Inmates Tunneled Out With Toothbrush, Went to IHOP

Virginia inmates made it 10 miles from jail
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2023 3:29 PM CDT
Escaped Inmates Found at IHOP
The sheriff's office shared this photo of the cell wall.   (Newport News Sheriff's Office)

It wasn't quite The Shawshank Redemption, but two inmates managed to tunnel their way out of a jail in Virginia this week "utilizing primitive-made tools constructed from a toothbrush and metal object," the Newport News Sheriff's Office says. The sheriff's office says 37-year-old John Garza and 43-year-old Arley Nemo escaped around 6pm Monday and were recaptured around 4am Tuesday at an IHOP in Hampton, 10 miles from the jail, WTKR reports. According to the sheriff's office, the men were able to "exploit a construction design weakness" to tunnel through a cell wall and get outside, where they scaled a containment wall.

The sheriff's office says a facility management and engineering team is looking at ways to mitigate the design weakness at the medium-security Newport News Jail Annex. "Due to the fact that this weakness presents itself throughout the facility, and until all weaknesses are identified and secured, we will not discuss the situation further for security reasons," the sheriff's office said in a news release. Police, who had asked the public to be on the lookout for the two men, say people spotted the fugitives at the IHOP and called authorities, NPR reports.

Garza and Nemo will now face new charges. They had been at the Newport News facility for months before the escape. Garza was being held on charges including contempt of court and probation violations, while Nemo faced charges including credit card fraud, forgery, and possession of burglary tools. Police said the men surrendered peacefully. "I don't think that we were dealing with, like, menacing individuals," Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said Tuesday. "What we had was two individuals that were able to escape from the jail facility." (More prison escape stories.)

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