Mutilation-torture suspect among three escapees from California jail

SANTA ANA, Calif. A Southern California sheriff on Tuesday acknowledged lapses in security at the jail where three inmates escaped over the weekend, one of them a convicted killer wanted for the mutilation torture of a victim.

Their disappearance early Friday from a maximum-security wing of the Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana, about 30 miles (48 km) southeast of Los Angeles, went unnoticed for about 16 hours, following a late-night head count of inmates, the sheriff’s chief spokesman, Lieutenant Jeff Hallock said.

“The sheriff is extremely troubled as to the length of the time that the inmates were unaccounted for,” Hallock told reporters at a news conference Tuesday.

Authorities remained tight-lipped about details of the manhunt as the County Board of Supervisors increased the reward for information leading to the escapees’ capture, to $200,000 from $50,000.

One of the escapees, Hossein Nayeri, 37, had been jailed in Orange County since he was extradited to California from Prague in 2013 after fleeing to Iran to avoid kidnapping and torture charges. In that case, the victim was burned with a blowtorch and his penis was cut off.

Nayeri escaped the jail four days ago with two other inmates, both reputed to be connected with Vietnamese-American street gangs: Jonathan Tieu, 20, who is charged with murder, and Bac Duong, 43, charged with attempted murder.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail and is leading the manhunt, has said all three men should be considered extremely dangerous.

One prosecutor compared Nayeri to fictional psychopath Hannibal Lecter from the film “Silence of the Lambs.”

“He is sophisticated, incredibly violent and cunning,” senior deputy district attorney Heather Brown said in an interview in the Orange County Register.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas later issued a public rebuke of Brown, calling her comments “inappropriate, uninformed and rash.”

Authorities said the men cut through steel grating inside the jail, climbed through a plumbing conduit and up to the roof of the building, then lowered themselves on bedsheets to the ground and vanished.

Hallock said inmate access to the rooftop remained “one of many design flaws” of the detention center.

Sheriff’s officials appealed to the area’s Vietnamese immigrant community on Monday for help in locating the inmates.

Hallock said the men could be armed but declined to disclose what mode of transportation they might be using. Authorities were investigating whether the prisoners had help inside or outside the detention center, he said.

(Reporting by Tori Richards; Writing and additional reporting Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Will Dunham and Richard Chang)

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