A mentally retarded convicted child molester slipped away from the State Developmental School this month, and the school doesn't want him back.
Dick Burgess, 35, placed a credit card in a door jamb allowing him to escape Sept. 11. He hasn't been seen since. An 8th District judge in Duchesne County sentenced Burgess to the school in August 1990 after the man pleaded guilty but mentally ill to three counts of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy."His security needs are way beyond what we can provide," said Ric Zaharia, director of the state division of services for people with disabilities. "He's out of our league."
Zaharia said Burgess doesn't suffer from severe mental disability. "This is a guy that if you ran into him in the mall, you couldn't tell he was handicapped," he said. Zaharia described Burgess as "slippery" and "smart."
"This is really not where he should be," said developmental school Superintendent Mary Ellen Wilkinson. The school serves mentally retarded and developmentally disabled people.
Burgess is a good example of why state mental health workers will ask the Utah Legislature to provide money to build a 200-bed multipurpose forensics unit at the Utah State Prison. Burgess doesn't fit into the American Fork school's treatment-oriented atmosphere. Prison may be too harsh. Zaharia and Wilkinson want something in between.
"The multipurpose unit would be for anybody that falls through the cracks in the other systems," Zaharia said. It would combine security and treatment, something the state currently doesn't provide for borderline mentally retarded criminals.
The Utah State Hospital in Provo cares for criminals with mental illnesses, not mental retardation. Zaharia said Burgess wasn't sent to the more secure hospital because there's "no mental illness associated with his handicap."
Burgess lived at the school on a civil commitment for at least 15 years prior to his conviction, which changed his commitment status from civil to criminal. Burgess was the school's only resident on a criminal commitment.
Although Burgess is considered mentally retarded, "he has some skills that our other clients don't," Wilkinson said. He's also possibly dangerous.
"If you're asking, `Is he going to walk up to somebody and assault them?' The answer is no," she said. "If you're asking, "Does he have the potential to commit a sex offense?' The answer is yes."
Wilkinson said Burgess has a pattern of befriending young people prior to attempting sexual contact.
Burgess has fled the school and his home in Duchesne during visits on several occasions.
At the school, Burgess was housed in a building with about 15 other residents who were charged with crimes but never convicted. They were sent to the school because of their diminished mental capacities.
A chain-link fence that surrounded the building is currently down. The school is haggling with architects over how to rebuild it.
"We're trying to build a fence that's not correctionlike," Wilkinson said. The fence would enclose the perimeter of the building except the front.
The 8th District Court in Duchesne issued a warrant for Burgess' arrest. American Fork Police Sgt. Sam Liddiard, who splits his time between the city and the school, said Burgess' name was entered in the National Crime Information Center computer.
Wilkinson said only two residents have fled the school the past three years.