N.M. Prison Break May Have Been Inside Job

Edward Salas, 23, sentenced to life in prison for murder, and Larry McClendon, 19, charged with murder and aggravated robbery. The two are among several inmates who escaped from the Curry County jail Sunday night, Aug. 23, 2008, in Clovis, N.M. AP/Curry County Sheriffs Dept.
AP/Curry County Sheriffs Dept.
Five inmates who broke out of a New Mexico jail - including a killer and a man accused of murder - remained on the loose Tuesday, and a prosecutor said investigators were focusing on the possibility that someone inside aided in the weekend escape.

Eight inmates escaped Sunday from the Curry County jail, but one was quickly captured and two others were caught in nearby Texas. District Attorney Matt Chandler said investigators believe some of the remaining escapees could be in west Texas.

"We're still receiving tips that some of the other fugitives, at least one or two of the other fugitives, could be in" the Lubbock area, he said.

Chandler told The Associated Press in a phone interview that New Mexico State Police began looking closely Tuesday at whether anyone inside the jail helped the men escape.

They are "working that angle very hard, and that's going to be a very high-priority focus," he said. Chandler did not say what led investigators to suspect that the inmates might have had inside help.

The eight men were discovered missing late Sunday when Clovis police officers noticed two people in orange jumpsuits running near the jail, according to Curry County Sheriff Matt Murray. Authorities believe the men used handmade instruments to cut a hole in the roof near a skylight.

Among the escapees are convicted murderer Edward Salas, 23, of Clovis, and 19-year-old Larry McClendon, who was being held on an open count of murder and aggravated robbery.

Salas was sentenced to life in prison last month for the 2005 shooting of a 10-year-old Clovis boy; the child was killed when shots were fired through his bedroom window as he slept. Salas was being held at the jail before being transferred to the state Department of Corrections.

McClendon, of Plainview, Texas, was charged with an open count of murder in March for his role in the January 2007 slaying of a secondhand store owner in Clovis.

The other at-large men and the charges against them are: Victor Sotelo, 36, of Portales, aggravated assault; Michael England, 29, of Clovis, tampering with evidence and being a felon in possession of a firearm; and Louis Chavez, 18, Albuquerque, aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, receiving stolen property and extreme cruelty to animals.

Inmate Victor Apodaca was chased and captured soon after his escape Sunday. Raynaldo Enriquez was caught Monday in Lubbock, and Javier Zapata, 19, was captured by U.S. marshals Monday in Cactus, Texas.

Officials are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the remaining escapees, reports CBS affiliate KRQE-TV in Albuquerque.

The following are descriptions of the escapees as reported by KRQE-TV:
  • Edward Salas - 5 feet 5 inches tall, 180 pounds, brown hair, brown eyes. Two tattoos: "SALAS" on back, "LISA" on right arm. Salas was waiting to be transferred to state prison after a murder conviction.
  • Larry McClendon - 6 feet 1 inch tall, 152 pounds, black hair, brown eyes. No tattoos. McClendon was awaiting trial on murder and aggravated robbery charges.
  • Victor Sotelo - 5 feet 3 inches tall, 135 pounds, black hair, brown eyes. Tattoo on stomach saying "SHORTY." Sotelo was awaiting trial on aggravated assault charges.
  • Michael England - 5 feet 7 inches tall, 130 pounds, black hair, brown eyes. Several tattoos: "Only God Can Judge Me" on back, "South" on right forearm, "Side" on left forearm. England was awaiting trial on charges including tampering with evidence and felony possession of a firearm.
  • Louis Chavez - 5 feet 2 inches tall, 177 pounds, black hair, brown eyes. Tattoos include "FEAR NONE" on chest and tribal patterns on both arms.