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Residents React To News Of Escaped Inmate

July 15, 2012, 5:40 PM by Lindsey Branwall

Residents React To News Of Escaped Inmate
Courtesy: Lee County Sheriff's Office

SPENCER, SD -

A prisoner that escaped from a gas station in Spencer more than a day ago is still at large.

Authorities are still looking for 31-year-old Oscar Antonio Herrera-Menjivar, who escaped from the Fuel Mart gas station at Exit 353 along Interstate-90 early Saturday morning.

He was one of 13 prisoners being transported to a Nebraska facility in a private transport van. But more than 36 hours after he fled, there's no new information on his whereabouts. And residents and travelers in the Spencer area are now on edge.

It was around 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning when Herrera-Menjivar fled from a prison transport van while it was fueling up at Spencer's Fuel Mart. And people driving through town now exit with a little more caution.

“We'll keep an eye out and we don't usually pick up hitchhikers,” Minnesota resident Dave Paulson said.

Paulson is heading back home to Minnesota with his family.

While the open highway is an obvious escape route, police are searching all options. And the Fuel Mart is surrounded by an expanse of farmland but law enforcement has made their way through nearly every acre of it.

Law enforcement stopped to take a look through all of local farmer Calvin Heitzman's farm buildings.

“I says what are you doing out here on these back roads you know," Heitzman said.

"I woke up in the morning and my dad told me a convict had escaped down there and they were looking for him,” Spencer resident Steven Whistler said.

Whisler lives on a farm just a mile away from Fuel Mart and his property was also searched.

"Then the police showed up and looking through all of our buildings and they came and talked to us about it,” Whisler said.

Despite the escape, some in the area don’t believe they're in danger.

"I think he's already out of the area,” Craig McManus said. “They'll find him eventually. I don't think he'll be sticking around.”

But others are open to the idea Herrera-Menjivar may not have gone too far.

"The corn fields are a very good hiding area now, and of course if there's some of the mature corn, there’s food,” Heitzman said.

Heitzman's farm is on the southeast part of town, the direction Herrera-Menjivar is presumed to have fled. But he knows no matter where the criminal is it's in the hands of the authorities.

"We can't do much except see what's going on in the area and community and hope it stays safe," Heitzman said.

Herrera-Menjivar is considered dangerous and law enforcement encourages the public not to pick up hitchhikers and to report any suspicious activity.

Herrera-Menjivar is five-feet, five-inches tall, 140 pounds and has black hair and brown eyes.

He may be wearing a prison orange shirt, or he may be wearing a blue T-shirt, shorts and black running shoes. He's a native of Mexico whose last known address was in Florida. He was originally charged with sexual assault of a minor.

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