Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Fourth inmate escapes from Santa Cruz County Jail kitchen
Blog note: this article references a grand jury report in June that mentioned the lack of a fence outside the jail’s kitchen.
SANTA CRUZ >> A 20-year-old Santa Cruz County Jail inmate escaped Friday morning, marking the fourth person to escape from the jail’s kitchen since 2012.
Santa Cruz County sheriff’s Sgt. Roy Morales said Friday that a project to secure the kitchen door and build a fence outside it remains in the “planning stages” and is expected to be completed in the next 12 months. Until then, each inmate on the kitchen staff is issued a GPS ankle monitor.
Morales said the inmate, Karma Jerome Mendenhall of Pescadero, was convicted of vehicle theft and is a “low risk” to the public.
Mendenhall was arrested June 5 at Greyhound Rock County Park near Davenport. He had a stolen Honda and shaved keys used to steal other cars, deputies said at the time. He ran from the car and was caught.
Mendenhall was convicted July 1 of felony vehicle theft, felony possession of a stolen vehicle and misdemeanor resisting arrest, according to court records. Visiting Santa Cruz County Superior Judge Robert O’Farrell sentenced Mendenhall to 360 days in jail and three years of probation, according to records. Because of time-in-custody credits and other factors, he was due to be released from jail Oct. 29, Morales said.
Mendenhall was in Rountree Detention Center until he was assigned this week to a kitchen crew at the Main Jail at 259 Water St. The crew prepares food for other inmates. Mendenhall escaped about 6 a.m. Friday, Morales said.
Mendenhall is white, 6-foot-1 and 155 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes, Morales said. He remained on the lam Friday afternoon.
“He was last seen wearing a tan colored jail issued sweater and green colored jail issued pants and running towards the (San Lorenzo River) levee area behind the Main Jail,” Morales said.
The lack of security around the jail’s kitchen door and area beyond it is not news to jail staff.
A Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury report in June mentioned the lack of a fence outside the jail’s kitchen. Sheriff Jim Hart responded by saying that since December, each kitchen worker has been fitted with a GPS ankle monitor to track them if they escape.
Friday, Morales declined to say whether Mendenhall was wearing an ankle monitor or whether it was cut off or found.
Escapes through the jail’s kitchen have persisted since at least since 2012.
Jan. 3, 40-year-old Heather Deneal Nunn escaped from the jail’s kitchen, deputies said at the time. The head cook noticed Nunn was missing about 3:50 p.m., said sheriff’s Lt. Bob Payne. Nunn had been arrested on suspicion of forgery. She was arrested in March and has since posted bail, according to court and jail records.
In June 2012, 35-year-old Craig Souza was still in street clothes and being booked in the jail when he escaped through the jail’s kitchen. Jail staff was changing shifts when Souza hit a buzzer that led to the kitchen and out of the jail, deputies said at the time.
Jail procedure at the time allowed non-sworn staff to press the buzzer, show an identification card to an officer by a security camera and exit through the door. A correctional officer mistakenly unlocked the door allowing Souza to press the buzzer and escape through the kitchen.
Souza turned himself the day after his escape. He was sentenced in May 2013 to four years in prison, according to records. Jail staff changed its procedures to avoid similar escapes.
In July 2015, 25-year-old William Yvon also escaped from the jail’s kitchen, authorities said. He had been convicted and sentenced for misdemeanor drug and theft charges and was not considered dangerous, sheriff’s Lt. Kelly Kent said at the time.
Yvon was arrested in April and again early Friday morning on the 2100 block of Delaware Avenue in Santa Cruz, UC Santa Cruz Police Chief Nader Oweis said. Yvon was arrested on suspicion of being in possession of a stolen vehicle, possession of methamphetamine and two misdemeanor warrants, said Oweis. Yvon remained in jail Friday in lieu of $10,000 bail.
The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office asks anyone with information to call 831-471-1121 or the anonymous tipline at 831-454-7653.
July 8, 2016
Santa Cruz Sentinel
By Stephen Baxter