Upper Peninsula Wiki

"We were able to track them through the woods,"

Ronald Lahti, or Ron Lahti, is the current sheriff of Keweenaw County, Michigan.

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Keweenaw Academy Escape Attempt[]

Keweenaw County Sheriff's Deputies and Keweenaw Academy staff, on snowmobiles and on foot, apprehended three Academy students who attempted to escape on Friday evening, Jan. 26.

"I never expected that to happen in the winter months," said Keweenaw County Sheriff Ron Lahti. "They thought they could get to a town, but they didn't realize what distances are up here."

"Shortly after the Sheriff's office received a call from the Academy at 7:35 p.m., Academy staff had already caught one of the students near the Gratiot Lake Road," Lahti said.

The other two followed the power pole line, where snow had been packed down by snowmobiles, but then headed into the woods.

""We were able to track them through the woods," the Sheriff said.

Apparently the students had boots on but found it difficult walking through two or more feet of snow and they were tracked and apprehended about two miles from the Academy, Lahti added.

"The Academy staff did a good job as far as rounding them up and notifying us," Lahti noted.

Academy Director Charles Smith said Academy staff on foot caught the first student within about 10 minutes of the escape. He said the students had taken advantage of the snowmobile trails beaten down along the power lines (not an official snowmobile trail) and on the campus.

"We had some unauthorized snowmobilers come up on the property," Smith said. "They came right up on campus up a high hill and they beat some trails down."

Smith said a total of eight snowmobiles one from the Sheriff's Department, one from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and six from the Academy tracked the other two students.

"I can't imagine they really thought they were going to get someplace," Smith said.

Two of the escapees are juveniles and the other, aged 17 or 18, is being housed in the Keweenaw County Jail. Lahti said the adult student could be charged with escape from a court-ordered facility, a felony that has the potential of a maximum sentence of four years in state prison.

Smith said Keweenaw County Prosecuting Attorney Donna Jaaskelainen would determine the charge. He added she could return the youth's case as a juvenile back to the county of jurisdiction (the county that sent him to the Academy as a juvenile) or she may decide to charge him here.

Jaaskelainen was not available for comment.

If the youth is charged in Keweenaw County, Smith noted, it would involve costs to both the county and the Academy.

The Academy pays for the student's housing while he is in jail and would transport him back to his own county, should the hearing be scheduled there.

"We also have an agreement to defray some of the legal expenses for his attorney," Smith said.

"In the case of the two juveniles," Smith said, the Academy will send a report of the incident back to the juvenile courts in their respective counties, but plans are to keep them at the Academy unless those courts ask for their return.

"Our history is once a kid runs he doesn't run (again)," Smith noted. "We're going to hold them accountable. That infraction will be handled here on campus. This isn't about punishment. We have to make them see that their irresponsible actions and the quality of their decision affect their lives and the lives of those around them (as well as) the reputation of the Academy of their fellow students (and) the staff at the Academy."

Smith said this is the first escape in nine months. An Academy youth attempted an escape last summer but was caught.

"Normally on campus AWOLs are relatively rare," Smith said. "We anticipate increased security measures due to the number of Upper Peninsula youth that are being referred to the Academy."

"Students from the U.P. think they know the area better, even though they rarely do, and are more likely to run away, he explained. While some students are allowed off campus for volunteer work projects, they are closely supervised by Academy staff. In the case of those who have paying jobs with businesses in Copper Harbor, it is the responsibility of the business owners to notify the Academy of any problems," Smith added.

The Academy allows some students to work for businesses in the local community, but only if the local labor pool has been exhausted, he explained.

"We don't want to take jobs away from the local community," Smith said.


As Keweenaw County Sheriff

Predecessor: [[]]

Successor: n/a