$10k reward offered for each of 2 escaped New Mexico prisoners

Posted at 7:16 PM, Mar 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-11 19:16:44-05

New Mexico authorities offered a $10,000 reward for each of two escaped inmates as police pressed their search for a second day Friday.

“That is significant. That is monumental,” U.S. Marshal Conrad E. Candelaria of New Mexico said of the rewards.

Investigators had no luck Thursday night searching an area in Albuquerque after a possible sighting of the escaped pair, said Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety.

Joseph Cruz, 32, and Lionel Clah, 29 — both considered to be violent — escaped from a prisoner transport van about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday near Artesia while the state Corrections Department attempted to transport them, the New Mexico State Police said.

Authorities aren’t sure the sighting Thursday night was of the two fugitives, Armijo added.

It’s possible the two have separated by now, and investigators are seeking the public’s help, police said Friday.

“Call us. If you have a hunch and if you think you saw somebody, call,” said New Mexico State Police Chief Pete N. Kassetas. “We want to assure the public that we’re on this, and that we’re pursuing these individuals.”

Police are working closely with corrections officials about inmate communications and prison operations, authorities said.

“This is entering a new stage of the investigation. We understand right now it’s going to require a very complex, very comprehensive type of intelligence network capability that’s going to rely on many different sources of information,” Candelaria said.

Cruz had pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and child abuse, according to the New Mexico Corrections Department.

Clah had pleaded guilty to armed robbery with a deadly weapon, and no contest to assault with intent to commit a violent felony upon a peace officer.

The two fugitives were spotted hours after their escape in Albuquerque, more than a 250-mile drive to the northwest, police said.

Surveillance video showed the fugitives in a building early Thursday in western Albuquerque, police said.

The Albuquerque images, which were posted to Facebook, showed Cruz in a long-sleeve, light brown shirt or jacket with blue jeans and glasses, and Clah wearing a red or maroon shirt with blue jeans, police said. Police posted the images on their website.

Albuquerque police said they searched the area for hours Thursday night and closed some streets. But the streets were reopened by 1 a.m. Friday, and police said the fugitives still were on the loose.

The Corrections Department said the escapees have tattoos: Cruz has “Alias” on the back of his neck and a tribal symbol on his right ear. Clah has a feather on his left cheek.

Police declined to disclose details about Wednesday night’s escape and how the men traveled to Albuquerque. When Cruz and Clah escaped, they were in white prisoner jumpsuits and bound by shackles, state police said.

No shackles were apparent in Thursday’s surveillance images from Albuquerque.

New Mexico Corrections Department Cabinet Secretary Gregg Marcantel said the prison transport van made several stops Wednesday. He indicated the most likely point of escape came during a stop for gas in Artesia.

When they made their getaway, both men were on their way from the Penitentiary of New Mexico near Santa Fe to the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility in Las Cruces.