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“Come Hungry, Leave Handcuffed”: Virginia Detainees Who Tunneled Through Jail Wall Recaptured at IHOP

by Kevin W. Bliss

On March 20, 2023, two detainees escaped from the jail annex in Newport News, Virginia, after tunneling through their cell wall. But their freedom lasted less than a day before they were arrested the next morning at an IHOP in the neighboring city of Hampton.

Authorities said John Garza and Arley Nemo were discovered missing during a routine head count. Jail officials found the two had made a digging tool out of a toothbrush and a scrap piece of metal, which they used to tunnel their way through a wall that led outside the building. ABC News reported they were aided by an apparent construction defect: The rebar used inside the walls had not been tied together as building codes demand. Once the two detainees gained access to the outside, they climbed a security wall around the jail and fled.

Garza, 37, had been arrested in December 2022 on charges including contempt of court, probation violation and failure to appear. He then pleaded guilty to the last two charges in exchange for a lighter sentence and dropping the contempt charge altogether.

Nemo, 43, was arrested in October 2022 on pending charges of credit card fraud, credit card larceny, forgery, possession of burglary tools, grand larceny, contempt of court and probation violation. His case was still pending at the time he fled.

After an All-Points Bulletin was released in the surrounding area, the two were spotted early the next morning by fellow patrons in an IHOP restaurant just outside Newport News, in the neighboring city of Hampton. The patron alerted police, leading to the recapture of both men. They now face additional charges for the escape.

The Sheriff’s Office said the entire jail is being investigated for construction design weakness to determine if any other shortcuts were taken.

“A Newport News facility management and engineering team comprised of [Sheriff’s Office] personnel and city facilities engineers are (sic) reviewing and formulating ways to mitigate the aforementioned facility weaknesses,” stated a Sheriff’s department press release. “Until all weaknesses are identified and secured, we will not discuss the situation further for security reasons.”

Source: ABC News 

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