Valley on alert for escapees

officials face charges

September 08, 2001|By DARREN SIMON


Local authorities remained on alert Friday as the search for five escapees from a Mexicali prison continued and as the Mexican government prepared to bring charges against two prison officials who allegedly aided in the escape.

Enrique Tellaeche, a spokesman with the Baja California attorney general's office, said authorities in Mexicali had information the escapees might try to cross the border. He was unsure if the escapees had crossed the border as of Friday.

Calexico police, county Sheriff's Office deputies and Mexican state police searched two homes in Calexico on Thursday but there were no indications the escapees had been there.


The escape occurred about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. The inmates, all but one accused of murder, escaped from the prison in an exchange of gunfire.

They made their escape in a black Jeep Cherokee, according to Calexico police Sgt. Jim Neujahr.

The seven inmates were identified as Hector Manuel Ulivarría Garcia, Ramón Cázarez Mendívil, Jose Luis Cárdenas López, Jose Rocha Rocha, José Alfredo Ulivarría García, José Cázarez Peñuñuri and Joel Rocha Rocha.

Soon after the escape Hector Ulivarría and Ramon Cázarez were taken back into custody.

The remaining five escapees remained at large Friday night.

Héctor Ulivarría, José Ulivarría and Cárdenas are accused of killing three Mexican state police officers on May 7. The officers were shot in the head and their bodies were left in a ditch in Mexicali.

Three others in the group of escapees were accused in murders unrelated to the killings of the officers, according to Tellaeche.

One escapee had been involved in a kidnapping and was not accused of murder. The name of that person was unavailable Friday.

As the search for the remaining escapees continued Friday, Mexican authorities were preparing to bring charges either late Friday or today against Eduardo Rafael Diaz de Leon, the warden of the prison from which the men escaped, and Adan Mendez, the director the state prison system.

Both men were arrested for aiding in the prison escape and torturing the two inmates who were recaptured.

Tellaeche alleged both officials beat the two inmates once they were back in custody, breaking the ribs of one of the inmates.

When asked for a reaction to the arrest of the two officials, Tellaeche said the Mexican government would "uphold the law. No matter who it is, justice will be served."

Tellaeche said he was aware a Mexican national was arrested in El Centro on Friday after he crashed into two vehicles at Imperial and Adams avenues. He said that man was not thought to be connected to the prison escape.

Neujahr said Friday that Calexico police were on alert around the border along with the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Customs Service.

Kenneth Stitt, chief of the Border Patrol's El Centro sector, said agents were on "heightened awareness," but had not altered the way in which they patrol the border.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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