Officials: Inmate uses dummy to escape
Published: Wednesday, December 27th, 2006
A jail inmate slipped through a broken door after he stuffed his bed with blankets, creating a dummy to fool guards during a head count, according to Curry County Adult Detention and court documents filed Tuesday. Guadalupe Rodriguez — an inmate tasked with kitchen duties — escaped sometime Saturday night, Warden Leslie Johnson said. His absence went unreported until Monday afternoon when she was notified, she said. The back door of the kitchen the 29-year-old Clovis man is believed to have slipped through was broken; so was a security camera in the alley outside the door, according to a criminal complaint filed by sheriff’s deputies Tuesday in Curry County Magistrate Court. Johnson said a request was submitted last week for the camera to be repaired, and declined to comment specifically on the door being broken. She did say door hinges sometimes stick around the jail and are reported to maintenance personnel when they do. Johnson said Rodriguez’s absence went unnoticed in part because he fooled guards into thinking he was sleeping during a head count. “Quite honestly, it appears he was missed (in the head count) because (it looked as if) he was curled up in bed sleeping, (but it was actually) blankets or something to that effect,” Johnson said Tuesday afternoon. The false lump in his bed was whisked away by other inmates before officials could ascertain what it was, she said. According to the criminal complaint, three head counts were supposed to have taken place between 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday morning. No one found Rodriguez missing until a detention officer discovered about lunchtime Sunday that “something was wrong,” the documents read. At noon Monday, one detention officer went to Rodriguez’s residence in Clovis to check for him with no success, according to the report. It was about 5 p.m. Monday when police dispatchers received a call from Johnson informing them Rodriguez was missing, the complaint said. Video footage filmed inside the jail showed five workers entering the kitchen Saturday but only four coming out, the complaint said. Rodriguez had been serving a 364-day sentence since Sept. 22 on multiple charges including resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, burglary and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, records show. He was scheduled to begin serving a four-year sentence in state prison after satisfying his local sentence, she said. His whereabouts remained unknown on Tuesday, Johnson said. “What we’ve been doing here all day is trying to put the puzzle together. We’re doing an administrative investigation to find out at what point we were missing this man and why it was not picked up for a two-day period,” Johnson said. Though working as a trustee, Rodriguez was not supposed to have access to unsecured doors he would have passed through on his way out, Johnson said. “He had a way to access those doors. They were not unsecured. It could be that someone helped him. It could be that someone was careless,” she said Tuesday night, explaining that it was still early in the investigation. “It’s very difficult to think why anyone would risk an 18-year escape charge. How could he think he’s going to get away? (But) these people are here for making bad decisions,” she said. Johnson said officials know Rodriguez’s history and have been checking with his known associates in the area to track him down. “I’m sick. I’m very distressed that we probably made some mistake that allowed this to happen and we are going to take care of (it). This is not going to happen again,” Johnson said. “I think officers sometimes get a little complacent in their jobs and take things for granted, and unfortunately that’s not just officers, that’s human nature. By and large, my officers do a very good job, but they slipped in this situation,” Johnson said. Assistant County Manager Lance Pyle, whose office oversees the jail, said he and jail officials have a meeting planned today to address a corrective plan to prevent similar problems down the road. “There are policies and procedures in place, and to me when you have five workers going to the kitchen area, you need to have five coming back,” Pyle said. He added, “This is something that we are not happy with, but the matter is being looked into and it will be handled appropriately.” In addition to the administrative investigation, the Curry County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a criminal investigation, Sheriff Roger Hatcher said. He anticipates it will take about a week to complete. Hatcher expressed frustration that so much time passed before law enforcement was notified. “Somebody screwed up — there’s no other way to put it. There’s no excuse for it, not for this. People escape all the time and mistakes happen. But finding out two days later, there’s no excuse for that,” he said. “Somebody just wasn’t doing their job. Whether it was intentional or just an act of omission is what we’re trying to find out,” he said.
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