Two Virginia inmates busted out of jail and headed to a local IHOP after using a toothbrush to dig a tunnel through their cell wall Monday.
The prisoners, 37-year-old John Garza and 43-year-old Arley Nemo, were captured at the pancake joint’s location about seven miles away from the Newport News jail they escaped from hours earlier, the Newport News Sheriff’s Office said.
Garza and Nemo used “primitive-made tools constructed from a toothbrush and metal object” to break open their cell wall and access unsecured rebars between the walls. They then used a rebar to break a small hole in the wall and climbed through, the sheriff said.
Once out of their jail cell, the men scaled the containment wall and made a run for it. They ended up at the International House of Pancakes in Hampton, where police arrested them in the early morning hours Tuesday.
Bystanders at the IHOP had noticed the two inmates and had called police, the sheriff’s office said.
“I extend my gratitude to the Newport News Police Department, the Hampton Police Department, and the James City County Police Department for their assistance in our attempt to recapture these inmates,” Sheriff Gabe Morgan said. “Moreover, I’m thankful for the citizens who observed Garza and Nemo at the IHOP and notified law enforcement. It reinforces what we always say ‘see something, say something.’”
Garza, of Hampton, was being held on charges including contempt of court, probation violations and failure to appear. Nemo, of Gloucester, was in custody for charges including credit card fraud, credit card larceny, forgery, possession of burglary tools, grand larceny, contempt of court and probation violation.
The sheriff said the inmates exploited “a construction design weakness” to make their escape. A Newport News facility management and engineering team are reviewing the facility’s security and will ensure the building is shored up, according to the office.
The sheriff’s office is also conducting an internal investigation to prevent future escapes, as well as a criminal investigation.
Both escapees are expected to be hit with additional charges for their IHOP trip.