The search for a missing 15-year-old continues in Middle Tennessee. Dylan Regenold escaped from Volunteer Youth Academy in Gallatin early Friday morning.
The facility is for boys age 12 to 17 who are in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services and have been determined to have a mental illness.
Dylan pried open his second-story bedroom window and used a bed sheet to escape.
“I just wonder if he’s alive,” his mother, Cassara Regenold told News 2. “It’s very unlike him to be silent this long and to not have surfaced somewhere.”
Regenold said her son struggles with his mental health and has had run-ins in with the law, which is why he was staying at the academy.
“Dylan can be kind and loving and smart and charming, but then he can make very, very poor choices,” said Regenold. “Dylan is responsible for the choices that he made, but they are responsible for the lack of action that they took because of that he’s been missing for four days now.”
The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) pays Meridian Behavioral Health to take care of the boys at Volunteer Youth Academy.
Staff at the academy are supposed to check on their residents every 15 minutes. That didn’t happen in this case. DCS says a staff member has been fired and another has been suspended following this incident.
The Gallatin police chief told News 2 that the issues at the facility have been ongoing. He said he’s tried to work with the staff to manage the number of escapes it has had but Chief Donald Bandy said it seems like nothing is getting fixed.
News 2 reached out to Volunteer Youth Academy numerous times by phone. The executive director’s mailbox was full and when we called another staff member, she hung up. We also knocked on the front door.
We received a statement from the executive director. It doesn’t mention the termination or that the 15-minute checks may not have happened.
Meanwhile, the search continues for Dylan. His mom is looking and she’s also getting help from a private investigator who is dedicating her time to search.
“He looks like an adult, but he’s thinking like a 15-year-old. He’s very intelligent so he thinks he can make it on his own,” said Renee Brewer of Stillwatch Investigations. “However, he could run into the wrong person or freeze, I mean it’s pretty cold out here and we don’t know where he’s sleeping.”
Brewer and Dylan’s mom are asking him to come home.
“Dylan, please call us. We’ll take care of you,” said Brewer. “You won’t have to worry about running away from another facility because you won’t have that feeling again if you just give us another chance.”
Volunteer Youth Academy’s Executive Director Kevilynn Gatson said in an emailed statement, “The safety and wellbeing of our residents is Volunteer’s top priority, unfortunately, residents will on occasion put themselves in harm’s way by running away when a staff member is distracted or not paying attention. We are still investigating how the young man escaped the supervision of the staff on duty. We will continue to work with authorities any way we can to locate this young man.”
Chief Bandy said Dylan may have stolen a car that was warming up nearby. News 2 is still waiting for information in relation to that vehicle.