Suspects in slayings slip into walls to flee California jail

These undated photos provided by the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office show inmates Santos Fonseca, left and Jonathan Salazar, right, who escaped from from Monterey County Jail Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. Authorities say the two murder suspects have escaped from central California’s Monterey County Jail. (Monterey County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

MONTEREY, Calif. (AP) — Two inmates charged with murder broke out of a California jail over the weekend after climbing through a hole they made in a bathroom ceiling of their housing unit and then squeezing through a wall before finding an escape hatch, authorities said Monday.

Santos Fonseca, 21, and Jonathan Salazar, 20, made the hole measuring about 8 inches (20 centimeters) tall and 22 inches (56 centimeters) wide in the guards’ blind spot and then slipped into the walls of the jail Sunday in the city of Salinas, Monterey County sheriff’s Capt. John Thornburg said.

Inside the wall, the two inmates maneuvered past ducts and pipes in a maintenance access area until they reached a hatch. They kicked it open and made it to an outdoor area that was covered in construction fencing, rather than security fencing with barbed wire, Thornburg said.

“We consider them dangerous,” he said. “Please dial 911 if anybody does see them or knows where they are.”

Investigators have not yet determined how long they worked on making the hole or if anyone else helped them escape the jail in the farming city of about 160,000 people roughly 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of San Francisco. They were reported missing at 8:15 a.m. Sunday, Thornburg said.

There was another escape about five years ago, when an inmate climbed through a ventilation duct in a different housing unit, he said.

Fonseca and Salazar had been behind bars since last year and were awaiting trial on murder counts and “numerous other felony charges” in separate cases, authorities said.

Fonseca is accused of shooting Lorenzo Gomez Acosta, 37, to death on June 2, 2018, while the victim sat in his car on a video call with his wife in Mexico, the Californian newspaper in Salinas reported .

She saw a scuffle, heard her husband screaming “no” and then gunshots rang out, Salinas police Officer Froylan Aranda testified at a preliminary hearing in March.

Fonseca told police that his gang leader told him to kill someone to prove he was still loyal to the “Boronda gang,” Detective Gabriela Contreras testified. Acosta was reportedly chosen at random.

Three days later, Fonseca shot and killed Ernesto Garcia Cruz, 27, in a Salinas park, authorities allege. He told police that the gang leader also ordered the slaying and that he picked his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend “to send him a message,” Contreras said, according to the newspaper.

Salazar was arrested in the shooting death of 20-year-old Jaime Martinez as the victim drove in Salinas with his girlfriend and 18-month-old son, the newspaper reported. The woman was shot and treated at a hospital, while the child wasn’t hurt.

Police investigated the on Oct. 12, 2017, shooting as gang-related. Officers said at Salazar’s preliminary hearing earlier this year that his tattoos, including the letter P on his cheek, refer to his Sureño offshoot gang, La Posada Trece, the Californian reported. His trial was scheduled to begin in January.

The sheriff’s office is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the fugitives’ arrests.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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