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New Details Surface About Brazen Palo Alto Courthouse Escape

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- New details emerged Tuesday about how two Santa Clara County inmates carefully planned and flawlessly executed an elaborate escape during a Palo Alto court appearance last month.

Court documents revealed exactly how inmates John Bivins and Tramel McClough, both of East Palo Alto, managed to communicate with an accomplice on the outside without being detected by authorities.

The pair, who were in custody for the alleged armed robbery of a Sunnyvale Verizon store, managed their escape on November 6.

Both men were being held at the Elmwood Correctional Facility without bail and each had a court appearance scheduled at the Palo Alto courthouse.

Detectives reviewed jail calls and discovered the night before the escape, McClough used another inmate's pin number to call his girlfriend -- Marquita Kirk -- about the positioning of two different cars for the getaway.

They referred to the cars as "Number 1" and "Number 2."

McClough explained to Kirk that if everything went as planned, the escape would happen going into the courthouse no later than 9:15 or 9:30 a.m.

Bivins and McClough ran out of a side emergency door, setting off an alarm. But by then, it was too late for deputies to catch them.

The escapees had a Toyota Camry waiting for them across the street from the courthouse. They drove it a couple blocks to Sheridan Avenue, where a witness said it came to an abrupt stop.

The inmates then allegedly abandoned the car to get into a rented U-Haul that had pulled up behind them. They drove off and weren't seen for almost three weeks.

Both Kirk and a second accomplice, Rene Hunt, were arrested the following day on suspicion of conspiracy and being an accessory after the fact for the brazen escape.

It wasn't until November 21 that investigators captured McClough after he led police on a high-speed chase on I-5 near Stockton. Officers followed the car to a Walmart where McClough bailed and was arrested.

Bivins got behind the wheel and fled, but he was cornered and exchanged gunfire with police. He then got away on foot.

Bivens was not taken into custody until November 26 when authorities tracked the armed fugitive to a hotel in San Leandro and arrested him.

The court documents did not detail how the escapees obtained a key to unlock restraints they were in after they escaped.


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