Daring Attempted Escape from Jail

Ripped Straight From a Hollywood Script
February 28, 2008 8:09:02 PM PST
The Merced County Sheriff's Department says two inmates created an elaborate plan to disguise their escape attempt.They ran into one big problem.

Corrections Officers say the inmates took advantage of the fact that this jail is more than forty years old and is deteriorating in some places.

It was building's design that ultimately kept the men trapped inside.

This is the cell where authorities say two inmates planned to make a movie-style escape.

Mark Pazin, Merced Co. Sheriff: "Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman, Shawshank Redemption kind of gave us pause for concern that they were trying to replicate that."

Sheriff Mark Pazin says in this case the lead characters were murder suspect Benjamin Crosby and Donald Stephenson, who escaped from the John Latorraca Jail earlier this year. The two were sharing the cell with eight other men when officers say they started working to remove the cover from their now sealed up vent and make a replacement to hide their progress.

Deputy Tom Mackenzie, Merced Co. Sheriff's Dept.: "Apparently it took them a couple of weeks to do. Somehow they got a piece of angle iron or flat piece of metal and spent their nights just rubbing it up against this grill here."

Deputy Tom Mackenze says the men pried off the grill off the vent and covered it with this replica made of paper towels stained with black dye from melted dominos.

MacKenzie: "They also used a piece of vinyl to give it stiffness, and in between you'll see a piece of monopoly board from the top of the case."

Side by side you can see the incredible similarity. Mackenize says the men hung the fake vent over the hole and waited for the right time to climb out. That's when they got an unpleasant surprise.

Once the inmates came through the vent, they were stuck in this narrow plumbing corridor that's blocked by a concrete wall on one end and a locked door on the other.

Sgt. Dan Bobrowski, Merced Co. Sheriff's Dept.: "There was pretty much nowhere to go once they were inside here."

Corrections officers discovered the failed escape plan after a maintenance worker saw one of the men stick his head through the hole. Now Stephenson and Crosby are facing even more time in jail.

Officers believe the inmates had access to the plumbing corridor for about a week before they were caught.

Both men now face added felony escape charges.


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