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U.S. marshals take over jail escape investigation

U.S. marshals take over jail escape investigation

U.S. Marshals have taken over the investigation of two men who escaped from custody at the Sunnyside jail in the early morning hours of Nov. 30, according to Sunnyside Det. Sgt. Jeff Cunningham.

Of the four federally housed inmates that escaped, two have been captured.

Rodolfo Cortez-Orozco was taken into custody in Yakima on Dec. 1. Escapee Jose Moreno-Ruiz was also arrested earlier this month, following a tip in Pasco.

The search is still on for escapees Aaron Garcia, 28, and Ernesto Gallegos, 29.

According to U.S. Marshal Supervising Deputy Steve Thompson, one deputy is currently assigned to the case.

"We've got leads put out to all over the country where we think they could've gone," he said.

The fact that the men have gang affiliations has presented challenges when it comes to others helping to hide the fugitives, he said. But, he added, "There is no honor among thieves. One of their friends or family will probably turn them in." There is still a $5,000 reward per fugitive for information leading to their arrests, he added.

All information given that leads to the arrests of Garcia and Gallegos will be kept confidential. "Once it comes to us, it's strictly confidential," Thompson said.

Thompson said he believes that the maximum sentence for federal aiding and abetting is up to five years.

Thompson said tracking down a fugitive is quite different than following a drug investigation, when an officer knows where to find a subject once the investigation is complete. This, he says, is following a trail until the fugitive is caught.

While U.S. Marshals hunt for the escapees, Sunnyside has beefed up its policies to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

According to Deputy Chief Phil Schenck, corrections officers have increased frequencies of cell searches and head counts.

And, he said, "We've fortified each of the jail cells." The escapees used the metal handle from a plastic mop bucket to create a hole in the shower ceiling. Now, says Schenck, the shower ceiling is made of fairly thick steel. The buckets at the jail are all now completely plastic, and what goes into a cell, comes out of a cell, he said.

Visitors are now allowed again at the jail. "With the design of our jail, it's impossible to introduce contraband. (Visitors) can't slip them a piece of paper, much less a tool."

Schenck echoed the reminder of the $5,000 reward per fugitive. "I have every reason to believe we'll capture the remaining two," he said.

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