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Family services worker recovering from assault at justice center

By Jessica Priest
Sept. 17, 2013 at 4:17 a.m.
Updated Sept. 18, 2013 at 4:18 a.m.


A Mid-Coast Family Services worker who was assaulted last week while preparing to give presentations about anger management and drug awareness is still recovering, officials say.

Derrick McKenzie is charged with aggravated assault after deputies say he beat the woman, who is about 50 years old, at the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center about 9 a.m. Sept. 11.

McKenzie, 17, was a juvenile when he was sent from Fayette County to the facility this summer. He is now an adult, Chief Probation Officer Pama Hencerling said.

He is being held in the Victoria County Jail, Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said.

Neither Fayette County Chief Deputy Randy Noviskie nor Fayette County Chief Probation Officer Deborah Byler would describe what charges he faces in their jurisdiction.

"In our county, we send all juveniles down to Victoria," Noviskie said. "There is no court date set for him (here yet)."

McKenzie was initially playing basketball in the gymnasium, Hencerling said.

"He diverted the staff by bouncing the basketball and acting like he was going to go run after it," Hencerling said. "Then, he darted into her office, which just happened to be unlocked at the time, and locked the door behind him and proceeded to assault her."

It was unclear how long she was inside the office alone with McKenzie until a supervisor with a key came to help.

The woman was taken by ambulance to Citizens Medical Center and released the same day, said Capt. Abel Arriazola of the Victoria County Sheriff's Office.

Arriazola is trying to determine whether McKenzie's charges can be enhanced because the woman was working in an official capacity, much like a peace officer.

Both Hencerling and Mid-Coast Family Services CEO Ginny Stafford are re-evaluating safety protocols.

While some juvenile probation officers have been hurt in the past, this is the first time a juvenile has attacked a contract worker at the detention center, Hencerling said.

"When something like this happens, it really gets everyone thinking about what we can be more aware of," Hencerling said.

Mid-Coast Family Services temporarily stopped the anger management and drug awareness programs, as the woman, who has been employed by the nonprofit for 15 years, was one of only two people responsible for teaching it, Stafford said.

"The detention center can be a dangerous place, but then so is the world we live in," Stafford said. "Until she's released from her doctor, we're not even going to have this discussion (about restarting the programs). Her recovery is of the utmost importance to us right now."

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