facility in the state, not just the large state facilities.
"It's important to have oversight so you can identify potential problems," Correa said.
Records on file with the juvenile probation commission show that the facility has a history of failing to comply with routine detainee monitoring requirements.
A compliance review of the preadjudication facility in May, for example, found that it failed to make room checks as required every 15 minutes for four out of 10 medical isolation cases that were reviewed. The facility also failed to make room checks every 10 minutes for four youths who had been determined to be a moderate suicide risk, state records show.
The level of supervision was also questioned by state compliance officers, who noted that the facility logs reflected violations of routine room checks.
The facility was cited in June for failing to promptly report an allegation of sexual abuse to the probation commission. The staff indicated that they did not believe the alleged victim was credible and therefore did not report the incident, according to state records.
The company operates a similar facility in Rockdale in Milam County.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655
Dianna Hunt, 817-390-7084