The Latest: New Mexico prisoners used wire to pick handcuffs

The Latest on the investigation into the escape of two New Mexico prisoners (all times local):

4:50 p.m.

Authorities say the two New Mexico prisoners who escaped last week from a fortified transport van picked their handcuffs with some sort of wire.

New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas and Corrections Secretary Gregg Marcantel provided more details about the March 9 escape during a news conference Monday in Albuquerque.

Authorities believe the prisoners — convicted murdered Joseph Cruz and fellow inmate Lionel Clah — fled when the van stopped to refuel in the southeastern New Mexico community of Artesia.

But it’s still unclear how they slipped out of the van without the two guards noticing.

Authorities acknowledged the guards had already worked a significant amount of overtime by the time they stopped in Artesia that night.

The guards have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. But Kassetas said there are still questions, and he’s not comfortable saying there was any direct involvement in the escape.


1 p.m.

The escape of two violent inmates has raised concerns about security in the New Mexico corrections system, with questions lingering about how the men broke free from a prison van and fled hundreds of miles before anyone reported them missing.

The manhunt ended this weekend for convicted murderer Joseph Cruz and Lionel Clah, who was serving time for armed robbery and shooting at an officer. Cruz was captured Friday in Albuquerque, and Clah surrendered outside an apartment in the city the next day.

The men bolted from the prison van along a remote stretch of southern New Mexico highway Wednesday night. Surveillance video placed them in Albuquerque early the next day.

Authorities have remained tight-lipped about their investigation, declining to identify any missteps that could have allowed for the escape.

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