Officials release Curry County jail investigative report

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico

Inmates who escaped from the Curry County jail last month may have gained freedom with a key swiped from guards who were busy with plumbing repairs.

There is no indication the eight inmates who escaped received intentional help from jail staff, District Attorney Matt Chandler said after reviewing a report compiled by one of his investigators.

Inmates managed to take a key left hanging in the lock of a plumbing chase, unlock doors, and return the key without officers knowing, the report alleges. A plumbing chase houses pipes.

Detention officers were working to repair a clogged toilet when inmates took the key, inmates told investigators.

The detention officers who were doing the plumbing repairs said they didn’t know if the key was left in the chase door but one said the scenario told by the inmates “was possible,” the report said.

Eight inmates escaped two days later, on Aug. 24, by climbing into an unlocked plumbing chase and cutting a hole in the roof.

Four were caught within a week of the escape. The other four, including a convicted murderer and a suspected killer, remain on the loose.
Chandler blamed the escape on “complacency” and “a failure to pay attention to detail.”

The report, produced by Dan Aguilar of the district attorney’s office, also said:
• Pod checks scheduled every hour were not done at all during the weekend of the Sunday night escape because of staffing shortages. Inmates said detention officers rarely entered the pods where prisoners are housed.