The prison cell of Otis Blunt in the Union County jail, New Jersey. Blunt escaped through the hole in the wall (extreme right). (AP)
Elizabeth (New Jersey), Dec. 18 (AP): Two jail inmates used photos of bikini-clad women to hide holes they used to escape and left behind a thank-you note, signed with a smiley face, for a guard they claimed helped them, officials said yesterday.
Jose Espinosa, 20, and Otis Blunt, 32, squeezed through the openings sometime before dawn on Saturday in a high-security unit of the Union County jail, jumped onto a rooftop below and made it over a 25-foot-high fence topped with razor wire, authorities said.
Authorities withheld the name of the officer the inmates said was involved. The note, found in Espinosas cell, read: Thank you Officer... for the tools needed. Youre a real pal. Happy holidays.
The jailbreak is reminiscent of one in the movie The Shawshank Redemption in which the main character, an inmate played by actor Tim Robbins, uses posters of women, including a bikini-clad Raquel Welch, to conceal an escape tunnel he had been digging.
Authorities are investigating the claims. The guard named in the note has not yet turned in a report, said county prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow whose office is overseeing the escape investigation.
Police were still searching yesterday for the two men. Espinosa was awaiting sentencing for manslaughter in a drive-by shooting and Blunt is facing robbery and other charges in the shooting of convenience store manager.
Authorities are reviewing security measures. They barred inmates from pinning up pictures from magazines on their cell walls.
Espinosa and Blunt used at least two improvised tools — a thick metal wire like those used to bind chain-link fences to poles, and a 10-pound steel water shut-off wheel — to remove concrete blocks from the wall, Romankow said.
The thick wire was used to scrape away mortar around a concrete block in the wall between their cells, and then around a concrete block in an exterior wall in Espinosas cell that faced busy rail tracks, Romankow said.
The shut-off wheel was used to crush the blocks so they could be hidden in the cells, Romankow said. They also laid out pillows and sheets to make it look like the two men were sleeping under blankets, authorities said.
Once they landed on the railway pavement outside the fence, they ran in opposite directions, Romankow said. No blood was found.
The escape preparations appear to have been done relatively quickly. Each man was in his cell for only a few weeks, Romankow said.