Accused killer attempted to break out of a Merced County jail

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An accused killer tried to escape from the Merced County main jail this week. (KFSN)

An accused killer tried to escape from the Merced County main jail this week. He never made it out, but Sheriff Vern Warnke said changes in California laws are making escape attempts more tempting for inmates.

As a correctional officer was making bed checks Tuesday night he noticed the top bunk in cell number eight was stuffed with pillows and blankets to make it look like the inmate was sleeping. The officer looked up to find a huge hole in the ceiling. Inside was David Lastra, accused of killing a police informant back in October. Reportedly shooting him nearly a dozen times. "Laster was still between the ceiling and the roof, and it's all cement so he would have had a heck of a time trying to get out," said Sheriff Warnke.

Officers found a piece of metal with threads on it, like a bolt. They figure Laster used it to slowly saw through the ceiling over the last couple of months. Sheriff Warnke said Lastra put a chair on top of the top bunk and managed to shimmy up in the hole. It's the first time in his 37 years with the department that the sheriff has seen anyone try to escape from the main jail, but he figures more inmates will make the attempt in the future because there is little recourse. "Well, you know, there's no punishment. We were sold a bill of goods on Prop 47 and now that they've decriminalized a lot of things there's no punishment."

They've already started patching up the hole in the ceiling.

Lastra has been moved to another cell and Sheriff Warnke said his officers will be monitoring Lastra a lot more closely from now on.
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newsmerced countymurderMerced County
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