Skip to main content

Police hunt escapees who left taunting note

  • Story Highlights
  • Statewide manhunt under way; $8,000 reward offered for inmates' capture
  • Two inmates broke out of Union County Jail on Saturday night, officials say
  • Inmates removed blocks from walls, hiding work behind pinups of women in bikinis
  • The duo made it over a 25-foot fence to escape the jail's top-security area
  • Next Article in U.S. »
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

(CNN) -- A manhunt is under way Tuesday for two inmates who chipped their way out of a New Jersey jail and left behind a note wishing authorities "Happy Holidays."


Officials say the two inmates carved an 18-inch hole in the wall of one of their cells and wiggled through it.

Jose Espinosa, 20, and Otis Blunt, 32, who are considered armed and dangerous, were discovered missing from their cells at about 5:15 p.m. Saturday, according to Ted Romankow, Union County, New Jersey's prosecutor.

Police said Espinosa and Blunt were in adjacent cells in the high-security area of the multilevel Union County Jail.

They used a long metal wire to scrape away mortar around the cinder block between their cells and in the outer wall in Espinosa's cell, police said.

Once the cement block between the cells was removed, they smashed the block and hid the pieces in a footlocker.

They hung photographs of bikini-clad women to hide the holes in the walls.

According to police, Blunt, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds, squeezed into Espinosa's cell through an approximately 16- to 18-inch hole.

The two inmates wiggled through another 18-inch hole in the outer wall. From a roof landing, the two men "took a running jump or they were standing and they jumped approximately 15 feet out and about 30 feet down," Romankow said.

Then they jumped a razor-wire fence onto a New Jersey transit railroad bed to freedom, police said. Authorities found two sets of footprints in the snow heading in opposite directions. Video Watch as authorities downplay comparisons with movie jailbreak »

To delay discovery of the escape, Espinosa and Blunt left dummies made of sheets and pillows in their beds.

At a news conference Monday, Romankow read the note found in Espinosa's cell, saying it represented the "arrogance of these two men."

"Thank you officer -------- for the tools needed, you're a real pal, Happy Holidays," the note read, with a smiley face drawn next to it.

Espinosa, who recently pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter, was to be sentenced January 25 and faced a minimum of 17 years in prison. Blunt was being held in lieu of a $75,000 bond on weapon and robbery charges.

The way the inmates used pinups to hide their escape route was reminiscent of a scene in the 1994 movie "The Shawshank Redemption."

Romankow played down the comparison.

"I think this is a very serious situation you saw," he said. "I really prefer not to compare with any movie, although I can understand why you might, because it does look certainly very similar to some of them. Except in 'The Shawshank Redemption,' they had a better poster on the wall."


According to police, Blunt tried to escape in September using similar methods. There is an $8,000 reward for the men's capture.

Romankow said several agencies were involved in the statewide hunt. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Brian Vitagliano contributed to this report.

All About New Jersey

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print